My oldest book, its memories
…and why I won’t ever let it go.”
When I saw this title as the next BlogAdda contest topic, it got me thinking. Not for long, though.
When I was five, I had this lovely table where I’d arrange and re-arrange my books after reading them several times. The fact that my friends teased me about being obsessive compulsive – being neat – is another matter – but I do like to see them all nicely covered and labeled. What began as a collection of a few books is now an eclectic library with all kinds of books – some very expensive, some cheap – all well-loved and enjoyed, though.
Today, in spite of my craze for law/medical/crime thriller fiction, chick lit and humor a la P G Wodehouse, I was amazed to realize, when I read the topic “My oldest book, its memories …and why won’t you ever let it go” that I have not one, but two “oldest and favorite-est” books. They are: my Wren and Martin Grammar book from school – and “Sleepy Time Tales”. The sleepy time tales is a very endearing little book of stories for little ones – and I really enjoy telling them over and over to all the kids I know.
My wealth is the books I own – and I must say I worship the printed word. Regardless of the fact that I am astigmatic and myopic, I read constantly and the work I do today also has to do with weaving words. Can’t sleep without grabbing at least ten pages before I “zzz” off into dreamland.
Reading has been a favorite activity from childhood. In those days (yes, I am a child of the sixties – you know what they say about flower power – but we’re talking word power here!) when there was no TV, no computers – we depended on books, friends and the radio. For me, it was always books and Binaca Geet Mala on Wednesday.
But let’s talk about the Wren and Martin. There’s more to this particular copy of Wren and Martin than just the grammar reference. You see – as the years went by – I received several editions of it in various sizes, but this one is dear to me for many reasons. My mom gifted it to me as a second-hand grammar book when I was about seven. I’d love to read it even if I didn’t understand everything I read. It has served as a fount of learning for me – and continues to be one, till date, when I have kids saying “aunty, aunty – can you help me with…..” in their English lessons. The info is still relevant, obviously.
Then, I carried this Wren and Martin to school & college every single day for ten years – from std.6 (we’re talking about 1973 here, folks) to 1983 when I graduated. This book was great for reference, stamping flowers and leaves, writing sneaky notes to friends in class and a great one to pass around with stuff inside. Now go figure what “stuff” could have been!. Yes, love notes, also.
Well, today, each time I take the book in my hands, I am transported right back to a time when life was simple and only consisted of thoughts like – what shall we eat in the canteen today? what shall we use for an excuse to escape to the library? how to get out of a spot with a teacher? when was the best time to sneak off to steal guavas from our favorite “no trespassing” house? what book to exchange? who’d take responsibility to handle a project? – you know. easy, simple stuff.
Oh yes, we have also gossiped on the pages. Today, I am surprised that I never thought someone might get hold of the book and read all the scribbled notes in the margin – not academic notes, but conversations with class-mates. Camouflage at its best. It was a good thing we always wrote with a pencil – so there was always the option to erase things. We didn’t however.
This Wren and Martin represents happy memories. It was also instrumental in helping me earn some really decent pocket money when I taught others the intricacies of English grammar. Mom was a single parent and I always thought I should do my bit as I grew up, when I saw her struggle – and the obvious way was to give tuition. I earned all of Rs.100 a month back in 1978-79 – a fortune for us!
When I see those old scribbled conversations that would seem senseless to others, I am filled with a warmth – because I am still in touch with many of those classmates. One of my closest classmates passed away in a fire accident in 1980 – we’ve shared some great times & conversations, and I get to cherish those through memories and this book. Others see grammar lessons here, but I see a very happy childhood and some fun high school times.
I owe the foundation of the English I know, the language that helps me making a living, to this Wren and Martin. As though that weren’t enough, my son also enjoys using it as a reference – probably to also read the handwritten stuff! You know what they say about Knowledge Shared.
So let me answer the contest questions here:
* That one book which I have kept on my book shelf for a very long time.
Wren & Martin (reprint 1966) Have had it since 1970, since I was seven years old. (ok…I AM a fossil!)
* Why won’t I let that book go.
My mom, and my best friend, who I lost recently, gifted it to me. Learned a lot, nostalgia, memories..
* If at all, I give that book away, then whom will I hand it over to and why?
That’s easy. To Vidur. He’s my son. He’s a bookworm too and loves English.
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