Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Books make a difference!

A very early memory is of my sister and I huddled up together in our brother's bed (he was away at college), reading. Rather, my sister is reading to me, and I'm all ears for the story, and all eyes for the illustrations and the odd word that I can follow. She possessed a magical power that let her access the story locked within the book, and I didn't, at that time. But soon, random letters danced into comprehensible words, and sign boards and cereal boxes and detergent cartons, all shared their secrets with me: I was reading! Noddy books, the Famous Five, Fatty and his gang, all the usual suspects became a part of my young life.
My father loved to read- we would look on , mystified, as he exploded into loud laughter while reading a P.G.Wodehouse. My mother was not a big reader, (she was fond of magazines) and would get quite tired of all of us having our noses inside a book whenever we had some free time. She never stopped wondering how many times I had read 'Little Women', and she had even locked it up once to keep it out of my way. That was a book which seemed so real and so true- sibling rivalry was depicted well, as well as the wisdom of the matriarch. The entire series became an inextricable part of my life. So many books, read and long forgotten, yet permeating one's being with adventure, philosophy, guidance, romance, humour, passion.......... Agatha Christie's murder mysteries were a delight. Wodehouse had me chuckling away, as did the William series.
Bed 'arrest' during pregnancy became bearable only because of books. Hours of waiting for doctors during loved ones' illnesses were accompanied by these portable good friends. Hospital stays, one's own and those of family, are associated with the books read each time. Indian writing in English has had its own fascination, and now, when I visit my library, I automatically seek out 'desi' authors first. They depict an immediate reality, one that strikes home.
When I was young, we did not own very many books. My father had a dictionary, an encyclopaedia, some Readers' Digest condensed books, and their fabulous Great World Atlas. His maternal uncle was very pleased that my sister and I loved books(we often raided his book shelves), so each time we did well in our school exams he would take us across to his neighbouring book store and let both of us choose a book each. We did have a school library, and were members of the Delhi Public Library, which had a mobile library van that came to our lane every Monday afternoon, a veritable treasure trove at our door step. College had a fabulous library, and we had access to the American Library and the British Council Library as well. Each stage of life was accompanied by changes in the kind of books one read, but books have always been part of it. (The SRE loves books too, and buys more than he ever has the time to read, so he hops and skips through them in a most disconcerting fashion, but it keeps him happy!)
It is difficult to name just a few books that influenced me greatly. 'To Kill A Mockingbird' is probably my all time favourite. But there are so many many more, layered in my subconscious, all adding up to a unique set of influences. Salinger introduced me to Eastern philosophy along with the Glass family. Richard Bach's 'Jonathan Livingston Seagull' was a paean to the unique individual within each one of us . M.Scott Peck's 'The Road Less Travelled' helped make sense of life. Eknath Easwaran's books on meditation and spirituality have been a great font of wisdom. Dean Ornish's 'Love and Survival' underlines the truth that without love, life itself is meaningless. Joan Didion's 'The Year of Magical Thinking' helped me deal with my brother's demise. Vikram Seth's 'A Suitable Boy' depicted a reality and a heritage that was part of me. There are so many many more- Sheila Dhar with her incredible warmth and humour and musical erudition, and her total inclusiveness for everything in her life. Ira Pande's 'Diddi', for it's humour and compassion. Much earlier, Nevil Shute's stories of courage, endurance, and the triumph of the human spirit in books like 'Pied Piper', 'A Town Like Alice', and 'Requiem for a a Wren'. Recently, the strongly moral and utterly charming books by Alexander McCall Smith- both those set in Botswana and in Scotland. The list doesn't end......
I hope that I keep 'meeting' more and more wonderful and influential books for the rest of my life, and that, by God's grace, I will be able to read till the end of my life.

BlogHer and BookRenter, a company that rents textbooks to college students, have joined forces because we know that books make a difference.

From May 3-28, together we are working to make a difference in children's lives by generating new books for children who need them most -- via the nonprofit organization First Book.

Want to help? For every answer we receive in the comments to the following question, one book will be donated:

What book has had the greatest impact on your life?

That's right: All you need to do is leave a comment, and BookRenter will donate a book to a child in need -- up to 1,000 books.

Want to help even more? You can blog about our campaign, then add the specific URL of your post to Mr. Linky and we'll add another book to the tally.

Because books really do a make a difference.

There are still a couple of days till the 28th- please do leave a comment, and blog too!


Natasha said...

Memories, memories, memories.
Diddi, I loved enough to pass on to a Romanian girl who wrote six months later saying she felt that same kinship with me. Shiela Dhar - such an amazingly real person. Suitable Boy - yes, he put me in touch with a heritage I never knew was mine. Seagull, which I read at a very difficult phase in life.

And those other memories - of pregnancy books, and hospital books. Of books I celebrated with after exams, and books I read to escape the tedium of lectures.

Every book a memory. And so many of those memories shared. What would be do without books?

dipali said...

@Rayna: I cannot imagine myself if I hadn't had books in my life!

Parul said...

We have a lot of books in common, dips. I am going to blog about this initiative too.

My favourite book is To Kill a Mockingbird in English and every book ever penned by the Diddi in the book Diddi, Gaura Pant Shivani.

The Soul of Alec Smart said...

What a beautiful post! I am yet to read some of the books you mentioned.. but they're on my list. And you're so right, there's a memory of a place, people, mood and era trapped between the pages of any book, once you've read it. There's a book that smells of anticipation because I read it waiting for the most important result day of my life, and then there's one which I read on the bus on a particularly muggy day. So on and on.

D said...

It's so difficult to say which one book had the maximum impact on me. But I got addicted to reading when I received an abridged version of Rebecca as a 'return gift' on cousin's birthday. I was 7 or 8 then. And I totally loved the book. When I grew up, I read the unabridged and loved it even more. It remains one of my favouritest books till date.

Banno said...

Lovely. To be able to read until the end of one's life. That would be such a blessing!

Artnavy said...

very nice post...If i was forced to pick it would be The Little Prince and Jonathan Livingstone Seagull for me...

Thinking Cramps said...

Glad you mentioned To Kill A Mockingbird. It's 50 years old this year, you know. And yet the story speaks to us!

Loved your description of reading in bed and the thrill of being able to read!

Unknown said...

Diddi I loved more so for the associations my mind made with the subject. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the books that I have read many times over . Dr Zhivago is anothe rbook which I treasure very much .I am inspired to do a post , i think .

Sands said...

Lovely post. The books I love are one too many but a few in the fiction category that I enjoyed were Kane & Abel by Jeffrey Archer, If Tomorrow comes by Sheldon, Love Story by Eric Segal and the list goes on :)

Sands said...

blogged about it as well. Here is the link...

Sue said...

There is no one book but I used to re-read The Little Princess every time I felt depressed and have only recently stopped doing that through sheer force of will.

There is something about the description of the Magic coming alive, of little treats coming up when you most need them, something about the little parties in the attic, that so speak to me. For the same reason I also adore What Katy Did in School.

Itchingtowrite said...


Nino's Mum said...

beautiful post and one I related to SO much... loved the beautiful and rare peek into your childhood - i just about saw you at the shop eagerly picking your prize! hugs dipali!
Love a lot of books on your list - haven't read Diddi - will pick it.
For me, it's always been Rushdie. Montonously, maybe. In my nearly 20's it was his Mid-night's children. In my mid-twenties it was The Ground Beneath her Feet and The Moor's Last Sigh. His books changed my life, my outlook, my reasoning. All for richer hues.

Henri said...

Hi Dipali! I came here through Nino's Mum. Books are my everything...I am not much of a classics reader, but I have loved some popular literature books and have re-read them several times. Naming a few here...

0. To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee
1. Doctors, by Erich Segal
2. Nothing Lasts Forever, by Sidney Sheldon
3. The Bridge Across Forever, by Richard Bach
4. The Glass Palace, by Amitav Ghosh
5. The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde (And all his plays)
6. O'Henry's short stories!
7. The Naughtiest Girl series, by Enid Blyton
8. The Guide, R.K. Narayan
9. Veronica Decides to Die, by Paulo Coelho
10. Tuesdays With Morrie, Mitch Albom
11. The Beauty Myth, by Naomi Wolf
12. Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger

and the list goes on :)

Neeraj Bali said...

Arguably, the book that has made the biggest impact on me is Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth. The beginning of the awareness of who I really am began to dissolve so much of my self-created pain. And the more I practice it, it appears as if the world is changing according to my drum-beat.

The Road Less Travelled by Scot M Peck is also up there in my estimate!

TheGirlNextDoor said...

Oh, this could so be my own child hood and book journey...But havent read Sheila Dhar and will definitely look her up..

Suku said...

lovely!leaving a comment after a long time...
to kill a mocking bird indeed is perhaps everyone's all time favorite.
love in the time of cholera, tuesdays with morrie, god of small things, bridges of madison county...there are so many out there.
jonathan livingston seagull-yep one of my favorites too!

Tina said...

This is a very wonderful post... I know I feel the same about books. Following books I really loved.
Anne of avonlea series.
Little Women
Scarlet Pimpernel
Agatha Christie
and of course
Pride and Prejudice :)

The Bride said...

It's still 28th so this still counts right?

So hard to pick one book but I'll go with The Diary of Anne Frank. I read it when I was 12 and my sister and I decided we would each start writing a diary. My sis gave up after two days, but I continued and have had a diary ever since. Recently, it's become a blog.

radha said...

I came by a day too late. I strongly feel that children should be encouraged to read. My dad was a voracious reader and encouraged my mother to pick up the habit soon after they got married. Like everything else, we children picked up the habit too. There can not be a better gift for children. And now, there is such a wide choice too.

nitya said...

Dips - I am moving to wordpress. Will send you the link in a few days. Hugs.

suvi said...

Guess I am a few days late, would have loved to have blogged about this initiative.

It is so difficult to pick one book....mine would be The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas. Just because I thoroughly enjoyed the plot and because the memories of childhood it evokes!

A Muser said...

We love a lot of the same books, Dipali! Loved Blyton as a kid -- oh that Frederick Algernon Trotville! (I may have messed up the spelling, but I haven't forgotten how he got his name Fatty!) He was definitely a favorite, as were the Famous Five and all the boarding school books. Scott Peck and Salinger are in my favorite author list. I haven't read any Sheila Dhar -- must pick up some in my next trip to des. Other, more recent books that have left a lasting impression on me include the Harry Potter series, Lessing's The Golden Notebook and Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love. Am just in the process of re-reading Byatt's Possession -- another beautiful book. No, can't imagine life without books.

Nat said...

You unlocked so many dear memories Dips with this post...:) too many for me to list too but if I had to choos eone to read over and over again, Fountainhead would be it.

Chinkurli said...

This is such a lovely initiative. I wish I'd stopped by your blog a week or so earlier :( next time.

Arundhati said...

My all-time favourite is To Kill a Mockingbird :)

Sadly I don't have the attention span to read a full-length novel thse days. All I manage are books for 3-year olds! And of late, short stories. Hope to resume reading, really reading, soon. Its always been the thing I loved the most. And like you said, I wish I can read till the very end.

Following you!