Monday, November 03, 2008

From Kolhapur to Brisbane

I don't know about everybody else, but the memory of my existence starts from a very specific day in my life. I remember my life in discrete memory packets (such a geek!) from the time when I was two. It starts with a hot and humid May afternoon in Kolhapur. My granny was reading out stories from the Arabian Nights to me and I heard my cousin climb up the wooden steps. I think it was a Saturday and she finished school early. I was too young to go to school so every now and then, I used to be dispatched to Kolhapur to spend time with my grandparents. When I heard her foot-steps I was overjoyed (as a real playmate was better than imagining a dog with eyes the size of saucers) and I rushed out into the living room. What I saw is a permanent memory in the folds of my brain. My cousin was hopping up barefoot on the wooden steps because apparently she had removed her shoes on the street and accidentally stepped in dog-poo. 
When my aunt saw this, she rewarded her with a whack on the head and took her straight to the tap in the garden! 
Due to her soggy mood that continued in the later parts of the day, I had to get back to Arabian Nights. 
All my memories are associated with the stories that were read to me or the books that I read during those times of my life. Even the apparently idle and boring phases of my life have their share of books. :)

I started off with Arabian Nights and Aesop's Fables, which my grandmother used to read out to me at various times in a day. I thank her for her patience and willingness to open up my imagination and I thank the God of  Technology who was dormant in the 80s. This stopped the invasion of television in my life when it was least desired. I started reading pretty soon and graduated on to the usual fairy tales that all girls read. 
The later parts of my childhood are associated with the Adventures of Dennis, which has been one of my most favorite books. The copy that I had was a translation from Russian into Marathi and I think it was funnier than the English version. 
During this time ajji (my grandmom) continued her impalpable reading and introduced me to some of the finest work in Marathi literature. 
On hot summer evenings, we used to sit on the balcony of  the pretty house in Kolhapur and read plays. Sometimes ajji used to pick a character and my cousin and I used to pick our own. We would pass the book around and try and enact the play as if it were real! I read Sharda (G.B.Deval) and Ekach Pyala (R.G.Gadkari) during the summer holidays when I was around ten. With every summer break that came after that my taste in literature got one step further. Ajji slowly introduced me to Marathi poetry, which inspired me to write some of my own. She is a big fan of  Bha.Ra.Tambe and Suresh Bhat. 
During my early teenage years, our evening balcony sessions were full of poetry. One for each occasion! Needless to say that Marathi poetry and Marathi Natyasangeet go hand in hand. You have to learn to appreciate both in order to be a theatre-going-snob in Pune. My ajji is very creative and in order to make it all interesting for me she also included Acharya Atre's Zenduchi Phule in the poetry section. So every time she read out a sad and serious poem, she used to top it with the parody version that Acharya Atre came up with! That phase was indeed a lot of fun. 
My ajji was however "not-so-impressed" with Pu.La Deshpande. So my admiration for him grew only during the school sessions when I was in Pune with my other bibliophilic friends. I ventured into reading English literature only when I was about thirteen years old. Those were the "rebel" days of my life when I refused to go to Kolhapur and preferred to stay in Pune during my summer holidays to be with my friends. I guess that is just as much rebellion a middle-class Maharashtrian can get away with anyway!
 Although like all average school girls, I had my share of Nancy Drew from the school-library, I started reading seriously only when I turned into a teenager. Suddenly my life was filled with W.Somerset Maughm, Agatha Cristie, P.G.Wodehouse and a little bit of Wordsworth. However, I never really gave up on my pursuit of Marathi literature. As I found myself turning into a young woman, I was exceedingly fascinated by Marathi poets. Na.Dho.Mahanor and Kavi Grace were amongst them. My parents realized my inclination towards poetry and gave me an open road to chase whatever I wanted to. The fact that I was fascinated by abstract Grace or rustic love-poems by Mahanor when I was just fifteen never bothered my parents. I did feel a bit out of place because of my tastes in entertainment and I am pretty sure some of my school-friends thought I was a bit weird during those days. I turned into a loner for a while and this is when I read and loved all the poetry that I have ever read. Poetry has always connected me to people and I tend to get fascinated by people with a way with poetry. It doesn't matter if they make it or just say it!
During my days as a student of Chemical Engineering, my reading took a back-seat and it was seasoned only with the Harry Potter series (I have read and followed all the books and I avoid watching the movies because I have my own versions of Harry,Ron and Hermione in my head).As I eased into engineering however I began reading again and that phase was marked with a lot of Alpha to Omega series by Osho. This was something I picked up from my grandfather who did not play a major role in my childhood reading. He is a follower of philosophical writing and has read various versions of the ancient Indian scriptures, especially the upanishads. I also discovered Richard Bach during these years and read a couple of books by him which have made me think differently. Most of the Bhagwad Geeta I know is through the long (digressing) discourses from my grandfather in the wee hours of the morning. He loves getting up at 4 AM and if you wake up around that time he makes sure that you are turned into a disciple. Although I dozed off in between his metaphors (and ajji's heart filled with pity) I am really glad I was introduced to it by someone like him.
These days reading is not as regular as it used to be because of long patches of research reading. However these days I am reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which is an analysis of human thinking!
I think that you are what you are because of the people you grow up around. I was fortunate enough to have enough romanticism, philosophy and science around me. It has helped me see everything there is and also choose what I like. My reading buddies (ajji,aai,baba,Neha and Ameya) have helped me develop my own personal culture. When you are away from home, your personal culture is one of the most important means of survival and progress!
I am grateful for this journey!


शिरीष said...

Hai Sai

This is yet another master piece from you.
You have narrated your travel so lucidly that I just could not stop reading till I reached the end and thought that it should not have ended.
I read it immidiately to Aajji who responded with intermitant laughters which were indicating a lot of pride for her dearest grand daughter.
Sai I liked what you wrote about Harry Potter. I also have my own imaginations about the characters I read aand sometimes these images are totally shattered when we see them on screen.
Sai interestingly in your youth I have followed you . After you read Richard Bach I read . I read Paulo Cohelo on your recommendations. I always wondered how could you develop taste for these authors in that age? (Tuesdays with Morris is another book which you recommended. Ofcourse there are many more)
Books really teach you the thigs which you annot learn in schools. They improvise your thoughtprocess.
They are your best frinds.
Keep it up Sai!

Bhagyashree said...

oh my god... i used to think i read alot, and i have different taste n all.. but u made me speechless! the list and overall selection of books is awesome..

even my ajji used to tell me about marathi kavita vagere. pan my bad, mi nit laksh nahi dila..

am already feeling very bad about not reading much these days.. tujha post vachun kuthlya tari library madhe jaun, hi sagli pustaka atta vachavi asa vatayla laglay! :)

Saee said...

@ Baba...
Thanks :)
@ Bhagyashree is not a lot! There are people who have read more. :)
But yeah..if it inspires you to read, my job is done! :D

*Shall* said...

now i knw how it all started ;)
I enjoyed the beginin d most..coz in the middle, marathi part where you were talking abt books and authors...tht was kinda rocket science to me :)

And your rite, thank gawdd for the lack of technology in tht era. I wouldn't have had sucha beautiful childhood if all these hideous gadgets were there. I feel sorry for all the kids now, even thou they are born as einstein's and they play with baby einstein stuff, but they duno what they are missin! (not their fault thou)

Another great post...cheers beautiful!

Saee said...

@ Shall..
Thanks a bunch..:D

Raj said...

cool.. good to meet a fellow bookworm ;-)
IMO, one of the greatest advantages of civilizaion is books and reading!

Saee said...

@ raj
thanks..what does IMO mean.?? :|
InMyOpinion? :) ?

God! So many acronyms to know!!! :(

Raj said...

yes IMO is In my opinion..
so u cna guess IMHO ;)

Ravi said...

Nice Post! Couldnt u ve penned couple of marathi authors u liked? I myself am a bit of follower of marathi poems and novels. Have u come across poetry by sandeep khare? Some nice poems he's written.

Saee said...

@ Ravi
Yeah..I read a lot of Marathi Poetry. My other blog "sibling verses" has some poetry that I like.
Thanks for the comments