Open Page

Bookless in the desert

When I was two years old, my mother read aloud to me from a brightly coloured book, Danny the Donkey. From that moment on, I was hooked to books. It was the start of a lifelong love. It was no surprise that my favourite poem in childhood was John Wilson’s Oh for a book and a shady nook…

My relationship with books and reading grew into a deep commitment that was to thrive through sickness and health and for better or worse, until death do us part. Or so I thought.

My worst nightmare of living in a world with nothing to read came true when I moved to Saudi Arabia with two toddlers to join my husband who was working there. It was a small town, where one could dash out and buy a washing machine, a dishwasher, a music system and a car all on the same day, but not a book. Bookstores and libraries were non-existent, and the daily newspaper was not home-delivered.

I was busier than I had ever been but could find time to read when the children had their nap. But there was nothing to read. I was miserable and dejected, homesick and bookless.

Striking gold

One afternoon, when the toddlers were asleep, I climbed on a stool to dust the top of the giant refrigerator provided by our landlord. As I swiped wildly with my duster, I struck gold! My duster brought down clouds of grey dust and also an old copy of a magazine. Dusting abandoned, I descended from the stool and picked it up reverently. It did not have its cover, the pages had yellowed and it was five years old. I skimmed through it, and my heart filled with joy. It was a treasure trove of articles, stories and anecdotes. It fell from the top of the fridge, but to me, it was a blessing straight from heaven.

Until we could explore the town and find a bookstore which eventually we did, I saved up this precious gift by reading a small portion of an article each day or just a tiny little anecdote at the bottom of the page. Sometimes, I read aloud to the toddlers too.

That old magazine was my beloved companion through those difficult times. I had come to live in a desert and found an oasis.

Now 36 years later, when I recall those days, I say a silent thank you to that magazine for giving me so much joy.

leelakrishnamohan@hotmail.com

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Nov 28, 2020 11:24:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/bookless-in-the-desert/article32880099.ece

Next Story