Looking back, growing up in a suburb of Mumbai in the 80’s was idyllic, just like that Commodores song, “Easy like a Sunday morning”. My life diet then was pretty uncomplicated; there was school, sibling rivalry, almost no fast food, bike rides with friends, mullet haircuts to ape our favorite rockstars and the neighborhood library.
I still remember the name – Kings Library.
I read everything from Archies to the casual, fast paced paperbacks that are the rite of passage for anyone growing into a love for books. I read my way through childhood, and I know now I owe so much of who I am to these books and the folks who wrote them. Through books, we travel to different places, we taste exotic foods (Enid Blyton did lip-smacking descriptions of food, she wrote up a larder full of scones, strawberry jams, hot bread, and melting butter…do not get me started), meet people from different cultures and races, good people, bad people, beautiful people, you get the drift. So in short, it’s the easiest way to get acquainted with the world. And the inadvertent gift of all this reading is a refined and vast palette of words to choose from, an expressive vocabulary with which you can make sense of the world and engage with it.
Today, I’m the mother of three little girls. And very early on I decided I would have “padte-likhte bacche”. The kind who would be content to curl up with a book on the couch, on the bed, at airport lounges en route a family vacay and the kind who would be agog when they spied a book collection of note, anywhere.
But horrors, it was rude, my reality, as I find my first-born needs to be bribed, rewarded, threatened, guilt-tripped, cajoled and pep-talked into reading. My other two girls are yet to reveal their colors and I’ll know only later. So I wait with bated breath.
But here’s the learning for me.
There’s nature and there’s nurture. Old tripe like that does have value. While you can do everything in your power to nurture, or orient your children towards a particular behavior or thought (thinking of them as clay with the potential for molding), sometimes you have to just accept that nature or their predominant characteristics will overwhelm all your efforts.
My oldest is very observant and is interested in everything around her. She loves being with people and engaging with the world. I now realize that’s her process for learning and assimilating. She’s taking in everything around her, filing and processing a hundred cues per minute. And that may be the basis for the individual she is and grows up to be.
The world we inhabit and the terms of reference for this generation are one of sensory overload, technology, gadgets, shorter attention spans, 1-minute videos, 140 characters and other such developments.
Here’s my offering to you, (heaven knows I’m still working on this), surround your children with books, read to them, discuss with them, let them see you enjoy books for yourself, encourage them and if you’re lucky they may just be bitten by the only bug a parent won’t mind, the reading kind.