With deep delight and honor, I present a guest most of you are too familiar with to need introduction.
Alka Gurha looks upon the world through a pair of enchanted, mirth-tinted spectacles before she takes up her pen to describe it for all us, lesser humans. Her pen creates a magical alchemy through which crooked are transformed into comical, wicked into witless and deceitful into droll. To establish the veracity of my claims, visit her blog- deceptively called Freebird– and be captivated for life. And yes, when you find yourself overwhelmed with gratitude, you can thank me through the dignified agency of Gandhi’s (MK… not the other mongrels) portraits, mass- produced by the RBI. Please don’t feel shy about sending them across; I shall not feel shy about accepting them.
Today, Alka writes about a topic close to the hearts of all those to whom the written word is the only proof of magic they have ever needed. Her post made me draw a deep sigh of nostalgia. I was transported to those distant days of childhood when I would sit for hours under a berry tree in my garden, dappled sunshine swirling liquidly over me as I lost myself in wonderful, simple tales of adventure. Oh, was anything ever so beautiful as those days?
Thank you for this fabulous trip down memory lane Alka. Truly, nothing is as heart- warming as revisiting happy days.
Got your bottle of chilled lemonade? Come on then, lets go!
Far away from the magical lands of Hogwart and the enticement of gadgets, I grew up reading Enid Blyton stories. If you are nearly as old as I am, you would remember that most middle class children fed on Secret Seven, Malory Towers and the Famous Five before pre-teens.
Like most, my initial memories are rooted in childhood. When parents indulged in an afternoon siesta, there were trees to climb, flower petals to be plucked (pass-fail, loves you – loves you not), butterflies to be chased and the garden to be investigated. For me, Enid Blyton novels were much more than tales of adventure. Growing up in a small town government bungalow, I was not only reading Enid Blyton stories, I was living them.
Was it a girl thing to read Enid Blyton? I don’t know. I don’t remember my brother reading them. He was more into Hardy Boys and other spooky stuff. What I know is that my collection of Enid Blyton on the book shelf was the most valuable showpiece.
The stories presented us with a sensuous texture of British country side and Welsh shores. More often than not, the setting was rural with children riding bikes, eating raspberry pops, drinking lemonade or ginger beer and meeting in abandoned light houses. I refused to believe that Georgina was actually gulping our humble ‘nimbu-paani’. Once I focused that ‘nimbu-paani’ was actually lemonade I really enjoyed it to the hilt. Like adults sip Vodka and feel they are at a private party thrown by none other than Putin himself. Yes, that way.
Unlike movies that make us believe that boarding schools are punishment abodes, the Malory Tower stories by Blyton were all about girl bonding away from home. Who didn’t want to be Darrel Rivers, the level headed protagonist? Who didn’t hate the cry baby, Gwendoline Mary? And who didn’t suffer from measles or a fracture around the annual exams?
And of course, no adventure was complete without a faithful dog. Whether it was Scamper in Secret Seven, Timothy, the mongrel in Famous Five, or Buster, the cute Scottish terrier who pestered the village policeman Mr. Goon (he called Scamper a nasty yappy little dog).
Written simply, in unadorned English, the visual appeal of Blyton stories helped me form pictures in the form of private cinema. The novels were almost like comics – easy, simple and captivating. You were unlikely to consult a dictionary in the middle of an adventure, or jerked by unexpected adjectives, or get ensnared in loopy sentences. Sometimes the author used the same plot over and over, and yet, such was the magic of her storytelling that I always wanted more. Eventually, I think it was the simplicity that made the stories memorable. Moreover, the author was never preachy in any way.
It is not difficult to understand why Enid Blyton is not relevant today. In the world of play stations and gadgets, the joy of simple things is not our idea of fun. We love to complicate things – add layers, introduce sub plots, create hype and texture conflicts. The idea of simple black or white characters does not exist anymore. We live in a world where shades of grey are closer to life. Once upon a time stories by Enid Blyton were ideal for pre-teens, but today they are too simple and too gentle to be savored.
Simple is stupid. Old-fashioned.