Recently a friend of mine, who is in her early thirties, was asked by a teenager: “so, did you have an iPad while growing up?” while a little taken aback by this question, my friend scrambled for a suitable response; then responded: “no, I grew up with stories”! While she was recounting this incident to me, her face glowed with the memory of the stories she grew up with and how this event in a way, brought them back to her life.
As I sat and listened to this, I remembered stories that I remember growing up with. Stories from Bengali folk tale and folk lore – the earliest one told to me by my maternal grandmother – an essential ploy she used to keep me sleeping next to her in the afternoons. She told me stories of a large bird, a Kite perhaps, who brought up a human baby as her own. I listened to her, almost not breathing, wondering how did the kite managed the feat, while snuggling close to my grandmother, smelling her paan and betelenut mixed breath while she spoke. My chest hurt as I listened to the story as I knew that eventually the kite would be killed by the king or the trader whose son she was bringing up …. my mother’s then recent death compounded that feeling, I am sure now.
My childhood was mostly lonely in a house full of people – books and stories were my closest friends in many a afternoons and early evenings, specially so since I rarely kept good health. My high fevers and bad cough were almost always accompanied by a long thin slice of Cadburry chocolate wrapped in dark violet wrapper brought by my father, and a book that I managed to take out from the stack of old magazines and books that my aunt so ferociously protected. some of those afternoons would be filled with the Russian fairy tales – of Vasilisa the princess and her magic doll, Baba Yaga the witch, and Ivan, the lazy, dirty youngest son of the peasant who just had to jump through the ears of his favourite horse to metamorphosed into a handsome prince.
Stories were also with people – the domestic helps at home who came from Medinipore and other districts of Bengal had their own stories to tell – of their homes, of ghosts, of Gods and Goddesses and of the paddy fields.
Abanindranath Tagore filled my fantasy world with wonderful painted words, of dolls made with condensed milk, of goddess of birth and babies, of sad, exiled queen and her very clever monkey son who came to her rescue. Or his other book, “Raj Kahini” – stories of tribal kings and Rajput kings and prince and princesses, temple priests and untold love stories.
Goldilocks and the three bears – my sympathies always rested with the little baby bear whose porridge was eaten and whose chair was broken by Goldilocks …..
the science fiction of Ray, the biography of Leela Majumdar, the Bengali cartoons of many myriad characters….. can not name them all.
So many many of these stories I grew up with…. they made me feel at home, warm, secure and comforted as though I belonged to them, and they to me.
what about you? what stories did you grow up with?