A single page

Dearest buddy,

Yesterday, after a protracted battle over television rights, you managed to negotiate a one-hour deal for the afternoon. We obliged and retired to our room to read. I came out for a drink of water and was surprised to not hear the usual raucous sounds of Curious George or Yo Gabba Gabba. Instead, there was silence. A beam of afternoon sunshine streamed in through the window illuminating a small patch of floor where you sat quietly. Reading a book. Whispering each word along your steady and determined progress through the sentence. I remember not paying attention to what the book was about, I was simply transfixed by the sight I’ve just described. In a few short moments you took me back to some of my childhood’s happiest memories.

You probably don’t realize what an important moment this is, for you and for your parents. We started to get you to read words a short while ago. It was gratifying to see you work your way up from letters to sounds to rhyming words. Your grandparents were here when they taught you those. Everyone would be delighted when you’d shout out the word to the accompanying picture. Cat, mat, rat. But today, is something truly special. You’ve realized the power these innocuous groups of letters can summon when they become groups of words. Every word a small, yet stable stone that’s leading you over a marsh of ignorance to the safety of land.

It’s in books I’ve found entertainment, solace, learning, discovery and intrigue. And this was even before I turned ten. I devoured books at a rate that alarmed my parents. I remember spending summer vacations at my grandfather’s place in Mumbai, waking up every morning with the eager anticipation of a trip to the local library. Let me assure you that the library was the closest thing to paradise I’d ever seen. It was full of musty books, the best kind in my opinion. Withered pages bearing colors of rust and overuse. And behind those wilting spines a treasure of juvenile adventures. The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie (I still love Poirot, by the way), Famous Five. I used to start reading the book on my way back home, bumping into the merciless sea of humanity that is Dadar. Dad would be at the end of his tether by the time we returned. I’d bring back a book and be done with it by night. This went on for a week until dad decided to check if there was a point to wading through crowds every morning for my books. He picked up a Poirot I’d acquired that morning, randomly chose a page and asked me questions about the plot. I answered correctly. He was stunned. He never questioned me again and cheerfully accompanied me to the library after that.

Over time, that glorious habit has been replaced by staring at excel sheets and writing concise one-liners in a short span of time for important people with even shorter attention spans. I stare at screens all day and it seems books have kept pace with our robotization, for they too are an integral part of those screens. I stay informed through thousands of words flitting across my screen, neatly organized into 140-character morsels. I educate myself and analyze through longform articles or by reading the musings of some very smart people I’m privileged to know. But once in a while, I’ll shut down those screens, settle into bed with a glass of scotch, a reading light and open a book. Not turn it on, or switch it on. Open it.

That’s how I’d like you to read your books too. You’re no stranger to iPhones and iPads and you even asked me what a “Kindle” is. It’s only a matter of time. But there are some things about the books I knew that I want you to know. They are what we aspire to be. Books have a spine, and they give you one. Books are opened, and they do that to your mind. Each turn of a page is a symbolic act of moving onto something new and undiscovered, but never forgetting where you’ve come from. When you encounter a difficult word, I’ve taught you to “break it up”, so you make a chopping gesture and bring your little hand down on the offender. But it stays there, resolute, challenging you to get through it. Remember, you cannot destroy words, so be careful of what you write and what you allow yourself to read.

A few days ago you came across the word “comfortable” and struggled to pronounce it. Eventually you settled on “confontable” and asked me what it meant. I told you it meant “warm and cozy”. Tonight as I tucked you into bed you kept shuffling around restlessly. When I impatiently queried your motives, you stopped for a second and said you’re “trying to get confontable”. What made me feel very confontable was that you learned that from a book.

I want to share so many books with you. I’m delighted at the prospect of debating motives, the sanctity of events, the morality of characters in books both of us have read. Like I did when dad handed me a copy of Allen Drury’s Advise and Consent. For a short while, I fell in love with politics because we debated it. Dad may not remember that conversation, but I do. I look forward to creating many such memories with you.

And so I hope a book always accompanies you wherever you go. Because those thousand miles always begin with a single page.

Love

Dad

This post was featured on WordPress’ Freshly Pressed page.

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120 responses to “A single page”

  1. Selena says :

    tów wobec
    ręką, rzuciła w niego obwarzankiem. Selena Oraz otóż to byczy, pomyślał, iż nie prowadzi akurat kramu rybnego.
    Zabawa udała się
    ponad wszystkie oczekiwania, z trudem 2 przecznice znaczniej widzi.

  2. Alekh Khanna (@alekhkhanna) says :

    Absolutely lovely read ! Gave me goosebumps (in a good way). This page has been bookmarked and will be shared with again and again. :)

  3. lsurrett2 says :

    Wonderful description of the discovery of books. Congrats on FP.

  4. thosesmallmoments says :

    Aww… this is such a lovely piece! If books weren’t inanimate objects, they would probably be dancing right now with all the nice things you said about them. But, I couldn’t agree more with what you said here. Books are truly something special.

    I hope that your son will continue to appreciate the beauty in books, in stories, and in the act of reading (not through a screen, I hope). :)

  5. emekatalks says :

    lovely read! thanks for sharing

  6. marryem says :

    Reblogged this on marryem@3sixtyms and commented:
    a very nice , full of emotions and wonderful read!

  7. hangryhippo says :

    This is beautiful. I work with kids in Kindergarten on basic skills and I desperately want to read them this post!

  8. Looking and Learning says :

    A great post about the calming, cool feel “real” books have on our eyes and bodies.

    Thanks for writing and sharing.

  9. moirajane1 says :

    What a delight to read!
    It’s really lovely to see the bond between parents and their children.

  10. mommymagpie says :

    Love. Just this last week, after I put little C to bed, (she’s 2 and a half) I heard sing-song incantations of, “not with a fox, not in a box, not with a mouse, not in a house…etc”. I went in and she had a pile of books in bed with her, green eggs and ham open on her lap. It melted my heart. She can’t read yet, but she has them memorized. And she loves them. I’m so excited to share all my favorites with her. I loved your post.

    • daddysan says :

      Thanks so much for sharing that Mommymagpie. That’s exactly how my son learned to read. Most of his initial efforts were based on memorizing the shapes of words or the picture accompanying them. It’s amazing how that smoothly morphs into an ability to read and understand words.

  11. krjarabelo says :

    I’m a medical student. some of my peers suggested that i buy an iPad instead of the required books for reference… but i didn’t. i know that its much better to read the pages from a book than from an electronic gadget. i feel smarter, the words sink in deeper and you get to understand it clearer reading from the book.

    • daddysan says :

      Thanks krjarabelo! As I mentioned in one of the comments below, I have no issues with ebooks but I did want to capture the special feeling of how I learned to read.

  12. makuaponijuana says :

    “And so I hope a book always accompanies you wherever you go. Because those thousand miles always begin with a single page.” >> superlike!

  13. philofelinist says :

    Really lovely piece of writing. I just wrote something similar to you though I hadn’t read your blog yet. I never got into ‘The Fantastic Five’ and didn’t have access to ‘Hardy Boys’. I recently got the Nancy Drews on ebook and they’re the only thing I will read in electronic format; I just didn’t want to spent $300+ on ebay.

    • daddysan says :

      Thanks so much Philofelinist. I’m a proud owner of the entire Tintin and Asterix collection which I read to this day and have preserved to pass on to my son.

  14. Jae says :

    This is beautiful. I will definitely influence my future kids to read as much as I did in my younger years. I think my vocabulary can attest to this.

    Congratulations, by the way, on being Freshly Pressed!

  15. pezcita says :

    This takes me back to the days when my dad used to read to me every night. We didn’t have a TV in the house, so my mom had already read several books to us by that time anyway, but my dad always took it upon himself to read us a bedtime story. Sometimes, he’d be so tired, he’d fall asleep in the process. Such devotion! I appreciate it all the more now that I’m grown. I’ve never been a major bookworm, but if and when I do have kids, I think I’ll leave the TV off during their first few years of life and stick with good ol’ books!

    • daddysan says :

      Thanks for sharing that Pezcita. To be fair, I’m impressed by the quality of television for kids today. My son learned the alphabet through Sesame Street and the constant reinforcement through shows on Nick Jr. A combination of the right television shows and books can work wonders I think.

  16. vecinana says :

    Reblogged this on Midnight Reading and commented:
    “But there are some things about the books I knew that I want you to know. They are what we aspire to be. Books have a spine, and they give you one. Books are opened, and they do that to your mind. Each turn of a page is a symbolic act of moving onto something new and undiscovered, but never forgetting where you’ve come from.”
    Simply… wonderful.

  17. DrAnthonysBlog says :

    #CoolBlogPost @DrAnthony

  18. jimceastman says :

    “Books have a spine, and they give you one. Books are opened, and they do that to your mind. Each turn of a page is a symbolic act of moving onto something new and undiscovered, but never forgetting where you’ve come from.” I agree on these. Thanks for your post. it motivates me well.

  19. melanielynngriffin says :

    How beautiful! I am all teary eyed. Thank you, thank you. My parents are gone now, but their love of books is firmly planted in my heart, and your post put words to it. Lovely words. Tonight when I settle down with my glass of red wine and my musty book (also my faves), I’ll raise a glass to you. Have a blessed Thanksgiving. I will be back to visit!
    Melanie
    p.s. – Sometimes I can’t see why certain posts are chosen for Freshly Pressed. No question here! Congrats.

  20. jzimmerman541 says :

    Love this! I can vividly remember the excitement of being able to decode the written word in my own, and look forward to seeing my own children (some day) learn to love books as much as I do.

  21. Jeremy Truitt says :

    This is awesome. I’ve finally gotten my son to start reading the Boxcar Children that I used to read.

  22. Jenion says :

    I loved this post – it brought back so many memories of my own incredible, bookish childhood. I have been blessed to have children in my life who have discovered the joy of books in spite of the lure of all things electronic. There are few things as satisfying as sharing that love.

  23. uncarick says :

    A great blog deserving of its place on Freshly Pressed!

  24. kboehnlein says :

    beautiful post! Thank you for your reflections on the power of words. I am also continually moved by how powerful the written word is and how it can change people’s lives. I’m with you, it’s always better to “open a book”, not turn it on :)

    And you are right- Each turn of a page is a symbolic act of moving onto something new and undiscovered…when I was a kid, I loved escaping into what I was reading. The world around me would disappear and I was riveted so quickly.

    Thanks again!

    • daddysan says :

      Thanks kboehlein! To clarify, I don’t have anything against e-books at all. It’s just that I didn’t learn my reading that way. As long as our children learn to read and appreciate, it really doesn’t matter how they do it.

      • kboehnlein says :

        Yes- good point! It’s still a beautiful thing to see some of my students sitting out at recess with their e-readers talking about the newest Rick Riordan book :)

  25. Sharmila says :

    “Books have a spine and they give you one.” I so whole-heartedly agree. I’ve been a rabid reader since I remember being able to read and consumed books pretty much at a mako shark’s pace.
    One of the gravest tragedies of my life has been to connect with people as crazy about books as I am only on the Internet.

  26. Manas Gupta says :

    My child is still too young to read. But your post gives me hope that the treasure trove of books and comics that I leave her may generate a small semblance of affection for the written word. The love of reading is as precious a gift as can be. Thanks for writing this one dude. Cheers.

  27. trumpettune says :

    Your writing is amazing!

  28. Chetan Bhagat Fan says :

    Sorry, I meant, Chetan Bhagat writes better than you.

  29. Chetan Bhagat Fan says :

    You write just like Chetan Bhagat.

  30. beena says :

    was it the circulating library near the stn? i spent every vacation doing exactly what you did, borrow a book in the morning be done with it by noon and made full vasooly of the membership…a book a day! Esp coz i was not allowed membership once school reopened (for obviously it wd be a distraction!).

    when i had my first kid, i bought books like crazy. he didnt take to reading though. maybe i pushed the reading bit too much, maybe he takes after my husband! by the time my 2nd one came along i had books for every age she would go through, and she pored over them like i did. in fact we were suspicious just like your dad was when she whizzed through books. she was amused when we quizzed her on the books! following tradition, this diwali, we allowed her to join the library down the lane, and she does the book a day thing, worrying if she misses a day!

  31. Maria Muto-Porter says :

    As a book addict since I started reading books with many more words than pictures, I dreamed of introducing my children to books. Well, no children of my own but my nephew absorbs books like I did at his age. An amazing thing to pass on to the next generation. Thanks for your artful sharing of this moment.

  32. Karthik says :

    Lovely blog post. It’d be great when your child reads this blog post in the future.

  33. Garima says :

    Lovely read… So true

  34. Ajay says :

    You are truly gifted!! Very well written :)

  35. Sudeep Singh says :

    Brings back memories of my childhood when I would read entire racks of books in the library over weeks.
    I use a kindle today, but whenever I do get the chance to read for a hardbound book, it always feels so much better :)

  36. CechAndMate says :

    Really superb post sir. Something that everyone must read

  37. Vijay says :

    This is one post I would have loved to read on paper, the old fashioned way. I had to read it on an iPad so the irony, well, it remains. Your 5 para is the most beautifully worded education anyone can get about the value of a book. Bravo. There is one little thing I’d like to add though – nothing and nobody ages as gracefully as a book.
    My dad got me the entire Hardy Boys collection – hard cover version – in 1982 – I still have it. Sadly though, to my kids, its a relic from my childhood.

    This post is a perfect 10. I raise a toast to you Daddy San.

    • daddysan says :

      Word, brother. I was thinking of the irony that tyke might actually read this online instead of on a paper. But, whatever works :)

      Just like your Hardy boys collection I have my collection of comics painstakingly put together over 15 years. It’s in great condition and I hope tyke appreciates it.

  38. Anil Kumar says :

    a letter that i can easily pass on to my kid with all my emotions intact, your letter has given me immense pleasure. Thank you

  39. Atrisa says :

    Your son doing the whole word chopping thing really got to me :’) Super precious, so vividly and seamlessly transcended from his childhood to yours and back =)

  40. L says :

    I joined a new school in 6th std and was horrified to find that their librarian made kids in my grade read Disney picture books meant for early readers during the weekly library hour. I marched up to her on day 1 and demanded to be allowed to read the Nancy Drews I could see in another, locked bookshelf. She laugh-huffed in disbelief and promised to grant unlimited access to that cupboard if I could give her a summary of the Disney book she insisted I read first. Needless to say, I got me those Nancy Drews. :)

    The incident with your father brought that memory right back. What a wonderful read.

    • daddysan says :

      Haha! Me and a couple of friends used to do exactly that at school. Ask the teacher to go to the library for “grown up” kids and get us book :P

  41. Himanshu says :

    Without trying to go overboard with praising, I must say this is a rather brilliant piece of writing that I have read this year.
    //Because those thousand miles always begin with a single page.// — That’s just the right way to put it.
    I look forward to many more posts like this one. Cheers!

  42. 'Typically' sane' says :

    I love all your blog posts! But I love this one more than usual!

    I was very late in starting my relationship with books and it’s something I hope to remedy with my kids! Strangely enough, I look forward to enjoying the children’s literature for the very first time with my children! :)

    On a tangent though, I am a convert when it comes to kindle! Maybe you should give it a shot!

    • daddysan says :

      Thank you “typically”, glad you enjoy them! Also, I don’t have any Kindle hate, it was just a comment on how things are changing, which I’m okay with :)

  43. punchagan says :

    Thanks daddysan, for all your posts. I really look forward to them! Keep writing! Keep inspiring!

  44. Bheegi Basanti says :

    Loved it. I guess we devoured the same books growing up.

  45. Nonstopbakbak says :

    It is always a matter of pride for parents when their child imitates, challenges, and relentlessly learns new things. We are now in the flash card and charts stage where she gets a peck on her cheek for any possible answer. It’s funny how every little stage can also take us back to our memories as a child.
    As always, what you write is a pleasure to read, and learn.

    Best Wishes
    Shruthi

  46. Jigar Doshi says :

    Beautifully written. :)

    I started with hardy boys, Nancy drew and Agatha Christie. Those were gems. :)

  47. M Venkat Raghav says :

    As much as it is for your son, I think it will bring quiet chuckles to your father too

  48. shamanth says :

    For me, the adventure began with RK Narayan’s ‘Swami and Friends’ when I was in 5th grade. When I turned the last page, I felt depressed for a whole day.

    • daddysan says :

      :) For me it was Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy which I read well into my late teens. I resisted the book for over a year because of its insane premise but when I finally succumbed, it was for life. Hated the turn of the last page.

  49. Anu Samrat says :

    Beautiful…..!

  50. chutzpahstic (@Chutzpahstic) says :

    This is so brilliantly written! :)

  51. Sriram says :

    Truly beautiful, man. I’d feel exactly the same emotions many years down the lane. Lovely writing.

  52. 5idin 5unny 5adukut (@sidin) says :

    May I recommend a trilogy of high quality fiction that you should buy for your child right away?

    • Jigar Doshi says :

      Hahaha. I hope it doesnt start with letter ‘D’ and it doesnt mean a whale’s private organ. :P

    • daddysan says :

      Hahahaha! Right on!

      But since you mentioned it, let me tell you I admire folks like you and Arnab who are prolific and consistent in their writing. It’s one thing to churn out posts and articles but a book requires much more commitment, depth and patience.

  53. Andrew says :

    awwwwwwwwwwww… Big mush are there

Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. For we love to read… « Esoteria - December 6, 2012
  2. Let the Blogs Speak « melanielynngriffin - November 23, 2012
  3. A single page « ArtByZowieLouan - November 22, 2012

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