Sunday, December 14, 2008

Tour de France - Part XI

Miss L had found out that Suji was an avid reader. She saw the voraciousness through the black rimmed earnest gaze, so different from the other children, who would open their books only on command. Such reading must be encouraged, she decided. She wrote out a note to the librarian,asking that Suji be granted unlimited access to the library, even without a pass during free periods and be allowed to take home four books instead of the regular two.

Suji was delighted, taking every opportunity she found to run down to the library. She loved to kneel between the book cases, riffing systematically through the spines till she found her favorites. Sometimes, Champ, the librarian’s black poodle, would trot up to her, waiting patiently from a possible doggie treat as she petted him for a few minutes. The treat never came though, Suji had no clue that it might be something Champ would enjoy. Then it was on to the next library patron, who might be hiding a small snack in his pocket.

The Book Exchange cupboard under the stairs was another magical place. Musty and dusty, reeking of old books long forgotten, most kids stayed away from it, not caring for the contents largely placed there by avid bibliophiles seeking a gentler retirement for their outgrown favorites.

Suji surreptitiously brought a couple of unwanted books from home and placed them in the cupboard, picking out a couple of much desired books in exchange. Some books on the bottom shelf were even marked “borrow and return any time”, so she delved into those with a special vigor. There were hard bound editions of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s ‘Little House’ books, that had Suji curled up in her bed, reading as if her life depended on it, even as she ignored Amma’s calls to dinner. Those books would move with her from the old apartment to a newer one, and not return to the Book Exchange cupboard till they left Paris.

Appa would occasionally pick out Enid Blytons for Suji on his frequent business trips to London. Suji carefully ripped up the covers of old Span magazines and learnt to cover even those brightly colored paperbacks to protect them from wear and tear. All through this , the inflow of library books never ceased: Raggedy Ann, Little House books, Pippi Longstocking, Moomintrolls, the chronicles of Narnia (The Horse and His Boy was a particular favorite)…

There were even a couple of French books to vary the charm: a translation of a Mallory School series book of Enid Blyton's called "Le Theatre au Malory Towers" and a nondescript translation of a mystery adventure "Secrets au Clair de Lune". Suji was particularly taken by the description of the secret cabin where the protagonist went with her little notebook to write.

What to do about the lack of a secret cabin? She could remedy that by placing a bedsheet over the old dining table and crawling in there with a torch. That would have to be her 'secret' spot to write in the notepad. Suji started filling the pages one after one, lists of favorite books, doodles and drawings,anything and everything that she thought that she wanted to keep secret, though from whom, she didn't know. There were no really close friends with whom to share these secrets.


Lekhni said...

I had an English teacher like that too :) She would borrow books from the school library on her card for me, long before our class was eligible to read library books. (I could never understand that part anyway, why weren't there library books for the younger kids to read?)

Btw, your feed seems to be all special characters now. Did you change anything?

Sujatha said...


I had made some changes in the layout on Blogger- that could have messed it up. Please try resubscribing to the feed now. It should be OK, if not, please let me know.