The summer vacation is drawing to a close. With it, karate, swimming, badminton, singing, dancing, acting and jazz ballet classes. All designed to keep kids out of their parents' rapidly thinning hair.
My daughter has no certificates, no end-of-summer performance to boast of. Blame it on my lack of planning, foresight or even kanjoosi. But all is not lost because she has achieved one important milestone. This was the summer she fell in love with reading.
Now reading was, is and will probably continue to be my favourite pastime. But then we grew up in a pre-internet, pre-mobile, pre-24-hour TV era. We had no choice - not that I'm complaining!
Times may have changed but reading is a habit you feel the need to inculcate. A joy you want your child to partake in. However, things did not go as per plan. Books failed to excite Nivedita. And at some point I had to ask myself, "Can the printed word compete with those mesmerising LCD screens?"
The question was answered quite unexpectedly. Nivedita discovered an author called Roald Dahl. No, it was not 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' which cast a spell but a book called 'Matilda'.
Matilda is the story of a little girl who happens to be a gifted child, born to two very dumb parents. These parents encourage her to watch TV, while she trots off to the local library and starts devouring books.
The only person who recognises Matilda's extraordinary talents is her teacher, Miss Honey. But the most interesting character is the headmistress - Miss Trunchbull. Perhaps the meanest headmistress on the planet. One of her favourite punishments is picking up children by the ear and then hurling them into the air, sledgehammer style.
Her idea of a perfect school would be "one in which there were no children at all.
It's all perfectly ridiculous, but the book captures the emotion of being a 6 year old at the mercy of a school system. There may be no principals as bad as The Trunchbull but trunchbullian streaks are everywhere. At least from the child's point of view.
Older people who don't understand them. Older people who create silly rules and punish you for breaking them.
In Miss Trunchbull (the mean older person) and Miss Honey (the nice older person), Roald Dahl has created a Villain and Hero which captures the child's imagination. The amazing thing is he did this in 1988, at age 74. Just two years before his death.
Which means, technically, he never grew old. He never forgot what it was like to be a kid.
Matilda was the first book Nivedita and I fought to read. We read much of it together, she a few chapters behind me.
The thing is, Matilda captured her imagination. She wanted to turn the pages and find out what next. And once it was over, she wanted more.
The moral of the story is books aren't irrelevant. But in the age of non stop digital stimulation and electronic excitement it took an exceptional book to get a 7 year old hooked to an old fashioned habit.
Thank God for the likes of Roald Dahl, and now J K Rowling. May the imagination soar higher and give wings to words.