As the bus panted its way through the lush foliage of the foothills, I craned my neck out of the window and inhaled deeply. The hills smelled the same, of pine and juniper. The crisp breeze whispered of winter. I sighed albeit sadly for this journey was tinged with sorrow.
My childhood vacations were spent at Granny’s house in the hills. I was orphaned at seven. Granny, a widow, took me in and raised me. At the age of ten, she enrolled me in boarding school for a better education. But, I always went home for the vacations. They were a magical time for us both.
Granny’s sprawling bungalow was built around a central courtyard, dominated by a huge Mango tree. On sunlit winter afternoons, she would bundle up in her cashmere shawl, drape a woollen scarf over her ears and sit in the courtyard. I would happily lounge nearby. Oh, I loved those afternoon dalliances of ours. Granny would read to me stories from an old leather bound book. She never let me touch the volume. It was hers, off limits and only she could read from it. It was all quite mysterious and terribly exciting for a child.
Once I had asked, ‘Granny, why is this book so special?’
She had winked, smiled and said, ‘because it’s magical.’
As years passed, I grew up, finished school and moved farther away for graduation. Granny’s tales were an undeniable influence in my career choice. I studied English Honours and then journalism. My visits home became infrequent but Granny and I still wrote to each other, the snail mail way.
Then one day, kaki*, Granny’s caretaker called.
‘Ruhi, Granny’s gone,’ she sobbed.
My world rocked. Suddenly, I felt rudderless and alone. Needless to say, I went back home. As I entered her room, there, by her bedside lay the book.
‘She wanted you to have it,’ kaki said embracing me.
Almost reverently I flipped open the pages. ‘What the…? It’s blank.’ I looked at kaki, mystified. Are you sure this is the book that Granny read to me from in childhood, the story book?’
Kaki smiled. ‘Of course it is.’
‘But Kaki, it’s blank.’
Kaki’s eyes twinkled. ‘Don’t you remember Granny’s words Ruhi?’
I scrunched up my face at the elusive memory. My mind flew to the many conversations we had shared in the courtyard. Snippets from a long lost conversation came to mind now.
‘Ruhi, always remember that words are the most powerful source of magic. Your words have the ability to create beautiful tales. When you have the right words, the magic of your imagination will do the rest. Just believe in your words.’
I chuckled now at the memory and glanced at kaki. ‘This book was always blank, wasn’t it kaki?’
A sad smile lit kaki’s face. ‘Yes, it was. Your Granny was illiterate.’
Today, I am a published author and I owe it all to the ‘magic of imagination’ that Granny inculcated in me.
Kaki – term of endearment for aunty
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