Photo Credit: By Shajahanea – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8130923
Author: : Lakshmi Nair
Lakshmi Nair lives in New Zealand with her husband and son and works for Auckland Council as a Civil Engineering Project Manager. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking and reading.
It was the morning of 1st June 1970. I stood amongst other five year olds, eagerly watching the inauguration of the new school in the brand-new township of Ambalamedu. The school was built to cater to the children of the employees of the Cochin Division of Fertilisers and Chemicals Travancore Ltd. (FACT), who mostly lived within the secluded but beautiful surroundings of the township. As a 1st standard student, I was lucky to be one of the foundation students of that school, but was luckier that the school also had a library. Every week, for the next 10 years, I used to take two books (one written in Malayalam and the other in English) home to read and be my windows to the outside world.
The library itself was located in one of the larger rooms of the school and the books were stored in large steel cupboards with glass doors. Apart from fiction and non-fiction books for children, the library had a huge subscription of children’s magazines and weeklies like Eureka, Chandamama, Balarama etc. I was a fiction reader and soon became an avid follower of Enid Blyton, Alfred Hitchcock, James Hadley Chase, Nancy Drew, Biggles and the like. Malayalam books from the library included Mali’s (who is my mother’s uncle) hilarious stories and ‘puranas’ and occasional horror novels. The portrayal of this library will be incomplete without the mention of its long-term librarian, Eliyamma teacher.
Thanks to the reading habit instilled by the school library, at one stage of my young life, I became a book addict – so much so that I would read continuously for hours, immersed in the imaginary world created by the author without a care for the real world around me. I grew out of it eventually, with some enforcement from my parents.
Even now, 36 years after I finished school, I vividly remember the smell of the books in my first library and the immense joy of reading them. I live through those moments again, when they occasionally visit me in my dreams.
But it was heart breaking though, when I went back to see my old school during one of my recent visits to India to find that it was closed down permanently. I often wonder what happened to those books!