A Cradle of Wishes
A magical cradle, a feud between food groups, and a boy with a pet dinosaur – just a small sampling of the stories my daughter had conjured up while staring dreamily into space. It began when I met a writer friend for lunch. Over raviolis and mojitos, we got to talking, as two mothers invariably do, about our respective children. Her son, eight years old, had finished the third Harry Potter book, and embarked upon the fourth. I heard her out, completely amazed. My daughter, nine years old, has not progressed beyond Geronimo Stilton, and shows little or no inclination towards Harry Potter. She shies away from “heavy” books because she doesn’t believe she can finish them, or worse, that she would find them boring. My heart sunk when I first heard her words. I hail from a family of readers, from Kolkata where a poor man foregoes his meals but fritters away his earnings on books and magazines. In my heyday, I polished off two to three books every week with unfailing regularity. But this speed diminished when I had my daughter, and when my son was born the habit of reading print books disappeared altogether and I confined myself to the occasional light read on Kindle. On the way home after lunch with my friend, I rued my lack of reading. I bemoaned the fact that I now finished no more than a book every month. I regretted that I hadn’t adequately demonstrated to my daughter the pleasure that even “heavy” books could give. Only much later, it dawned upon me that my daughter has grown way beyond reading books – she is writing her own stories. At age six, when she had first shown an interest in writing, having seen me tapping away on my laptop, she penned the following words: Once upon a time, there was a girl. She was six years old. One day her mother disappeared.
Over the years she started stories and then left them abruptly, never happy with the direction they were taking. Last week while in the throes of her exams, she appeared distracted. I implored her to study, but she floored me with a revelation. She had ideas for three stories, and wanted to write them when her exams were over, lest she forget them. Overcome with shock and wonder, I acquiesced. As soon as her holidays commenced she started writing her three stories. The first is called "The Cradle of Wishes," about a small boy whose mother buys a magic cradle that grants wishes. The second is a parable about a fight between fruits and vegetables, who pick a quarrel over which one of them is more valuable to human beings. The third one tells the story of Charlie, and the unusual consequences he faces when he brings home a dinosaur as a pet. Eventually, she gave up writing her own stories and resorted to another method recommended to writers just starting out – imitate the greats. She hauled out her copy of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" and began typing it out, word for word. One day as we were discussing the prospect of starting piano classes, I told Hiya I’d teach her the basics of piano even before she began, so she’d have a head-start. She clapped her hands in joy. “Thank you, mamma! But before that you have to teach me one more thing!” I was surprised. “What is that?” “Did you forget already? You have to teach me how to become a beautiful writer like you!” I remembered the story of JK Rowling writing about a rabbit called Rabbit at age six. Nothing my daughter had done touched the same levels of brilliance, but I like to think of that moment as one where a little girl blossomed into a writer.