The Greatest Gift I Ever Got

When I was eight, my whole life turned around (for the first time in what would be a few more times to come). I left home, school, and country behind to start life in a different home, school, and country. The most important difference though was that my dad became a daily part of that life, with everything he had to offer.

My dad wasn’t the ‘I’m gonna tell you what to do and you’re gonna do it ” type of dad. He liked to give incentives! And he hated seeing us watch TV. So,  one day he made us a deal (my little brother and I). For every one hundred pages we read we could ask to do or get anything we wanted. I remember my first one hundred pages – they felt like Everest. Eventually though, it became a part of who I was. He found that soon enough he had to move the target up  – to five hundred pages, and then one thousand pages. And, somewhere near the end of elementary school he silently quit! His mission had been accomplished.

Soon enough, I realized that my dad’s gift to me wasn’t the teenie-tiny gifts, and neither was it the entertainment I got from reading short stories and novels. His gift to me was that of empowerment. It was the knowledge that was only a few pages away, the language with which I learned to express myself, and it was power and insight all in one. It was the gift of a brilliant parent to an unsuspecting child. It was the greatest gift of all time.

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The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy

“And there it was again. Another religion turned against itself. Another edifice constructed by the human mind, decimated by human nature”

Cover of "The God of Small Things"

I’m dedicating this first post to the most beautiful book I’ve come across. I once read that you know a book is a good book when every time you read it, you’re introduced to it on a whole new level.

Walking between the shelves of bookstores and libraries has been an almost sacred experience for me ever since I was eight; I’d take out random books with titles I felt were catchy and skim through them to see if they were any good. And I get so enthusiastic when I start a book, and realize it was actually a good pick. The day I picked this book out, four years ago, the electricity was out at the store and I was sitting there with my cell phone trying to shine light on to the shelves. I picked it up and decided the title was catchy enough; I couldn’t skim through it in the dark, so I took it home on impulse.

The God of Small Things tells the story of Estha and Rahel, twin children growing up in a house in Aymenem, India with Ammu – their single mother, Chako – their uncle, their grandmother and great aunt, as well as Velutha – a Paravan (a lower caste) who works for their grandmother. But their childhoods abruptly end, during a visit by Chako’s British ex-wife and his British daughter, and for everyone involved life is never the same again.

The first time I read this book, I was confused. The events jump back and forth, and it shifts from small picture to big picture. When I reached the end, I’d summed up the plot, but I felt like I’d missed out on the actual book. So, I flipped over to the first page and started over. And I fell in love with it. It’s a tale of love and loss, of history at its most malicious, of childhoods robbed of innocence, of society versus the individual. It was real life as some people knew it, but thankfully as most were unaware of it.

When I was done with it, I put it on my bedside table and it’s the only book that’s managed to keep itself there since – except the times I lent it to someone worthy enough. This is a book I could always pick up and randomly read any chapter, trusting it to show me something different every time. A different quote would pop up and speak to my mind set at the time, or a different depth would reveal itself. It’s the first book I lend out to anyone who asks for one, and I say ‘but promise to read it twice’ and ‘promise to love it’!

The most interesting thing to point out though is that this book wasn’t edited. Roy just wrote her story down as it came and published. That’s why it jumps back and forth so much. But, it all fits in like the pieces of a puzzle in the end – without a missed detail. I have no idea how she did it!

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