Monday, December 05, 2011

Best Endeavo(u)r

This was the first book I ever owned, and I won it.

It had been a rough year in kindergarten. I started out in one school where Anita with the pigtails stole my lunch regularly and threatened to beat me if I told. Then I moved to another school and thought I was in heaven. I loved the big pieces of paper we got to draw on and often got into trouble for using more than my allotted number of sheets.

School opened up worlds to me. One time I didn't hear the end of day bell due to being deep in conversation with a girl named Ritu about the possibility of scaling the tamarind tree. I missed the bus, and my mother had to drive all the way out from Delhi Cantonment to come and fetch me home. Come to think of it, I often lived on the fringes of reality, a little abstracted, caught up in daydreams. Their possibilities were so much more enticing than the day to day.

So when the end of year awards ceremony rolled around and came to a clacking stop, I didn't expect anything. When my name was called I sat there astonished. "Go," said my mother. "Go." In the end my father had to hold my hand and walk me up, because I was so convinced there had been some mistake.

But there it was. The Three Little Kittens, in soft colored soft-cover, kittens and mittens and mother cat and all. My own book. Mine. It said so.

I read those kittens several hundred times, from mishap to mishap. I myself had regularly lost earrings, lunch boxes, and even once a shoe.

I still have this book. It's a little moth-eaten but it has managed to hold together. The label inside reads: Prize presented to…and then my name. Underneath it says, For Best Endeavour. I don't remember what I did to earn that consolation prize. But really, as a goal, best endeavor isn't so bad. It still holds up. It's something to reach for.


  1. Love this, Uma. As soon as I saw the cover, a warm memory swept over me. I'm sure I too had this book as a young child, although what happened to it I'll never know. But the memory is still there.

  2. Lovely post and I appreciated the international title!

  3. Oh, Uma, I love to think of you so absorbed in conversation that you missed your bus! I, too, still have the first book I ever owned, given to me by my father. Aren't we lucky to be working (endeavoring, you could say) in the world of children's books?

  4. What a special story, Uma! I'm so glad I stopped by your blog today to read it. These kinds of childhood memories are priceless.

  5. This is so evocative of childhood as I remember it, living on the fringes of reality, caught up in my own imaginings. How well you have captured it, Uma.