I had a beautiful childhood…
It was lovely in every aspect. Born and bred in western Kenya, I experienced my fair share of benefits of living up country. The air was clean and fresh and the water clear. My friends and I had a playground in almost every corner of the little village we called home. We “swam” naked in any water body big enough to accommodate us, yet shallow enough to spare us an early watery grave.
The bug is born
The peak of my childhood memories, however is not in the games or in the tales. It is in a book, a sweet book. Very early in my primary school education, I received my first ever personal copy of a storybook. The little book “SUNGURA MJANJA”, was my first book and love. I dreamed of living in the book. I wanted to be the little hare who outwitted the greedy hyena. My little brain created such vivid action packed images, fit to make an Oscars worthy film. So began my Love affair with literature.
A guiding hand
My teacher, Mr. Geoffrey Obura, was an angel I am ever grateful for. At such an early age he encouraged reading with a force and a passion I never understood. Friday afternoon had us reading articles from the young nation, a children section of the local dailies. He had a huge stack of such that he collected diligently. Truth be told, I always looked forward to these afternoons. These precious hours were an escape from the little classroom, to a whole new world of monsters and ogres. To a world where good always triumphed over evil, where sheep could fly and birds could cook. So many times after this I kept wondering whether one day our cow would become a flying cow or maybe a talking cow.
Variety of literature
A little later I had my first share of British literature. Mr Obura brought The Chronicles of Narnia to my little hands. I poured myself religiously over every page. Consuming, feeding on every word. I could not believe little boys and girls could be queens and kings. That a lion could speak and rule and love! Battles could be fought and won valiantly by little boys and girls over powerful villains. I got introduced to a new snack called “Turkish delight”, that I had never seen but still felt so close, so familiar.
A series by Cynthia Hunter that featured several young career women soon followed. I fell in love with Truphena the City Nurse, Anna the air hostess and Pamela the probation officer! These books brought to life the daily experience of a young African nurse. The escapades of Anna in the shops of London and the streets of Cairo was so vivid I could almost touch the pyramids there in and see the great West minister Abbey. I wanted to live in such places. I wanted to be a nurse, an air steward, a probation officer.
From the classics Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre and Wuthering heights, I got to see the life in Victorian age Britain. From Anne of Green Gables and other books in the series by Laud Montgomery, life in Prince Edward Island of Canada looked so appealing and peaceful. From Things fall apart by Chinua Achebe, the life, beliefs and ways of a pre-colonial Nigerian village are made real and immediate. Ngugi wa Thiong’o in his great work makes me feel nostalgic over the past world of my Agikuyu community. An era I never got to witness.
Dear reader, why am I ranting away at what I have read? Why am I typing away with such passion on my reading experiences? Its because I desperately love books. From them I have learnt that the first wife in The Luo community is called a Mikayi. That more often than not brains are better than brawn. Barbara Kimenye’s MOSES series taught me that the local brew in Uganda is called waragi. From Mine Boy, Peter Abraham brings me to the Gold mines of South Africa and the slums around it.
From a book you can bring a village miles away to your living room. You get to wash in the Ganges river in India. You get to feast on foreign delicacies in China without paying a dime. You get to ride on the sturdy horses of Texas and take a dive in the cool waters in Zanzibar all from the comfort of your home. From a book you can hike up the Himalayas or explore the Amazon inside the bus to work. From your desk at work you can experience the world of Koalas and Kangaroos in Australia. You reader, got to know a little about my childhood today from reading this article.
If you have not been reading books, it is not because of lack of a reading bug! Everyone has a reading bug in them. A need and a want to study a book. It however takes intentional effort to grow this habit. Like a baby this bug needs to be carefully nurtured. Fed on an all exclusive diet of milk and fluids before solids are introduced. Start small with short stories before delving into five hundred page crime novels.
I cannot promise you, dear reader, of an immediate turn around from being a non-reader to avidity in reading. Neither can I promise immediate success. What I can promise, however, is that a whole new world awaits you in a book.
In that novel being sold on the street or the one lying decoratively on your shelf, lies great pleasure. In it lies sweet conversations that will melt your heart. Within it lies knowledge far more than you could imagine. Just pick that book up and start exploring it.
I can almost hear the book singing the Song in Alladin “A WHOLE NEW WORLD” “I can show you the world,” it cries,”Shining shimmering and splendid”
So pick up the book and start reading.You are in for an endless ride you will never regret! Give books a chance!