A Dream for Akshara
When he held his little daughter, soft as a cotton ball, in his arms, barely an hour after she was born, the first words that he uttered to her as he trembled with excitement were “Here, my writer is born!” He had waited for this moment for so long, that the ten months had felt like ages, longer than the three-and-a-half decades that he had lived on this planet. “Hello, little one,” he muttered softly, “This is a magical world, you know. Full of books and amazing writing. Wait till I show you how beautiful it is!” He named her Akshara, the letter, the basis of all language – written and spoken. He began to meticulously draw up lists of books that he would introduce to his daughter. He loved this exercise, did it with so much love and care, often opening his three tall bookshelves and sifting through books, carefully noting down book names and their authors and classifying them according to age-appropriateness.
At two-and-a-half, when she began to recite ABCs, he shivered with pride. He read ‘Matilda’ to her when she was three and it felt so surreal. How much he had waited for this day! He didn’t know how much of it she understood but he just wanted to give her the experience of a beautiful book. He was over the moon when she declared that the book belonged to her and designated a special corner for it in her small cupboard. He didn’t know when that one book grew to a heap. When she put her pencil to paper and wrote wriggly capital letters, he waited with bated breath for the day she would write her first word. When she wrote AKSHARA for the first time, he admired the little fingers that managed to write that. As time flew, the book pile grew, and she began reading. There were some she read by herself and some that he read out to her: Dr. Seuss, Ruskin Bond, Roald Dahl, AA. Milne. Dickens, Kipling, RL Stevenson and more.
At four, she wanted to tell her own poem. But she couldn’t write big words yet. So, she ran up to him and asked, “I’ll say it, can you write it for me?” He would remember that instant as one of the most precious ones in his life. He cleared his throat and said, “Oh, of course dear.” And so, she began telling and he began writing it down on the first page of a beautiful notebook. She titled it
“The two dragons and a girl” and it went thus:
There were two dragons
They stood by the window
Of a little girl’s room
She peeped out
They breathed fire on her
She took her perfume
And sprayed on their face
And they ran away.
“That’s it!” she exclaimed as she finished and asked, “Is it nice?” In response, he hugged her tight and kissed her tender forehead and said, “So beautiful!” At the end of the page, he added “Poem by Akshara, dated 15th July 2015.” He soon filled the notebook with the stories she narrated, just the way she told him and promised to himself that he would be her earnest listener, never judging her, never correcting her. He knew that there couldn’t be a better way for a child to pick up a language and the skill of expressing herself in it, than letting her follow her own course of learning and unlearning it.
On his 42nd birthday, when she was seven, she gifted him a hug, a kiss and an envelope. He opened it with trembling fingers and found a piece of paper which bore the neat cursive writing of his dear daughter. It was a poem. Her poem. Full of love and affection for him and talking of all the wonderful things they did together. But it was the last two lines that brought tears to his eyes –
You are my best book-friend, Papa
And I love you so much!
He didn’t mind growing emotional, he let the feeling overpower him and at that precise moment, he knew the journey he had dreamed of for years had taken a definitive direction. His writer had indeed arrived!