Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Laura Ingalls and The Canton Library.

Little house in the big woods.
Little house on the prairie
Farmer boy
On the banks of plum creek
By the shores of silver lake
The Long winter
Little town on the prairie
These happy golden years
The first four years

The endearing ‘little house’ books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I found the Kannada translation of “Farmer boy” (Raitara huduga), in the City Central Library, Bangalore, thirty six years back. I chanced up on the book when I was searching for something for the day’s consumption. During the four month period between my admission to BDS and beginning of the classes (Sept 73 - Jan 74), I went to the library almost every morning to borrow books and read them through the day. I started reading “Raitara Huduga”, standing in the narrow passage between the shelves oblivious to the fact that I was obstructing others (there weren’t many anyway). Then I went up to the reference section with the book and sat there. I came out of the library in the afternoon after finishing the book, carrying two more of the series.

The simple narration and enchanting description of the life of a pioneer farmer family in search of their ideal farm, and the delightful illustrations captivated me and I finished the books (all except the last two – all Kannada translations) in three or four days and read them slowly once again. I can’t analyse and say why I like them, but I do. A lot. I have read each one of them at least half a dozen times or more since then and will happily reach for those books once more. About twenty years later my sister found and bought the full set in English and I got to read the originals along with the last two books which I was longing to read. These books form part of my reserve reading along with James Herriot’s “All things bright and beautiful” etc, PG Wode house and DVG’s “Smriti Chitragalu”, which I can pick up anytime and be sure that I will have an enjoyable time.

I intended writing about the Canton Public Library which I visited sometime after returning from Pittsburgh and before starting on our next trip to Mackinaw city. The moment I thought about the library I remembered “A little house traveller” which I saw there. Having enjoyed the ‘little house’ series and having known that it was not fiction, I was eager to know about Laura’s later years. The last book, ’The first four years’ ends with Laura Ingalls setting up her house with Almanzo Wilder. “A Little house Traveller”, which I was very happy to find in the Canton library, fulfilled the desire through reproduction of her letters, news paper articles and her daughter’s writings and as a bonus, also contained photographs of real Laura, Almanzo (‘farmer boy’ and Laura’s husband), their children, farm, the little town De Smet, etc etc and I loved every bit of it. So, the best thing about the library was that I found ‘A little house traveller’ there and when I started writing about it, Laura Ingalls got priority over the Library.

I Liked the library. It is spacious, comfortable and has all the facilities one can ask for. Like any good library. If one enjoys reading, the library tries its best to help you enjoy. It has books and magazines of many foreign languages including Hindi, Kannada, Telugu, Malayalam, Gujarati, Marathi etc etc. There are audio books, CDs, computer terminals and what not. You can borrow the books or CDs and drop them in the ‘drive in’ window after you are done.

Amongst the many sections of the library is the “No Disturbance” section where one could sit reading the whole day without being disturbed in anyway. It is sound proof and no external noise enters there. No one moves about unnecessarily. The other section I liked was the ‘friends of the books’ section, which stored used books (used, not dog eared) where one could pick up any number of books and ‘donate’ fifty cents per book. There were no one to check anything. You just picked the books up and put the money in a box meant for the purpose.

I thought that I will have plenty of free time and was intending to visit the library many more times during my stay in Canton MI. It was just about fifteen minutes bicycle ride from home. Since I was not a resident of Canton, I could not be a member, but the librarian made a note in their system that M S Raghunandan would be borrowing books using Reshma Haritsa's (Bhanu’s - her official name is Reshma) membership card and said that I am welcome to use all the facilities during my stay in Canton.

I thought that I would finish the ‘Little house traveller’ in few days and exchange it for Gorur Ramaswamy iyengar’s ‘Garudagambada daasayya’. But something or the other came up every day and I finished ALHT just a day before our return to India. I did not visit the library again. I wish I had made better use of the library during my short stay there.

1 comment:

Ravi said...

I found this series fascinating too, Raghu, and I think I read most of them. Somehow, the kannada translation was very appealing. I have very fond memories of South end Library. Years later, when I went to Canada, I told people there I would like to visit the prairies (where these stories are set. They looked at me like I was mad. Apparently, they are simply miles and miles of featureless flat land, extremely boring!