By Aditi Mehta
I borrowed my first Roald Dahl book from my school’s (exceptional) library because of Quentin Blake’s illustrations. It was about a boy, chocolates and grandparents. I devoured page after page, losing a bit of me into Charlie’s life and absorbing a bit of his into mine. As more lines blurred between fiction and reality, I found myself magically, giddily uplifted. I swaggered with a secret recipe for happiness.
Charlie gave way to friendly giants, giant peaches, and peachy little girls. As fifth grade came, it brought with it a false air of adulthood. ‘Matilda’ made way for ‘Boy’ and ‘Going Solo’. The life and words of a man I would never meet changed me. I read faster, I read deeper, my imagination flourished, I wrote better. My stories were for him, as were my secret letters. How could the man who wrote Matilda not understand the pains of a ten year old?
The ten year old grew up and found other bedside companions – Judy Blume, Agatha Christie and the hidden, forbidden Sidney Sheldons. Life became more structured, as did thoughts. I moved schools, cities, grew older, had crushes and seldom listened to my heart. All through these years, the Dahl’s sat waiting, patiently. They had seen many w(o)anderers return.
In college, walking languidly on a sidewalk, I purchased a copy of ‘Kiss Kiss’ for fifty rupees. I lost it before I read it. Flash forward six years. I am now older, approaching the end of my twenties and walking along a similar sidewalk in a different city. I found another copy of ‘Kiss Kiss’, also for fifty rupees. This time, I read it. Who was this Roald Dahl? This one who could satiate my craving for the dark side? Bitter chocolates are great too, Charlie.
Roald Dahl is a 100 today, and I imagine him having a tea party with his motley crew. I will raise a cup to him too; perhaps invent a word or two in his honour. I will thank him, for the hundredth time, for taking me back into his arms. All my roads led back to Roald Dahl. I hope yours do too.
Aditi leads production at Freadom, is an avid reader and passionate about learning environments. She has been trained in curriculum development, research, counselling and coaching and holds a masters degree in Organisational and Social Psychology from the London School of Economics. When she is not traveling, she lives and works in Mumbai with her husband, his plants and her books.