The idea came to me after reading a book from Deb Sahitya Kutir. During the late 60's and early 70's after the success of Sukhalata Rao and Satyajit Ray's Shandesh, other kids books and stories were being written. Some of those stories were originals …..and some were translations.

My Dida (Grandmother) was my source of all stories before I even started to read. On Sunday mornings my Maa and I used to go to my Dida's house near Park Circus. We used to hop on to the No. 10 bus from Ballygunj station. The advantage was I could go sit in the front seat on the double decker. Even in the summer heat of Kolkata, it allowed me to feel the breeze as the bus waddled through Gariahat, Singhi House, The Cricket ground next to Gurusaday Dutta Road, The Skating Rink, Modern High, the Circle to Park Circus, Lady Brabourne College to my Dida's house near Linton Street. Off I jumped from the bus with my Maa as she held my hands to cross the road ...but before I reached the opposite pavement, I used to run to my Dida's home to meet my Mamas and Dida. It was my abode for love.

Our home in Ballygunj was more conservative.... we were expected to put studies first, but my Baba also believed in sports. So unlike my older cousins, I got the freedom to play cricket and football. However my uncles were very strict and routine was given precedence over fun. I remember my uncle's rooms never had even a radio and listening to Bibidh Bharati was almost criminal. That didnt mean we cousins did not have fun sometimes. We played Dark room sometimes especially when our cousins from Burdwan visited or during the weddings. But it was not a free and open environment. So every Sunday was special.

My Dida's family had escaped from Dhaka in 1946-47 with my Maa and Mashi (Aunt) dressed as men to avoid getting entrapped in the riots. They stayed at my Dida's elder sister's home until my Grandfather was able to escape with one of my Mamas ….but that is a different story. Finally my Dida was able to get a flat near Linton street. Since my Grandfather could not work anymore, the burden of educating the younger brothers and sisters came upon my Maa. She found a tuition while she was doing her BA and was able to contribute to her family.

Every Sunday we had lunch at my Dida's home. I was fascinated by the large kaNsha plates where my Dida used to serve warm rice in a upturned bowl. Then as they poured the dal with alu bhaja, my Mama (who had me share from his big plate) used to dig tunnels in that warm rice hillock....it just tasted heavenly. After lunch was story and nap time and my Dida used to tell me stories of all the classics. From Three Musketeers to Count of Monte Cristo, I heard all of these classics first from my Dida. In the evening my Baba used to come to pick us up after chaa and jolkhabar.

So naturally reading story books naturally became a habit. Every Pujo my Maa used to buy me the big fat books and those became my haven. One day I read about how the steam locomotive was built. Sometime before that I had been fascinated by the airplane and always played with a toy airplane. When I read about the Steam locomotive, my imagination ran wild. I imagined our Tea kettle in the kitchen being able to supply steam when heated by a oil lamp I had seen in a put put boat. I said to myself ….I can do this.

So one day I built up the guts to go sell my idea to my Mom. She asked me how I would build the body of this “engine”. By this time my imaginative spirit was running amok. I told her I would build the body out of cardboard and shape it like a car. She even offered me the black kettle from her kitchen.

So she gave me a budget of Rs 10. and we started going from shop to shop in Gariahat market. The kite shops had the glue but no card-board....only tissue paper. Finally we found a photo framing shop that had hard but flexible card-boards and sold us six sheets.

I got the kettle from my mom and wanted to build this steam generator. I had of course no idea of the drive train and transmission …..so my mom said first build the body.

So I started building the body in the shape of a car.....Maa made me additional glue with flour and mashed rice. I put the whole shape in our roof and pasted everything together. The car was about 4 feet wide and 2 feet high.....and I left it to dry in the sun.

I woke up in the evening after my afternoon nap and to my dismay found that the card-boards had all fallen apart. The stress from bending the card-boards was too high for the glue to keep them stuck together. The whole experiment was a colossal disaster.

To my surprise my Mom appreciated what I had tried to do. It was my first lesson where I learnt to dream big and that failure is acceptable.

The incident made a difference on how encouragement from supporting parents could set their children to try new experiments, learn from it and apply to their next endeavors. For me this single incident removed my fear of failure.....of course I needed to be careful not to waste money...but it gave me immense confidence throughout my school life to build new things. Today I am thinking, did my Dida and her family's hardships, my Mom's entrepreneurship have anything to do with her encouragement? Today I see many parents who do not want to face failure in their kids. I hope more parents teach their kids to imagine big......it certainly made me do bigger and better experiments in my life....



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