Warmth In Winter


I find her entranced in a thick book- she is awed! I snooze near her, enjoying the warmth of the heater in the unhappy cold of a dire winter. An hour later, I open my eyes and she is still in the same position, the book on her lap.

“Interesting , eh?”

No response.

I take a peek.

‘Adventure of the devil’s foot’

“Are you understanding it?”

She looks at me with that ‘I do not expect that from you’ sort of a look.

I grin. And snooze again.

This time, it is late and the book and the child are still in their places.

“Time to sleep,” I say.

“Five more minutes”, she says. It is neither a request nor a plea. It is a statement-typical of her.

Five minutes later, I cough meaningfully.

She closes the book.

“What was the adventure?”

“The empty house,” she says with a prim expression.

As I tuck her into her winter blankets, and turn the heater around, I realise that certain classics will always get the chill away from our souls.

On the bed, was Penguin’s ‘Classic Sherlock Holmes’. And already smiling in her sleep, was the youngest fan  in the family- enchanted by the inimitable detective of 221B Baker Street.

The suffocating winter cold fails to depress my spirits.

When a child reads happily, that joy is warm enough to  withstand the severest of  life’s winter winds.

Tail piece:

I  search for and finally find  an old copy of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple stories.  Dusting it, I slyly put it next to Holmes.

Certain manoeuvres have to be silently executed for success. Especially with little girls full of ‘ I do stuff my way’ attitude.

Let us see now, if that old lady captivates her too!



Who is Laughing Out There?

jane eyre

When my little daughter groaned about the sadness of Jane Eyre, not finding it enjoyable as Pride and Prejudice, I asked her to watch a movie version with me. She started with much huffing and puffing, protests and sniffs.
By the time I stopped the episode at a critical spot, especially when Jane starts suspecting Grace Poole, little girl was most annoyed.
“Who was laughing?If not Grace Poole, then who?”
“Read the book,” I said, heartlessly.
She scowled at me. Much later,closing the last page of the abridged version, she declared: “I want to see Bertha.”

I remembered a summer vacation when Jeremey Brett started haunting us all in TV- during Sundays, as Sherlock Holmes. My most intense prayer every day would be that the electricity stayed put for the precious one hour or less next Sunday, as the episode played out,part by part. I was hooked from the very first episode: “The speckled band”.
There was no Sherlock Holmes collection at home. My mother gave in finally, on the promise of doing all summer homework on the first week itself, and daily ‘deposited’ me enroute work- in the “Reference Section” of the Trivandrum Public Library. The original works were compiled there- with the beautiful illustrations from Strand magazine- golden edged, red-velvet bound -one  helluva joy of a book! Soon, I became the expert on Holmes in my family. The best part of that summer holidays was the discovery of enjoying both the book and the visual depictions: the permutations and combinations offered to the intellect were amazing!

“Sure,” I  replied,  “let us watch the mad woman in the attic.”

Post script: Little girl decided that Joan Fontaine was the most beautiful Jane among all versions. I told her that most probably, the casting director had not read the novel- Ms. Fontaine is neither small nor obscure or plain! (By the way,Elizabeth Taylor starred as Helen Burns in the same 1943 version! )


Hounding The Fears Out, With A Twist!

The face of the woman had haunted me for years. She was staring , pale faced and deathly, at the man. He was down in a chamber and was pleading with her. Then the lid had fallen- either by her hands or by fate. I remember shivering after watching the Musgrave Ritual in the Sherlock Holmes  BBC series  starring Jeremey Brett. I was thirteen. Some memories die hard.

By some  ineffable quirk of my mind, I soon forgot the title but not the story. Later, even as I read and re-read my favourite Holmes stories, this story evaded my grasp. I kept searching for it for a long time, with frustrating failure. Until Google arrived.

The Butler and the tree and the mystery! The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual. I sat and watched as my thirteen year old self within me, recollected every emotion. Rachel Howells, Brunton…no fury like that  of a woman scorned indeed!

The slightly touched in the head- blonde Jane,  in her temptress role, I did not remember. Did the Indian censor board edit the series back then?The face of the housemaid as she coldly speaks to her ex lover, about his selfishness – that look I recollected, perfectly. But the face of the corpse floating was new to me! Does our memory blank out certain scenes and vividly preserve some others?

I went back to the original story and realised that the BBC version had been liberal in its interpretation. There was no dead body floating anywhere. Neither was Watson a part of the incident.

Intrigued, I ended up watching the 2013 brilliant Russian version of the Musgrave Ritual. Whoa! That one took me for a ride indeed! Absolutely unbelievable in its own take of the Ritual.Just like that oddly named Baskerville Hound!

I simply loved both. Especially the Hound.For turning a tale around its head, for mixing up stories, for a Holmes who plays his violin as it hangs on the wall, for his tortoise rimmed specs, for humour and sheer  surprise!Was Moriarty wearing  violet Ray-ban? And to think that I was waiting for phosphorous even as the Chancery papers and trains were all over the scene!!

That  Russian series discovery was the best antidote to any childhood nightmare!  Rachel Howells has lost her power over me. So has Brunton’s despair. I now remember Holmes in a kilt with Scottish pipers all around.

There is something to be said for that!