First of all, my many thanks to Priya Iyer. If she hadn't mentioned this book in one of her posts, I would have never gotten around to reading it. Although I hadn't read the book, Paddington Bear evokes lovely memories of a trip to Madras from Vellore (where I was living at the time). I was four, and it was a trip with my mom in a hot and stuffy Ambassador car to Pondy Bazaar. Memories of a broad and leafy avenue, bursting with shops of all manners and sizes. A gift of the Paddington Bear video cassette and memories of watching it till the tape got old and frayed.
It is funny how certain memories stay latent in the back of your head, ready to burst forth at a moment's notice and Priya's post on the list of books she wants did it for me! I am big on nostalgia and all of a sudden I HAD to read the book as soon as I could. So what a lovely surprise when I found a copy tucked in a corner shelf in Connexions Bookstore on Diwali eve! And it turned out the be THE perfect gift to myself :)
A Bear called Paddington: classic adventures of the bear from Darkest Peru - the story opens with The Browns spotting a chocolate browney, grubby looking bear sitting on a small trunk in a dark corner in Paddington station. He is wearing a funny dilapidated hat and has a tag around his neck that says, " PLEASE LOOK AFTER THIS BEAR, THANK YOU."
Needless to say, the Browns adopt him and thus begins Paddington's delightful adventures. He is small, has dark ears, an uncanny stare and loves marmalade more than anything else. Paddington is resolute, his aunt Lucy had sent him all the way from Darkest Peru on a life boat with a jar of marmalade. Paddington is a magnet for scrapes. Trouble usually finds him. Not the other way around, at least, not intentionally.
The thing about Paddington Bear is that not for one moment do you feel, "I should have probably read this as a kid. I would have enjoyed it more." The writing is fresh and the humour is there all at the right places. I found myself laughing out loud at so many instances and genuinely looking forward to reading the other books in the series. Paddington reminds me a bit of myself. I used to get into a lot of trouble. The cricket ball would go and hit the window. And if I soiled my Monday's school uniform before school, nobody would believe that it was an accident; I was accused of wanting to skip school instead. To be told not to touch anything mostly meant that I had to touch it. The hand acted like a magnet. I regularly sneaked out of the house on weekend afternoons to try my brother's huge mountain bike (which was almost twice my size) only to come home with both knees bleeding. Doesn't everyone have (somewhat) similar stories of childhood like that?
I guess what this book does is (especially when you read it as an adult)that, it unleashes all of those memories. And you are a kid again in a minute: no job, no plastic cards, no yelling boss. Just the dread of school on Monday. I am pretty sure that at some point, I used Paddington Bear as a license to some of the things I did. I remember citing all kinds of examples, from Noddy to Paddington to George from Famous Five to the GI JOES.
When was the last time you read something that was pure FUN? When there are no subtexts and undertones, complex plots or cardboard romance? Even if you had read A Bear called Paddington as a kid, I suggest you take this weekend to kickback and gorge yourself on stories about this little brown bear.
Note: I have included pictures of Paddington's statue in Paddington Station in London, a picture of Michael Bond holding a stuffed toy replica of Paddington and a picture of my own grubby brown bear. His name is George and I have had him ever since I can remember. He is really old now and a little wobbly, but I will never part with him. That would absolutely break my heart. Have you any old toys like that, that you especially love?