Gunga Din and me: revisited


I grew up in a family of devoted readers.  My history with books began with my mother reading to me, and most importantly, reading to me at bedtime.  I read so many books as a child. I loved Grimm’s Fairy tales and  I remember savoring Pippi Longstocking books, and as I grew my tastes grew with me.   In second grade our teacher would end each day by reading to us.   “Gulliver’s Travels” carried me off on strange and splendid adventures.

I still remember the pleasant feeling of my teacher’s words building pictures in my mind.  I’d  close my eyes and I was standing on the stage of a grand world theater. of adventure,  mystery and wonder.  I coveted adventures:  expeditions into the African jungle, climbing Mt. Everest, or submarines diving deep into the ocean.   At some point during my first trip to the Amazon rainforest, I reminded myself that I was finally seeing that which once I had only imagined.  The Amazon had the burden of living up to a child’s vision.


My parents never put any restrictions on the books I read,  the TV programs I watched, nor the films I saw.  Once, when I was still in elementary school, my mother  met me at the public library and was waiting as the librarian checked out my selection of books, which included “Mein Kempf” and Winston Churchill’s “The River War” .   She chastised my mother for allowing me to read such books at my age.  My mother was outraged and reminded the woman that there were countries where no one could freely read anything and brought up the example of book burnings even in our own country.  I grew up watching old WWII movies on TV and it was perfectly natural for me to want to learn about the people and places depicted in the movies.

ImageI wasn’t much for poetry but I did have a few favorites such as Carryl’s “Walloping Window blind”, Kipling’s “Gunga Din” and Tennyson’s  “Charge of the Light Brigade”.   I was so excited when I discovered movies about Gunga Din, and the Light Brigade.  They made the words of those poems come alive.  My tastes became more sophisticated as I became a teenager and I preferred poems by Bob Dylan and Lawrence Durrell.   I tried writing poetry as a teen.  That didn’t last long.  I had not written a poem since I was a teen until recently when I wrote a few rhyming ditties just for fun.

In elementary and high schools I did the usual writing assignments.  I don’t remember anything significant.   When I was a teen, I did create a character and his world.  He was an inept, British adventurer.  The only one who read his story was my best friend, who passed away from cancer before she was forty.  In college and grad school I had to do a lot of writing, but it was all academic.  I continued through the years writing articles for journals and heavily detailed reports and grant proposals. Somewhere along the way my taste for casual writing  disappeared.

ImageIt was during my recovery from cancer that I considered writing.  A friend suggested I start a blog because I had so many adventures as an anthropologist.   So, I signed up for wordpress but I didn’t do anything for a solid year.  Not even pick a theme.  I received an email from wordpress congratulating me on my one year anniversary.  I quickly  set up the blog and my first post was about cancer treatment.  No one read it.  So I changed the blog to one for gardening and everything else.   Soon after I started my second blog– the one I originally wanted .   A blog of non-fiction, fiction– any genre that suits me at the time.   The thing that drives me most to write is twofold.  First is the importance of making clear those things which many people find too complex to  unravel  on their own.  If I can induce one person to say, “aha, that’s what that is” or  “that’s how that works”,  then I’ve done well.  The second, is to leave behind a piece of me, somewhere in cyberspace– my foot print in the cooling lava.

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. –  Cicero

I have a lot of free time.  I write when I feel like it or when a writing challenge is due.   I work in my garden and I read a great deal, as I always have.  I feel that  I owe my imagination to H.G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H Rider Haggard and Rudyard Kipling.  Imagination is the key to writing.  Mine was helped along by Allan Quatermain, Tarzan, Captain Nemo,  Gunga Din and a whole cast of characters who showed a child less than perfect lives, but admirably lived.  I’ve felt an association with Gunga Din ever since my brother first called me that  when I was a kid,  fetching things all day long for my older brother.  He always called me Gunga Din when he had an assignment for me.   He still does.


But of all the drinks I’ve drunk, I’m gratefullest to one from Gunga Din  – Kipling.ImageImage

ImageThis badge for the Grammar Police is for you, Doobster418.  Display it proudly.

14 thoughts on “Gunga Din and me: revisited

  1. This is the sort of post that really draws me in. Being a lover of books, I enjoy reading the thoughts of others who share that love.

    My sister and I were the only readers in our family and, as my sister will admit, I read more widely and more avidly than she. My mom and dad were not readers. My dad would sometimes say, ‘Go outside and play,’ when all I wanted to do was retreat to the bedroom and read about Jo’s adventures in ‘Little Women’ or trail behind Nancy Drew as she solved her latest mystery. A few years later, I was nursing Confederate dead with Scarlett O’Hara and vowing never to be hungry again! Gosh, who would want to ‘go out and play’ when there were so many, much more interesting things to sample within the pages of a book?

    As a kid, I used to stand in line on a church parking lot where the city Book Mobile would show up for several hours every Tuesday afternoon. If you’re not familiar with Book Mobiles, they were large vehicles filled with books – a traveling library – that ventured into areas where the libraries were too far for kids to walk to. I loved Tuesday afternoons, and couldn’t wait to step inside the Book Mobile because I knew that stepping inside would be the start of fantastical journeys, far from the mundane concerns and landscape of my youth.

    I’ve never lost the excitement that a new book brings into my life.

    Super post, Lucy.

    • Thank you. It must be a Pennsylvania thing–RM is from PA and use to climb a tree to hide and read a book. In her case she had to get away from her retarded brother who she ended up caring for most of her life.

      Oh, I played outside–a lot. I played baseball, basketball–cowboys and Indians; even girlie games. My mother had a hard time getting me to come home or just come in. How I found the time to read was beyond me, but I did. I was never under pressure to “get to sleep”. I’d stay up half the night reading. Rainy days–I’d read. You know, I don’t know if my was an enlightened liberal, or was indifferent or anticipated my failure at some point due to lack of sleep (we had a hate/hate relationship). I do know about book mobiles–New Mexico is a large state with cities few and far between.

      Well, fellow book-lover, I’m so glad to hear from you. For Thanksgiving we’re going to Treasure Island where a friend of RM’s has invited us to partake at her house on the beach. I am going to try out my new knee in the sand. We also have everything for our own Thanksgiving so we’ll have another on either Friday or Saturday. . Enjoy your holiday. Lucy

  2. Loved your post!
    My parents were readers too and my mother encouraged me from an early age. I’ve always had books. I worked my way through the kid’s section of the local library and was reading the adult books by the time I was ten. I remember reading all the Agatha Christie books and James Bond, plus horror, thrillers and adventure. I don’t remember my parents ever censoring my reading either 🙂

    • We were lucky. Now parents monitor that closely. I went to Catholic school and was caught reading a James Bond book in class and the nun took it from me. A few years later I found that very same book in one of the classrooms. I bet the nuns passed it around among themselves. Ha.

      Thanks for coming by, Carole. Lucy

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