14 March 2013.
I walked faster as the sun continued to beat down on me. After 2 days of snow and torturous cold, this sunshine was welcome. But right now, I wasn’t as focused on the sweat rolling down my back. I was concentrating on finding an address- The Hove Museum and Art Gallery. Quite surprisingly, most locals had no clue where it was situated. Moreover, they were curious to know why a University Student who did not look like she studied Art would want to find the place. Finally an old lady at the Post Office could answer my query and set me off on a long walk, right to the end of the town.
The place didn’t appear in sight for a long time and yet with every step I took, the anticipation in me rose higher. I was heading to see an exhibition put up in honour of the famous children’s author- Jacqueline Wilson. As I walk towards the place, in my mind’s eye I see a tiny me in the British Council Library…scouting the shelves for her books only. Reading them over and over again, even when the entire collection had been devoured by me. I remember the thrill I used to experience while the book was being issued on my name. And I remember the excitement of curling up on the sofa to read it. Losing myself for hours, hating the times when I had to put aside the book for mundane tasks like eating and sleeping. The characters came alive and no longer was I myself. I was there, in the story, experiencing the trials and tribulations of the characters, a silent spectator and yet trying to impersonate the British accent as I read each line.
My musings are suddenly cut short as I finally enter the gates of the Art Gallery. It is clear the exhibition is meant for kids. There are huge cut-outs of characters and animated clips playing on screens all around. There are little drawing tasks arranged on tables all around to make this walk-through exhibition more interactive. Little children not higher than my knee are running around, enjoying the larger-than-life characters towering over them. I am momentarily distracted by the children, but then my eyes go up and I drink in the scene. And that is when something inside me crumbles..!! I am shocked to see my childhood hit me in my face; that same thrill from years ago creeping over me, taking hold of my senses, causing me to lose myself yet again to the author’s magic. As wide-eyed as the children around, I wander through the exhibition…taking my time over each section, reverently touching it, relishing it all. Almost towards the end of the exhibition, there is a little table set aside for a few illustrations. The illustrator of all her books- Nick Sharatt- has lent a few of his drawings and explained the technique he uses to illustrate these books. Children are encouraged to try the technique for themselves- placing thin tracing sheets over a light box and reproducing the drawing that lies beneath. A tiny pencil-holder is filled with thick crayons and little pencils. Yet again a reminder that this exhibition is aimed for the hands that find these pencils huge, despite their miniature size. But before I know it, I have grabbed my favourite illustration and am furiously scribbling away….tracing the illustration, creating my own unique souvenir. It fills me with deep pleasure, a satisfaction of finally having lived the storybook life.
There are these glorious times when dreams are actually fulfilled. And today, sitting in England-studying my favourite subject- dreams cross over to meet reality. Out from the exhibition, the cold wind catches me on my face and only one thought predominates my mind.
“It feels so good, it hurts…”