Richmal Crompton, author of the Just William series
Would I enjoy reading books where there is almost no mention of girls? Where boys have adventures, form loyal gangs and are a constant source of worry and frustration to their families?
You bet I would! I will never tire of reading Swami and Friends by R K Narayan and Just William, a series of 39 books written by Richmal Crompton. The trials and troubles both these boys go through! School, where no one seems to understand them; family, who are always against them; other adults who have been put there just so that these two boys have a miserable life. Happily, both these boys have friends (all boys, girls are just not worth their time) with whom they escape from the dreadful world of adults.
For a lot of you, these stories will give you a glimpse of what childhood was like for your grandparents. Life was not very different then. True, there were none of the things that you are so used to today: television, mobiles, Internet and so much more. However, the fun, the secrets hidden from adults, the constant stream of homework, strict teachers, adults who don’t understand your priorities — all were the same for your parents and grandparents as they are for you.
What I love so much about these books is that they do not preach. They see the world as it is for a child. No adult points a moral finger. Swaminathan is a schoolboy in a village called Malgudi who has a gang of friends with whom he has adventures and gets inspired to be a part of India’s freedom struggle. He gets into trouble frequently, runs away from home and is a steadfast friend. William Brown is a schoolboy in a small town in Britain, who has a gang of friends called the Outlaws, can never stay out of trouble and always wonders why adults just cannot seem to see the world the way he does.
Though these books do not necessarily fit into any genre, I think that they can be called school stories. If you think about it, so many books that you may have read can be seen as school stories: the Harry Potter series, some stories by Roald Dahl and PG Wodehouse and so many more.
I am sure if you asked your parents to tell you stories from their school days, they would sound much like the things you experience. In my school days, I have been in trouble for smuggling in food, for reading books during class and for giggling while being scolded. Facing the consequences of your small misdemeanors in school feels horrible, but when you grow up and think back, it’s not so terrible. Now, as a teacher, I know how students feel when I scold them. I have to fight the urge to smile, and most times fully understand the indignation a student feels when pulled up.
Do try and read these books and tell me if they are stories you can relate to or are from a time that is so far away that finding something in common is too difficult.
(Yasmine Claire teaches high school students and attempts to write twisted-inside-out fairy tales)