Tuesday, Sep 25, 2018 | Last Update : 12:28 PM IST

Of Enid Blyton and misguided people

Kishwar Desai, is the chair of the Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust, which is setting up the Partition Museum at Town Hall, Amritsar.
Published : Aug 20, 2018, 5:32 am IST
Updated : Aug 20, 2018, 5:32 am IST

Though her real life was far removed from the dream world of books she helped so many children to enter.

Boris Johnson (Photo: AP)
 Boris Johnson (Photo: AP)

It is sad to see how often Westminster appears to become a target of attack by so-called terrorists — who have little knowledge of what their own grievances are, let alone the wider ideology they claim to represent. The latest attack by a 29-year-old Salih Khatar, a Sudan-born UK national, in which he ploughed through traffic, and tried to run over pedestrians and cyclists, is yet again the action of a mentally disturbed person. It is random acts of violence like this, which actually make it more difficult for those who propagate a more inclusive and liberal society, in which, ironically, people like Khatar flourish.

These “terrorists” require psychiatric treatment, more than anything else, and one only hopes that no one will attempt this cruel and barbaric stunt again. Fortunately only three people were injured this time.

Westminster is unique, not only because it is the “mother of parliamentary democracy” it also offers easy access to all who work or visit there. Sadly, misguided people like Khatar do not understand the historical and social milieu that this democratic setup offers. At a time when the home secretary is a Muslim, the mayor of London is a Muslim, and there are other cities which are choosing Muslims to represent them in their councils, this “terrorist” attack is meaningless.

How many of us grew up reading Enid Blyton? I know she has been edged out by J.K. Rowling, but no matter what you do, she still continues to sell millions of books every year. And now there will soon be a new “tell all” book about her, The Real Enid Blyton, by Nadia Cohen, which I cannot wait to read.

Blyton’s birthday just passed by last week, and as her 50th death anniversary approaches in November, it is interesting to see how she has endured, despite the hundreds of children’s authors who are published each year. After all she wrote 800 books in 40 years, which must be some kind of record!

Her book series on young detectives, (The Five Find-Outers, etc) her fantasy books for very young children (The Wishing Tree, etc), her Noddy series… the series on young girls in boarding schools (Malory Towers, St. Clare’s) all showed a wide-ranging imagination, and she sometimes published up to 50 books in a year, which is completely unheard of today.

Following a strict routine of writing from the morning till about five in the evening — she churned out 10,000 words daily, and (a big relief for many of us writers who write instinctively, without following rules from a “writing workshop”) she wrote straight from her mind. Among the scandals revealed in this new biography: she barely had any time for her own children and had a penchant for playing “naked tennis”!

Despite her affairs of the heart and her two marriages, she did extremely well, one among very few women writers who became millionaires in their lifetime. Though her real life was far removed from the dream world of books she helped so many children to enter. I know that when I first went to London, all I wanted to eat was hot buttered scones and crumpets for tea, which is what the children in her books indulged in.

What is sad is that despite working so very hard, she ultimately got dementia. It is puzzling because we are always told that if we use our brains, this is unlikely to happen… She died at the age of 71, after practically setting up an empire of published books.

But of course, how can we ever forget Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary, who has now turned columnist? Incorrigible as ever he has decided to jump into the (non) debate over the burqa, by comparing it to a letter-box, or a garb for bank robbers. This has now led to his removal from a charity that he had supported for many years, “Classics for All”, which promotes the study of Greek and Latin classics in schools. Or at least his “honorary patron” page has been removed from the charity’s website.

His comments offended the organisation, which said: “The team at Classics for All is committed to increasing access to classics and works with many Muslim pupils. We do not endorse or support Boris Johnson’s statement or comments.”

This will, of course, be only a temporary blip in Mr Johnson’s career of bloopers!

Meanwhile, we carry on with our efforts to preserve history. And this time it is a painful chapter of India-UK history which is headed for London. The team at the Partition Museum has set up a very special exhibition, in Amritsar, on the 1919 Massacre at Jallianwala Bagh and is now preparing to take the exhibition to the UK next year. This exhibition is entirely curated in India — and so will be very much from the Indian perspective. Do look out for it, in Amritsar and abroad!

Tags: boris johnson, enid blyton