By Roshan, New Age Islam
08 June, 2015
She remains my favourite author today, when I’m almost fifty, just as she was when I was not even five. If you were fortunate, as I was, to have been reared on Enid Blyton’s tales for kids, you will know exactly what I mean.
Enid Blyton worked pure magic with words, weaving them together to form enchanting stories that were, and perhaps still are, considered to be among the world’s best children’s literature. Tales about naughty pixies and garrulous gnomes; talking toys and clever wizards; flying chairs and castles floating in the clouds; wooly lambs and cute-faced cows; little boys and girls scampering off into the woods and trekking up into the mountains; fun-filled birthday parties and lazy beach holidays; freshly-baked buns, crispy, butter-filled scones and giant jugs of lemonade—that was the magical world of Enid Blyton!
As a child, a new Enid Blyton book was about the best treat that I could ever ask for. My mother, who was an Enid Blyton enthusiast herself, would scout out for the latest Enid Blyton titles in the market. And when she’d come home with a new one, you wouldn’t believe how excited I would be! After lunch, I’d snuggle up beside her on her bed and attentively listen as she’d read out one enchanting Enid Blyton story after another—tales about Noddy and Big Ears, two inseparable friends, about Naughty Amelia Jane and her toys, about Dame Washalot and Saucepan Man, and about the Magic Faraway Tree, that led to wonderful lands hidden far beyond the clouds.
And so, I grew up thinking that the world around me was like one vast, happy, sunny English village, inhabited by cheerful kids, fairies and elves; where everyone was courteous and considerate, like those dear old English aunties who spoke so kindly and quaintly and baked lemon tarts and crunchy nut cakes, even for perfect strangers; where people drove toy cars and cartoon bears and giraffes lived in snug little cottages and pretty log cabins in the midst of oak-tree forests; and where life was uninterrupted fun and frolic.
That I had everything I needed provided for—I didn’t need even to tie my own shoe-laces myself or to lift my plate from the dining table and deposit it in the sink after my meal, because there was someone to do that, too—made the magical world of innocent bliss of Enid Blyton’s tales seem even more real to me than it otherwise might have.
You can imagine my shock and pain, then, when I was first thrown into the ‘real world’—to begin with, when I was sent off to a school where none of the boys even remotely resembled any character from any Enid Blyton tale. From then on, I confronted one painful challenge after another as I began to experience even more of the ‘real world’.
Pain, disappointment, anguish, meaninglessness, frustration, anger, pettiness, selfishness, greed, ambition, cruelty, violence and hate —all these and more, hit me harshly in the face. The harrowing suffering I went through, and that I saw others—even the whole world—face, sometimes seemed so unbearable that I feared I might lose my mind.
The ‘real world’, I discovered, was nothing even remotely like the world of Enid Blyton!
I had been led to believe—I don’t blame Enid Blyton for this at all though—in the dream of a problem-free life, but ‘real life’, I soon found out, wasn’t that way at all. Yet, I refused to accept this. If in my workplace I had problems with my boss—maybe I found him unbearably inefficient and just plain mediocre—I’d dump the job at once and take up another one, in the hope that my new boss would be just as I wanted him to be. If there was something about a friend I found irritating, I’d latch on to someone else, hoping that I would at last land up with an ideal companion. If I found a town just too noisy and polluted for my liking, I’d escape somewhere else—maybe up into the mountains or to some rural NGO—hoping that thereby I’d find just the perfect, hassle-less place to spend the rest of my life.
Not surprisingly, though, in escaping from challenging people and situations, not once did I land up with a perfect job, a perfect boss, a perfect friend, or a perfect place to live in.
I wasn’t perfect myself, so why did I expect everything else to be? That was a question that I never asked myself. I simply refused to acknowledge my own imperfection.
In my quest for a problem-free life, I was seeking to escape from life as it truly is. In the belief that the world was—or should be—like it was in Enid Blyton’s tales, I did not want to recognise that this is simply impossible. The reality of the world was simply much too painful, I thought, to bear.
Rather than learning how to handle challenges, I was hankering after an impossible challenge-free life.
Rather than learning to face the real-world, I was hankering after an impossible world of my own imagination.
Resisting the reality of the real world made no difference to it, however. It only pushed me into further depths of despair. Refusing to accept life and the world as they truly are, my escapism, compounded by other issues, drove me neurotic. I landed up taking treatment for this condition at a hospital for the mentally-disturbed for a while.
With God’s grace, I gradually grew to understand that the ideal, problem-free life that I hankered after just isn’t possible in this world.
And why is this so?
I learned that it is because since God has given us the gift and responsibility of free-will, there is bound to be misuse of this freedom. And so, there are bound to be problems in this world and in our lives.
This is something I am, hopefully, beginning to increasingly appreciate.
A problem-free life and a problem-free world here on earth are, I now realise, impossible. A problem-free life and a problem-free world do indeed exist—not here, though, but, rather, in the life Hereafter, in what many religions describe as Heaven. And that life and that world can be had if we lead our lives in this world in accordance with God’s Will, patiently and skillfully facing and dealing with the many challenges that we are bound to meet while doing so.
Meanwhile, instead of seeking to escape from the reality of this challenge-filled world or dreaming of a problem-free life here on earth, what we should be asking God for is for the faith and the strength to appropriately face the myriad challenges we are bound to face as we continue our short sojourn in this world.
That said, you can continue to allow yourself the innocent joy of an Enid Blyton tale once in a while, as I occasionally do!