I met Anne Frank in my teens; I was the same age as her on the text, and about four decades apart in the calendar. And I read through the night, fascinated by her life. I was thrilled to read her encounters with the awakening of sexuality and lamented that four decades ahead boy-friends and dating still were forbidden words to me and not even concepts to my world. I was moved to tears at what happened to Anne at the end of it all. And she took up a place among my favourite books on the shelf.
I re-read Anne Frank’s diary several times over the teenage years; while I was down with chicken-pox, measles and mums, while I was out of stock of new books to read, while I researched for a prize essay on the Holocaust and also as a favourite bed-time read. When I left home to join my first job, Anne Frank was left behind for a reason I cannot now remember. I was then twenty.
There was a gap in my reading habits for an interval of about a decade. And when books came back in pursuit of me, I shifted loyalties. But when I was making a list of books for my office library and was asked to include some ‘must-reads’ for children, Anne Frank came back to my life and reading. The copy of Anne Frank at the library was almost always with me thereafter. I would issue and re-issue the book in my name and that of close friends who did not really read and when we made a new list for the next year’s purchases for the library stock, my manager pointed out that we get another copy of Anne Frank’s Diary, “since it seems a popular read”. And I had to keep my face down to hide my smile. I just hid the copy I had read to a tattered heap now, behind the library register.
The next year Anne Frank’s Diary was published in translation in Malayalam and I promptly suggested a copy for the library. I had not thought of translation as a profession yet, but I remember comparing the English and Malayalam versions and working on some pages to translate them ‘better’ as I thought. Anne Frank had now become a child to me; one who deserved empathies of various genres, as a refugee, as a holocaust victim and as a girl who did not get to enjoy her adolescence.
It was in those years that I got hooked to films seriously. I was a regular at the film fests that happened in my city in those years and the innumerable films made around the holocaust made me see and empathize with Anne Frank more clearly. I now saw the larger realities behind the adolescent perspectives grow broader.
When I was transferred out of Trivandrum to Delhi, Anne Frank and I lost contact for a while again. In 2004 I returned to my city and my personal library; and my children were now following my footsteps in the habit of reading. My son was introduced to Anne and he was all that a gentleman reader would be. He read it once, liked it, but declined to read it again. I waited a bit to introduce my daughter to Anne, and lo! Anne is now back in our amidst. My daughter’s conversations with Anne Frank are an on-going affair, and quite often I am a silent listener. I see Anne again in my home, everywhere, and I have bought my daughter her own copy for the deliberations.
As for my own copy, it is back under my pillow and I am thinking of a new translation of the book into Malayalam. And I have bought a new copy of the uncensored version of the book, to strengthen my project.
Suneetha is a writer by passion, profession and hobby. She writes fiction in English, poetry in her native tongue Malayalam and journalistic features in both. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org