It was when putting up a Facebook status update about Dr. Seuss on his birthday on March 2nd, that I realized that I had much more to say about Dr. Seuss than what would justify as a ‘status update’.
Dr. Seuss was never popular in India – at least not when I was growing up. I had actually seen pictures of his strange characters back home in some old American magazine, but I had no idea about him. It was much later when I moved to the US that I finally got acquainted with him – when I started reading out loud to my little one. She and I discovered the good Doctor together and he proved to be absolutely delightful to both of us. Then my second one came along and I introduced her to the enchanting characters to equal delight. We became citizens of a quirky world called Seussville and in a riprolicking coaster of a ride, we met such delightful characters like The Cat in the Hat, Horton, the Whos, Yertle the Turtle, the Lorax and the Sneetches to name a few.
His characters were not just quirky, they had wonderful names too that made reading aloud all the more fun. An exceptional wordsmith, he just carried you away along on a phantasmic stream of fabulous creatures, wacky words and nonsensical thought.
But don’t be fooled by the apparent nonsense. Behind all that silliness lay some gems. He made more sense in those zany one-liners than some people do in a thousand pages.
Take ‘The Sneetches’ for example. Every time I read it, I cannot help hearing rabid communal and racial rabble rousers licking their chops at the expected windfall.
And you haven’t lived life until you have tried Green Eggs and Ham. He uses just 50 words in the entire book and by the end of it, you realize that green eggs and ham can actually taste quite good – whether you have it on a train or in the rain, with a fox or in a box… you never know how good something is unless you give it a try.
And Horton, my favorite Dr. Seuss character who makes his appearance in ‘Horton Hears a Who’. The awesome pachyderm who had a heart to match his size tells you that ‘A person’s a person, no matter how small’. Nothing could support the cause of equality more.
Dr. Seuss celebrated life and urged you to be adventurous; he applauded diversity and supported human rights issues… and all without a hint of preaching or a sense of moral superiority. That was his success. He could make you imbibe basic human decency and a sense of fairness towards all fellow creatures without sounding the least bit preachy.
Now both my girls are beyond being read to, but still, once in a while they are ‘force read-to.’ Although they protest loudly and accuse me of being in love with my own voice, I know that they secretly do enjoy it. Why else would they conspicuously leave copies of one Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish and The Sleep Book lying around when it’s bedtime?
And if you asked me to pick one of his quotes, I would be lost. So here’s leaving you with a selection of my favorites…
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” (Hold on to the happy memories)
“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” (Just how sweet is that?)
“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.” (Normal can be pretty boring)
“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” (Tell me about it :/)
“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” (So go plant a tree)
“Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope.” (Turn life around on its head)
“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!” (So get going on the viewless wings of imagination)
“Adults are just obsolete children and the hell with them. ‘ (Who needs adults around anyway?)
‘Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” (I am sure a young Steve Jobs’ was taking notes)
“I’m glad we had the times together just to laugh and sing a song, seems like we just got started and then before you know it, the times we had together were gone.” (It seems like it was just yesterday…)
“We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.” (Come fall in weirdness)