This blog is about the e-mail that I wrote to Nick Middleton and the reply he sent. What makes it special is the motivation behind this 'random initiative' and the surprising response as well. Nick is the author of a chapter 'Silk Road' which is in the prescribed curriculum by CBSE in English of Grade XI in India. I am an educator of the subject at Wisdom World School here.
In 2021, I wrote an e-mail to Evelyn Glennie, who is the world's leading percussionist and is also a hearing-impaired genius. She replied in no time. In the same days, I had written to Ruskin Bond and also posted greeting cards made by my students. All this is part of the weird efforts of making my subject sound distinct and relevant. When Evelyn responded, it was an unusual thing for the grade IX kids, because the act was in direct contract with what they used to feel about the world. We see that there is a trust deficit about reciprocity in the world. Students loved the way we wrote and received good responses.
That was 2021 and this is 2022, so this time, a sudden-abrupt-abnormal idea came again. I was researching about the author of Silk Road - a chapter in CBSE Grade 11 English. This travelogue is a special read because of the standard of language and the way it has been narrated. The website of Nick was found and using the given e-mail address, I sent an e-mail on 26 January 2022:
Greetings from Wisdom World School, India!We are reading your text - Silk Road in our grade XI- English textbook. You must be aware of this as the chapter is part of the book published by the national publisher.I am sure, not many have written to you, as many times we miss this initiative. But the students here had a curiosity to reach out to you and here it is.We are pleased to send our appreciation of the beautiful writing, not just one but many. Your life in writing adds to our learning and fascination about 'travel and geography'.We shall be pleased to get a message, a reply, a word of wisdom for the students who shall read this chapter- Not just to read in their curriculum, but for life!Loads of love and best wishes from the students!ParveenEducator - Wisdom World SchoolKurukshetraINDIA
The reply came on 04 February 2022 and it says:
Thank you for your email. I know at least part of my book is used in India in the way you describe, and on occasion I have been asked email questions by pupils studying the book. It is interesting to hear from you directly as an educator, so thank you. My travels for that book were a few years ago now, but they still have a fond place in my memory. I have not been to your part of India – the closest was to Rajasthan many years ago.
I hope you and your students continue to enjoy and learn something from my writing.
With best wishes
This affirms the age-old belief for me - that the world is very receptive. we just need to communicate in the language that connects. This reply adds to that trust in the fundamental faculty of life - communication. Nick Middleton must be getting millions of e-mails and the one from India might not be an out-of-the-world thing. However, for my classroom, for me - to me - this is special as it adds to the strength of keeping the 'unusual' alive.
If I start teaching the present-day children with the ways of yesterday - WILL I BE ABLE TO PREPARE THEM FOR TOMORROW?
So, the above e-mail from the author brings home an idea that children can start writing to each and every author who is there on the planet and must realise that EVERYONE IS WAITING TO BE KNOWN AND TALKED TO!
A brief profile of Nick is here as mentioned on his personal website:
Nick Middleton is an award-winning geographer, writer, TV presenter, environmental scientist and university lecturer. His curiosity about how planet Earth works and how people interact with it was fuelled from an early age by his family’s world atlas, Herge’s Adventures of Tintin and an endless flow of Willard Price novels. Now he works and communicates on a wide variety of environmental issues and travel topics for a broad range of audiences, from government policy-makers to primary-school children. He also teaches at the University of Oxford where he is a Fellow of St Anne’s College.
Nick is the author of seven travel books, including the bestseller, Going to Extremes, which accompanied a television series he wrote and presented for Channel 4 and the National Geographic Channel on extreme environments and the people who live in them. His TV documentaries have been broadcast all over the world and his books translated into more than a dozen languages.