Friday, June 17, 2011

The Diary of a Young Girl -- Anne Frank

Dear Blog,
They say that a young person, esp. a child grows up in a day when he’s faced with an unpleasant, horrid and terrifying situation. And when that situation carries the nametag of ‘World War II’ one can expect anyone to grow up in a day. World War II is definitely one of the most horrific events that ever occurred and lives in various countries have been affected beyond imagination. You can try to guess how it was like during the war or you have the option of reading Anne Frank’s diary to read how exactly the common people were affected during the war. Anne’s diary acts a keyhole to peep into the lives of her family and other Jews (ordinary families) when the most famous villain ‘Hitler’ was enjoying his reign. This diary is as real as it gets with a firsthand account of a vivacious girl whose life took a complete turn when her family had to go into hiding, which was desperate attempt to stay alive and keep themselves out of Nazis’ hands. This isn't some story depicting drama, mystery or horror. It's a story of a simple girl growing up, story of her normal life being cut short because of her being a Jew and a story of hope. This is one of those books which a reader will read again and again.
When I had first heard about this book as a small girl I was dead curious about its contents and thought that maybe their hiding place was some underground room of their house and how it must have been to stay that way for a few months. Levels of my fascination, admiration and respect soared when I read about what their actual hiding place had been for 2 years and the hardships they faced on a ‘daily’ basis. Hiding from the Nazis was one thing but the bigger challenge was to keep their morale high, be cheerful and keep themselves busy to escape the depression and fear that followed them to their hiding place. The Franks shared the hiding place with the Van Daan family which had an obnoxious, irritating mommy, a daddy who loved fighting with mommy and a very very quite son. Bearing the Van Daan parents was the biggest of all the challenges presented before them. Their daily hiccups consisted of fixed and lean timings to use bathrooms and water, eating rotten vegetables, being quite during the days so that no-one can find out about them, clothes and shoes getting old, small and tattered, not able to get a cure for common ailments or poor eyesight, putting up with pets and fleas, facing the changing weather with minimal clothes that they had etc. There was a threat in everything. Food, weather, disease and war. Everything. As time passed by, everyone got on each other’s nerves. Guess that’s bound to happen if you stay with the same set of people day in and day out, every hour and minute for two whole years, even if that set consists of your family. Big Brother/ Big Boss looks like a joke once you read what these people had to put up with. Their only consolation and prize for holding their nerves together and ‘tolerating’ each other is that they might finally be able to taste freedom at the end of the war. It was heartening to see how in spite of all the odds and hardships, they still cared to each other at the end of the day, how birthday presents were given irrespective of being holed up and how they had each other’s back when there were some scary moments. It was somewhat comforting to see how their non-Jewish people who so selflessly,risking their own lives,kept them in hiding and helped them.  

Anne who was always the naughty, talkative, funny and a practical joker amongst her friends in her school had to do the unpleasant task of growing up overnight. Though it did not happen overnight literally but she definitely grew wiser and became almost a new person in those 2 years. This is evident as each page of the diary is turned. Anne had received her diary as her birthday gift before they went into hiding and the very same diary remained her confidante and a best friend in those testing times. Every minute detail, sometimes even insignificant stuff was narrated to her diary, just like one would talk about every possible topic with a ‘human’ best friend. Only difference in Anne’s case was that the conversations were one-sided.  Another challenge faced by Anne was when she hit puberty when in hiding. Expecting any teen to stay sane in the discomfort of four walls with the same eight people AND handle those tricky hormones at the same time is too much to ask for. How Anne’s behaviour changed, her attitude and relationships with her family, esp. her mother changed, how she often found herself dwelling, questioning and getting confused on certain issues outline what every teen goes through. Her innocence, charm, mischievousness and wisdom (unreal at that age) reflect throughout the diary. The last few lines written by her will leave you restless, wondering and asking for more. Anne was just a regular 14 year old who showed wisdom, courage and character beyond her age and beautifully conveyed that it was a bittersweet experience, staying underground. Staying in the required conditions weren’t at all good but after hearing to what was happening to all the non-hiding Jews made it a blessed stay. You just keep wishing this sweet diary came with a happy ending.

This book has a special charm as it has a raw, genuine and warm feel to it. Every entry in the diary takes us to a day of an ordinary girl and an ordinary family. Yet this book has the power to make you laugh, cry, wonder and give you comfort. Anne’s wish was to live even after death and her diary immortalized her. ‘Hope’ is given a whole new meaning and is the hidden emotion in every page. Once you finish off the book a nagging feeling will leave you thinking how it was waste of a human life and race, all because of one man’s petty ‘ideologies’. I spent an entire night wishing Anne was alive, wishing she could see what effect her diary still has on people, wondering who betrayed them, imagining what it must have been in the camps, how she must have spent her last few days, and how a young girl didn’t deserve all this. I’m sure that everyone who reads this, will turn back to the cover to see Anne’s picture every once in a while, and wonder if it was the same sweet girl who had to endure such hardships at such a tender age.

Her diary fulfilled her dream of 'staying alive even after death'. To sum up about ‘what’s so special about Anne Frank's diary’ I will quote the very last lines of the book. “Her voice was preserved out of the millions that were silenced, this voice no louder than a child’s whisper... It has outlasted the shouts of the murderers and has soared above the voices of time.” 

P.S: This isn’t my new style of writing. Just wanted to hold onto the “Anne Frank Diary’s” spirit. :)