Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Brown Wrapping Paper

It is late night. You are awake, almost widely awake. There are specific reasons, of course, why you are indulging in this thing here, giving yourself up to thoughts. But do those reasons matter? In the dull light of the time when the city is finally, exhaustedly, asleep, you turn to your childhood, with its rich store of memories.

The time is summer, as always, that time just before the start of the school year. You have spent two months in idle tomfoolery, by the stern looks on the adult’s faces, you will learn to regret this. A summer spent in playing, catching up with friends, mastering cycling without holding the handlebars, is a summer that is never going to come back, their eyes tell you. Your heart knows better, of course.

Clutching a bunch of rupees in your hand, you turn store-ward. You glance down at the money every few seconds, noticing suspicious (male) eyes looking at you and recalling anecdotes involving small children, money, and strangers, and Pinocchio. The store-front is small, the back a bit more spacious. It takes fifteen minutes to catch the guys attention. Meanwhile you practice your piece. But still, the words come out all in a blur. He is unconcerned. He pulls out a random assortment of notebooks, drawing books, pencils, and this year’s special treat, a geometry box. You are sweating by the time you check his math, pay him his due, and, proudly clutching a plastic bag full of fresh books, and a roll of brown wrapping paper, head back home.

At home, you are inclined to dig in immediately into the bag. You retire to your room. You find your sibling there, a look of scorn on her face. She is too old to bother with brown wrapping paper. She is too normal to understand your excitement over notebooks. You gulp down your enthusiasm, casually place the loot in your bookshelf, and head out, presumably to eat a snack, but actually to dig at earthworms in the garden.

A half hour later you are back. She is gone, out to a friend’s house perhaps. She is bound to come back laden with library books to read. The last week when such a thing can be done without incurring wrath of parents. You arrange a pair of scissors, last year’s left-over sticker labels, cello-tape, a ruler, and start your operation. Measuring, cutting, creasing. You have now converged on to one method of wrapping. The small cut edge to be tucked into the board of the book, and then the whole flap folded over. You are proficient, you are efficient, you are fast. Before you know it, you have a pile of neatly wrapped books ready to be labeled.

You have only pondered for a minute over the ‘rough’ note book. Does it need a nice brown wrapper? Will not newspaper do? You throw caution to the wind and use a brown one. You immediately write down the expansion of (a+b)2 in the book, excitement coursing through your veins. Next, you open out the geometry box, admire the small pencil that is part of the set, sharpen it quickly, and insert it into the hole in the compass. You poke the point in and make a circle. Your hand slips and it comes out all messy. Oh well! That’s what they are going to teach this year, you say to yourself, arranging everything neatly in the shelf.


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