One square to the next

Hop. Skip. Jump. Break a leg. Make a leap of faith.

Five-Digit Speak

I’ve always been obsessed with the past. The idea of preserving time to relate to an age that I was not a part of, connect with people I yearn to know, and remain in touch with memories that need to stay fresh and dewy, appeals to me.

I realise this as I read Pradeep Sebastian’s, The Groaning Shelf and Other Instances of Book-Love. I borrowed the book because I liked its white, uncomplicated cover design as much as its holdable size, the hard-bound sense of assurance that it exuded and its back-cover description. The book also has deckle-edge pages, which present a refreshing texture when you run your fingers along them.

(Doesn’t that have a lovely ring to it, by the way? “Deckled”. I could say it and instantly sound British. {No no, it’s not a post-colonial hangover, thank you very much. I don’t ache to sound British. Just saying that anyone could do a convincing Rupert Everett in a second.})

So, Sebastian quotes this excerpt from the introduction of The Cultures of Collecting, edited by John Elsner and Roger Cardinal:

“… The editors come back to this idea of collecting as a stay against time using a most unusual and thrilling example: ‘Noah was the first collector. Adam had given names to the animals, but it fell to Noah to collect them… In the myth of Noah as ur-collector resonate all the themes of collecting itself: desire and nostalgia, saving and loss, the urge to erect a permanent and complete system against the destructiveness of time.’”

I chanced upon an old visiting card today. It had slipped out of a book from my grandfather’s cupboard, that my older sister had painstakingly cleaned.

I hoped that the address scrawled on its reverse using a red pen was in my grandfather’s handwriting. He passed away a year before my father was married. I grew up listening to stories about him. Or, it could even be my grand-uncle’s writing, I reasoned. He passed away when I was in school. (He would mash bread, banana, eggs and milk together for breakfast; call it pudding to entice us children and go on to eat it with relish. Even today, my vision of that meal is of something that looked like gooey cardboard on a white plate. I think I remember thinking, though, that it didn’t taste too bad.)

It turned out that the writing belonged to neither of them. It might just have been dear Mr Reghu Kumar’s, after all. (He’s no relation, just an insurance agent.) But, I kept the card anyway. It goes back to a time when landline numbers were just five digits long. My mother says this existed in the 70s. My father thinks I am a little mad to want to keep the card.

It’s a book mark, for now. A throwback to an age when the pace of life may have been more gentle than it is today. My life has been so rushed this past year that it has felt like the voice in my head is short of breath all the time – while driving, while walking, while working, while thinking, while conversing, while being.

But, I think it’s time to stop now, and take it slow. So slow that I can sink into the luxury of re-reading a line in a book, in a relaxed cerebral voice, instead of speeding past it to make it to the finish line in the measly half an hour that my every day may grant me.

I have missed being patient with sentences.

Thank you, Mr Reghu Kumar.

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And the lovelies come marching in.

Apparently, a three-digit number above your left-side pane of tiny, square (shape, not characteristic) friends’ photos is not an indicator of high sociability.

Who would’ve thought it.

What if you had nothing though? Would you sway along to Nina like the girl in the black top did? You know the one. With the loping walk and the fidgety hair and a nine-year-old’s smile. The one who danced in front of a boy sometime after she hugged him on the pavement to check if he would dissolve into molecules.

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“I got my smile.”

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