Being a Woman
I wistfully ran my hand over the beautiful cover of the notebook in my hand and then with a deep soulful sigh kept it back on the shelf in Crossword. I managed to convince myself that I certainly didn’t need to add one more notebook to my already teetering pile ; I might have felt like my toenails were being pulled out when I kept the book back, but it was a silly extravagance and it was time I controlled my lust for them. When I slinked out of the shop half an hour later, the notebook was nestling snugly next to the book I had bought for my daughter. I had given in, yet again.
I’ve realised that I’m a hoarder, or should I call myself a collector ? The word Hoarder brings to mind a goon wearing a stained vest in a dingy godown lit only by a single dangling bulb with sacks of rice and sugar piled in a corner. Ok, I’ll go with collector since wearing stained clothes is a big no-no. Godowns and sacks are fine but one has to draw the line somewhere and for me that is sweat-stained clothes ! I do feel like a fraud when I call myself a collector because such individuals are serious and dignified and not even in my wildest flights of fancy can I claim to be either of the two. Anyway, semantics apart, my collecting/hoarding tendencies are rooted in my past, in my childhood to be precise. Let’s take a quick trip down that good old memory lane, when I was running around like a wild child, complete with scabbed knees, missing teeth and wonky pigtails. How many years ago, asks the reader who wants specifics. Why go into inconsequential numerical details dear friend, let’s just say that it was a couple of decades back. I had the characteristics of an enthusiastic magpie. If you cast your mind on that mischievous denizen of the avian fraternity, you’ll remember what your teacher taught you in school. The magpie is said to be a prolific hoarder.
The bird was attracted to anything that glittered, but I had no such constraints – anything small and considered uninteresting by the general populace was of utmost interest to little pig-tailed me. Pebbles worn smooth over the years which reminded me of clouds; scraps of brilliantly coloured cloth which I used to filch from the tailor; transparent wrappers of boiled candy that I would wrap tightly round my fingertips to see the whorls more clearly ; misshapen pieces of chalk in different colours which always left a dusting of coloured dreams on my hands ; pencil stubs which reminded me of tiny men in top-hats ; soft feathers in pale shades of blue, yellow and rust that I got from my grand-mom’s neighbour who had pet love-birds ; cloth covered buttons; broken pieces of jewel-hued glass bangles ; all these and more were my prized possessions, stored carefully in a colourful round biscuit tin.
As I left the magical, whacky world of childhood behind and entered the angst ridden world of adolescence, my collector’s soul too underwent a transformation. Out went all the colourful baubles and fancy stuff. My teenage mind found solace and a perfect reflection of my feelings in the words of songs, and that too Hindi film songs. My efforts were now tuned to collecting the lyrics of as many songs as I could. I’ve painstakingly collected the lyrics, including the information about the makers of the songs, the actors who acted in them, and then recorded every tiny detail in notebooks. The pictures of the actors were carefully cut out of magazines and pasted along with the songs. Since Google was not even a thought in the minds of its makers, my main sources were the radio stations and in those days All India Radio and Vividh Bharati were the only two around. So getting accurate lyrics was a tortuous, laborious affair. Now when I look back, I’m astounded that between my obsessive song writing and compulsive reading, I managed to complete my education without my parents suffering nervous breakdowns !
Over time, songs were replaced by pithy sayings and interesting quotes. The Reader’s Digest magazine played an important role in this phase of mine since that was my principal source. I’ve a distinct memory of myself bent over a beautiful moss-green diary (which I still have with me), copying quotations from RD. The sky was overcast and the rain beat down gently while I was ensconced in my room lost in a world of words. I carry around that image with me and try to slip back into the serenity of that moment whenever I feel overwhelmed by life. Sadly I’ve almost bid adieu to my collecting days. Work and later motherhood saw me hurtling down uncharted terrain trying desperately to hang on to my sanity. There was never enough time or the mental space required for my inner magpie to manifest itself. But I’ve managed to hold on to my love of notebooks. I love them in any shape, size or colour. Earlier I used to feel guilty about buying new ones when I hadn’t used the earlier ones. I’m still attacked by guilt but like I mentioned in the beginning, I’ve learnt to successfully silence this tiresome, nagging inner voice and move on happily. I think it’s the possibility of spilling out words onto the fresh pages which fills me with a deep satisfaction. And as long as I love words I don’t think I’ll give up on this one.