I think I am a bit like a bear. A couple of times in a year, after an protracted time of activity I get this strong urge to go into hibernation – viz. just take off and do some R&R and space out and be incommunicado to everyone except those whom I HAVE to talk to - office folks, my mother (if anyone has managed to successfully go on, and more importantly maintain a maun-vrat with their mother, please give me tips), and sometimes the out-laws. The last one leaves me feeling more than slightly aggrieved. That is the reason when I feel the need to hibernate; I usually skulk off to Bombay where I can go peacefully into my asocial-surly-moody-space cadet mode without being disturbed or suffering annoying guilt pangs.
So anyways, I went last week but this time I wasn’t allowed to pursue my usual policy of going into a state of suspended animation – where I sleep, eat, read, ignore everyone, watch bad movies and occasionally do guilt-propelled exercise (and do NO work).
This time, the mother had an agenda for me – viz. clear out my bookcase. She for some reason has always found my tendency to buy and hoard books a nuisance, nothing moves her to fluent oratory as much as finding some book under the bed or on top of the washing machine. Sigh.
So she put an ultimatum. Either clear out the cupboard or she would clear it out (which basically meant that she would have just called the raddi-wala and told him to take away everything in sight.)
So, very reluctantly I set out to do so.
And I found a whole lot of half-remembered things from bygone eras. Letters from my friends carefully stored away inside books, letters written to my friends which I never got around to mailing, poems (aged 14 -18: serious and deadly earnest philosophies for life and living (ahem)), my friend Goonda’s poems (which I had copied meticulously for some reason. I promptly called her to recite them on phone and she had to bribe me with a gift to shut up) and Goonda + Mine ambitious literally opus – titled the GOLD (er...Gems of Literature and Dramatics. I know. I know. I was fourteen. God help me).
And I found my diaries. Slightly squashed, slightly musty, slightly dog-eared but all there for posterity.
I started writing these diaries – well when I was seven or eight at the behest of my father. I would religiously show it to him, making sure that my mother didn’t see them (I did say I was a Daddy’s girl didn’t I? Although I stopped sharing it from age ten). He would assure me (completely mendaciously) they were particularly well written and that would ensure that I continue this diary for at least three months of the year – even if it was a bland and factual “I didn’t do anything today so nothing to write”.
The early editions of this unfortunately, must have got lost when we shifted countries when I was 11. But I have the diaries from ages 13 to age of 22(which seems to be the last time I attempted it.)
So I have brought along my diary aged 13 1/4th to Pune and have been wading through it, these days. It is written in a scrawl (whatever else might have changed, my handwriting remains as bad as ever) and the text is usually accompanied by illustrations interspersed with dire threats/pathetic pleas to people to refrain from reading. Mostly addressed to my mother . She used to insist on reading the diaries when I hid and locked them. After a point I started leaving them around and she promptly lost interest. I wonder whether this mother-daughter privacy thing always happens in the early teens.
Anyways the entries are full of anecdotes from school and my opinions on class fellows and the process of discovering the world through books such as Anne Frank’s diary through the eyes of a dreamer-introvert that I was.
It’s well, for lack of a better description– quaintly grown up in some cases (“I had to stifle a laugh”. “I went to a temple which had three Goddesses, and I absolutely stuck to Saraswati because exam results are due any day”/”So and so talked for exactly 23 minutes without stopping and 15 minutes after taking a pause. I timed him”) and brutally childish (“XYZ aunty I hate her and her lunch was awful”).
I do remember some of the more memorable incidents such as the time I locked myself in the bathroom (which had two doors, one leading to the bedroom and the other to terrace.) way past the time I was allowed to read books, with “Anne of Green Gables”. I got so engrossed in the story that I completely forgot about getting out until “rudely awakened from my reverie” by my father knocking on the door and asking me whether I was reading a book. Guiltily aware that I would be in quite deep trouble if caught with a book (I was not allowed to read in the bathrooms) I quietly opened the terrace door and left the book outside hoping to retrieve it later – innocently oblivious to the fact that my parents could see the bathroom light and my shadow as I furtively left the book there. I opened the main door and went swaggering out only to be hauled by the coals by my dad and I drily end the entry with “Ma couldn’t scold me, she was laughing so hard at the irony of the situation”
There are some entries which in hindsight are beautifully insightful.
One reads “One of my friends at school is a great artist. Today in free period she started drawing on the board and she drew a man (Mr. Weepy Sing)”. Given what I recall of the aforementioned gentleman, that is not a bad description at all.
And finally my favourite entry...
“I just hope I don’t have to sit with any ninth standard boys they are so STUPID”.
More than a decade and a half later, with many experiences dealing with boys in various shapes and sizes, I still can’t quibble too much with THAT particular sentiment.
Ah. Growing DOES pain.