The kabaadiwala (junk dealer, house to house collector of all things paper, plastic and any bottles that have, at any point in time, held the slightest promise of holding anything remotely alcoholic in nature) came last sunday. The job of giving off old newspapers, bargaining for increasing the rates from Rs. 4/kg to Rs. 5/kg, finding other old paper and plastic etc etc has always been reserved for my esteemed efficient self. As I was getting the newsprint weighed this time (in a sleep-riddled nightsuit, because sundays are no-bath days in my blissful little world) I realised what a paper freak I was.
Ever since forever, I have spent entire afternoons, yes the long hot summer ones which are tantalizingly unending, cutting up old magazines, papers, cards and whatever else. I used to fanatically collect pictures, letters (like A, B, C ,D you dud), articles, recipes and quotes, paste stuff in my diary, construct elaborate cookery books, make "today's no reason and so" cards, create utterly uselessly nonsensical scrapbooks blah blah. I was a true paper raper, with the maid perpetually horrified at the garbage I'd manage to create in a matter of a few hours. When I was away at boarding, she used to ask my mother with fearful, cowering eyes, "Chandni didi ghar kab aa rahi hain?" Because that always, without doubt, meant extra cleaning. At the ripe old age of whatever I am, I still find it the most energising and yummy thing to be doing on a lazy afternoon.
Put me in a stationery shop. And I will tell you what heaven is about. Seeing paper of different textures, sizes, shapes, running my hands through bouquets of pencils, watching each crayon blush a different colour, fiddling through shelves of diaries, notepads, feasting on chart paper and all the messy fingers that they are going to be violated with. Trying out a pen on the little notepad kept at the counter, watching a kid choose his first geometry box with ill-concealed fascination, a harried board student pick up a bunch of sample papers, an old man getting his favourite pen some ink...its leaky but still..
And the only place that tops heaven? A bookshop of course. One can just walk through shelves, strolling through words like a long-lost thought, munching through people's work, a nibble here, a mouthful there and a big gulp some other place. Books with white paper, glossy paper, frayed yellow paper, hardcover, paperbacks, backboned, spirited, claustrophobic...the variety is humungously overwhelming and weirdly the choice only makes you look forward to it, not shy away into the oblivion of a "this or that". And when you take me into a book cum stationery shop, I acquire the consistency of plasticine, a puddle of drool, a maleable ductile little pigtailed girl, a complying obliging soul ...its like magic.
Paper? There is something positively pristine about a sheet of plain paper. It ignites you to elope with your imagination, fall in love with an unknown sentence, lose yourself in a jungle of wordless wonders. (jungle ? forest? black hole? vacuum? what?) It makes my fingers tickle with anticipation...will it be a doodle or a poem today? A letter or a story? Will it end up crumpled in some tear-sodden place? Will it find a corner in my diary? On my blog? In a letterbox? The unadulterated joy, sheer bliss of writing with a sharpened pencil on paper is unparalled...ok now don't look SO worried, yes yes yes I HAVE heard of chocolate and sex...
And the hilarious irony of it all is that this is the first post I have written directly online, without the comforting intervention of paper to spill the beans on.