Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Age of Pencils

I find the American practice involved in writing out the homework very funny. For one, you can turn in homework by tearing the sheets from your notebook. Better, you can write in pencil- even in grad school.

I find this funny because we typically quit the pencil business at about fourth class. Starting to write with pens is a sort of coming of age ritual in India. The pencil hangover continues for a year or two, mainly as a back up to the "Hero Pens". The pencils are usually spotted as sidekicks nestled alongside an array consisting of a primary pen & back ups including a ball point pen.  Ball point pens have always been looked down upon with an unjustified derision. The anti-ball point league comprising of admonishing mothers and caring fathers criticize that these pens encourage their offsprings to write fast and thereby symbolize their inattention to important stuff like handwriting. Work, like worship should be painstaking and it ain't work if not written with a well tempered Camelin ink pen.

 The school days progress and before we know it, life thrusts us upon us, a geometry box. Multiple times during this phase, we fathom the use of the oddly shaped triangular things in the geometry boxes.

Mysterious triangular component

After this, science gets split into Botany, Zoology, Physics and Chemistry. Social becomes History and Geography. We start prefering bags that are more vertical than horizontal. Then comes the denouncement of lunch bag/box and the ubiquitous "snack boxes". As a direct result, all of us have had at least one instance of our tiffin boxes leaking their contents in our school bags. One can almost always catch a whiff of stale curry or curd when a friend opens his/her bag. Note that these are bygone days. Odor free school bags are marketing tag-lines for Tupperware "Executive lunchboxes".

After this phase, cometh the log books. We then start using the mysterious triangular objects in the geometry box, the way the Lord meant them to be used. This almost signs the end of school and perhaps the wisdom obtained from the swathe of colored pens we carry to our board exams, makes us feel enormously ready for the world.

Then, all of us enter an engineering college and acquire a drafter.

I remember these drafters distinctly because I had borrowed a discarded one from a senior  and arrived to the Engineering Graphics class, quite pleased with myself, about the amount of money I had saved on the drafter. It so happened that the drafter had been discarded for a reason. The handle and pretty much anything that was supposed to move was rusted and jammed tight. I tried so hard to unscrew the rusty handle and irked everyone in the vicinity with my loud  grunts. The professor was not pleased. The next day, in a sudden stroke of inspiration, I thought of pouring coconut oil over the screw hoping that it would lubricate the parts better. It did help me move the handle but I ended up having huge circles of oil stains all over my A2 sheet. It is a miracle I passed the subject.

Engineering education also ensures that we get to feel self important by using grown up instruments like  "polar" and log graph sheets, "pro-circles", Z and star transform tables not to mention the multitude of HB pencils.

That's pretty much all the stationery we typically use, sans the boring ruled and unruled notebooks. Maybe later we all buy a file for our job interview and a "harmonium folder" for a visa interview.

Stationery usage in Indian schools emphasized on presentation & handwriting which is tied to the probability of scoring better in tests. Here, I see that the emphasis is on organization. I have never seen such a selection of tools. There are page tabs, file tabs, filler papers, folders in various forms- much fancier than the "harmonium" ones. I was fascinated to see a lot of multicolored paper sticking out of a classmate's book. It looks like these guys mark the important pages with different colored papers which are made especially for the purpose of marking important pages! There are label makers and rolls of labels for the label makes. There is stationery for purposes that you would not have imagined existed before.

After all, necessity is the mother of invention. In all the days of using a geometry box, have you ever thought that life will one day unravel the mystery of those triangular things in the geometry box? We should all live in the hope that maybe, one day, we will discover the purpose of ink erasers that never erased anything as much as tear out our beautifully scripted homework. 

Here is to cooler stationery and huge discounts at the local Staples.

This post was written on a coffee induced vigor.

1 comment:

Me said...

Haha! This one is brilliant. It brought back SO many memories. Btw, huge fan of your blog, you really should write more :)