At the end of every summer vacation, two weeks before the school started, my father & I would go to school to get a list of notebooks that I would need for the coming year. Our school canteen which also housed the bookshop sold premium Lepakshi Nandi notebooks. But, well, they were ‘premium’. So, I would sit on the scooter with my dad and goto this place called Chatta bazaar, a wholesale market in Hyderabad, where books could be bought for cheap. These books were cheap indeed, both in price and quality. I was not happy. Not because of the price. But, that they never emanated the scent I associated with a new notebook.
After coming home that day, we would sit in the hall, spread all notebooks and texts on the floor and roll out the dark brown sheet that we used to use to cover the books and cut it exactly to match the notebook size. We would then meticulously fold the paper around the book firmly, to cover it well. Then we proceeded to put the book under a wooden ‘peeta’ (a heavy Indian stool used for squatting on the floor, while eating) to ensure the cover stuck firmly to the notebook. Then, after half a day or so, we would take it out, wrap it up again in a plastic sheet and pin it. Now, the books were ready to be taken to school.
This whole ‘preparing for school’ thing was very endearing to me. ‘Cause I simply loved stationery. Stationery shops were equivalent to toy stores for me. There was one stationery shop on the way to school, – ‘Uncle J’, it had all the treasures I wanted under the sun – magnetic pencil boxes (with separate partitions for everything), pens (Reynolds Jotter & Jetter in ball-pens & Doctor & Hero in fountain pens – my favourites), erasers, pencils, pen pencils, crayons, water colours, clips, notebooks of all sizes (especially Lepakshi whose pages were lined in blue and crackled when turned), stencils, labels, stickers (was a big fan of WWF then). I would stop by it almost everyday, even when I didn’t have anything to buy, just to stare at them through the glass cases. ‘Someday I’ll buy them all’, I’d say to myself and decorate my kingdom.
As we grow, the need to use stationery usually comes down. But, when you love something, you look for reasons to use them. In MBA, when all carried an ‘all-in-one’ notebook, I was the only guy with a notebook for each subject. When all came to college swinging their hands, I bought a bag with enough partitions to house all the different stationery items I felt would be needed in college. It was during that time that, I even got interested in GTD. Not for its time management philosophy, but because how ‘stationery-intensive’ it was. I remember with enthusiasm with which I rushed to the stationery shop to buy folders, papers, perforator, trays, clips, rubber bands, pocket books, calendars, organizers & staplers. Of course, GTD didn’t stick then, but, I still remember the excitement with which I purchased all those goodies.
Then, lifestyle changed, technology took over. Almost every item on the desk got replaced with a gadget or an online service. Slambooks with Facebook, organizers with productivity apps, notebooks with Evernote, all fitting into a glowing rectangle in our pocket. Much like everything else that technology has rendered outdated, it is difficult to say if stationery today is a collectors item or an utility.
But, I still buy stationery – from fancy notebooks to high grade quality papers to fountain pens. I don’t know, why. Probably for the artistic freedom it offers or because it feels so real and tangible, or that it harks back to simpler times.
These days I’m getting a chance to use all the stationery items I have from pens to glue-sticks to staplers to papers to clips, thanks to my son. Every time, I step out to fill his school forms, I take all the stationery items with me. ‘Who knows, I may need them’, I lie to myself smilingly. I look forward to buying his new school books and covering them. I can buy Lepakshi Nandi books for him or their equivalents today. In his name, I’m getting to reignite my dalliance with stationery.