When I was in school, there was a dance teacher who had once asked us to submit an assignment. She had asked us to find out about the various dance forms of India and prepare a scrapbook with pictures and information that we had collected.
I was just going to enter middle school, and this was a time when we did not have such great access to the internet. Broadband was many years away. We did not even have a dial up connection.
What we did have was a very good newspaper which focussed more on culture and art, rather than on gossip and glamour. My aunt pitched in and provided us with glossy brochures of cultural programmes.
My mother and I set about cutting sheets of cartridge paper and folded them to form the book. We punched holes at the joints and tied a shiny brown ribbon into a bow to hold the book. We pasted the photographs from the newspapers and brochures and outlined the pictures with colour.
I had a very bad handwriting at that time. So with colourful felt pens my mother wrote little descriptions of each art form. The pages were numbered, and we even made an index. Every few pages, my mother made little abstract designs to fill in the blank spaces.
Now that I think about it, my mother made the whole thing! And I think she had a great time too.
When it was done, I submitted it to our dance teacher. She was impressed.
After assigning grades to all the students’ assignments, she returned them. She said never in her life had she ever given a student an A1. But she said she loved my assignment, and she wanted to show it to other students. She said she wouldn’t give it back to me.
I was quite upset. I felt it was my assignment. I should keep it with myself. Every week I would ask her for the scrapbook. And she would refuse to give it. She showed it to students of all the classses she took.
A few friends from another class one day came and told me that they had seen my assignment, and that they loved it too. It made me feel proud. But it made me feel even more possessive about it.
Seeing how much I wanted it back, at the end of the year, our dance teacher finally relented to my request and returned it to me.
On the cover page, with a shiny brown glitter pen, she had written A1. I felt very happy.
But the happiness didn’t last long. After a few months, I began feeling guilty. That scrapbook was lying idle in the house. No one would see it. My mother told me I should have let it remain in the school. She even suggested that I return it to her. She said after a few years, it will end up going to the kabaadiwala *. I didn’t want that. I told her I would keep it with me. But in my heart, I wished I had let it remain with my teacher. I couldn’t bring myself to return it to her. My pride didn’t allow me to.
And so, even to this day, it is lying in my cupboard, with some other memorabilia from school. A reminder of a very important lesson. It is important to let go. Ultimately, time will wither away all attachments.
* kabaadiwala : Scrap dealer. Old newspapers, magazines, and sometimes other used household items are sold to scrap dealers who in turn send it to be recycled
Update: I scanned and uploaded the pages of the scrapbook