The phone rings with urgency. I pick up the receiver, it is someone, wanting a phone number. I am the renowned storer of phone numbers, addresses and email IDs and not just for the family.
“Have you heard of Just Dial? Ask them?”
“I prefer to ask you. Its QuickRrrrrrrr”
“Thanks” I go through the pages of my “hard copy” of the telephone directory, dependable at all times.”Here it is. Note it down. Ready?”
“Wait, let me get a pen and note paper.” I wait.
“Oh God, I can’t find the pen. Hey, Alamelu, why did you take my pen?”
Voice in the background…”Why should I take your pen, Amma? Ask your children.”
“Dash it, nothing stays in place in this house. Ah, I found another one. Give me the number please.” I rattle off the number a trifle bugged at being kept waiting.
“Sorry, this pen doesn’t write, just a minute.” My patience is wearing thin.
“Ah, I found a pencil, shoot.” I do feel like shooting her. I shoot, not once but twice or thrice thanks to some disturbance on the phone. Her voice sounds feeble. “Thanks”.
The phone rings again. In all probability, the scrap of paper on which she jotted the number must have been blown off by the breeze, and she is calling again. Yes, it is her number, I can see the callers ID.
Terribly disgruntled, I pick up the phone and say”Hello” in the sternest tone possible.
“Sorry, I forgot to tell you, we have a meeting on Thursday, at 4 pm in the office.”
This is one of the disadvantages of being “efficient”, “patient???” and wearing the mask of being available any time, anywhere, any place without exhibiting the slightest irritation.
“Okay, okay…” I bang the phone down.
Where was I? Making the list of dos for the day. Time management,and organising, you know. I believe in jotting it all down in a diary. Not for me the sticky notes and the computer menu pages. Hell, where’s that pen? I search my desk all over, look into the drawers. Not a single pen. I rush to the dining room. The sideboard in our dining room has a drawer for pens, a pad for writing the lists for the market etc. My dear mother makes sure there are pens in the drawer. I pull it open. Not a single pen. I make a beeline for the bedroom. I keep a pad and pen next to my bed, to scrawl ideas, for stories, columns, letters lest the ideas vanish as fast as they come. No pen. I dare not peep into my husband’s desk. I usually dump all the pens which don’t write on his desk, and the unwritten law is that he makes them writeable and transfers them back to my desk.
My late grandfather had a terrific idea. He used to use thin twine to tie the pens to a corner of his desk, also the stapler, for we grandchildren would not think twice borrowing his pens, staplers, gem clips, punching machine and cellotape and scissors and not returning them. Each of these precious possessions would be carefully fixed to remain in place, and while we were at liberty to use them, we had to move to his desk to get our job done. He did this for our telephone table, so we could take messages with the pen tethered for safety. We found this extremely useful, till one day we found the string snapped and the pen removed, and after a slight tap on his forehead, Thatha washed his hands off the security issue, and said we could use ingenious methods to keep the pen in place as he had no use for the phone anyway…
When we were schooling we had a lesson in our English textbook. It was titled Mr. Nobody. He came into our own lives rather forcefully. When the school bag was missing, it was Mr. Nobody who misplaced it. Where had the socks disappeared? One was in the shoe, but the other? Of course Mr. Nobody was the one who hid the wretched thing. So also pens, pencils, erasers, handkerchiefs, notebooks, timetables were all seized by Mr. Nobody.
Then we hit upon a brilliant idea. There was a chest of drawers in my mother’s room, and one drawer was kept for us. I christened it the “kacham bucham” drawer. If we couldn’t find something, we would blame it on Mr Nobody, and then get reprimanded by our parents who told us to search in the KB drawer. Funny how the name stuck right through our growing years. If you searched hard enough wading through shoe laces, pencils, pens, scraps of papers, in all probability you would find what you were looking for.
I firmly resolved not to provide a KB drawer for my children and decided everything would go into the right slot. Except pens which had a miraculous way of just walking away from one room to the other till they disappeared altogether. My prized possessions given by dear ones, who understand my penchant for collecting pens ( I am a writer, remember?) like the Sheaffers, the Cross and the Parker are all under lock and key. Each has a story. The gold Cross pen was presented to me by my Hindi school teacher, who decided to give it to me when we met a couple of years ago. “To my prize student,” he wrote on the box. He recently passed away, but the pen is a precious acquisition.
Deciding last week to clear out my handbag, I found an assortment of pens, more than half a dozen of every size and colour and some which I forgot I possessed. A few looked like aliens, and luckily they were the write and throw ones. I blushed as I arranged them on the tray. A voice at the back chanted, “So now we know who is the pen thief!”