So I was given a notebook ( the real one with paper and stuff), a pen, a pencil, a sharpner and an eraser as part of my startup kit. Looking at so many school-like items I began to think.... "Pencil Box". Then I began to think "when was the last time I had a pencil box". Never is what my friends would say if you asked them. Never is what they would say if you asked them when was the last time I owned a pen, a pencil or an eraser. Nobody brings Pencil Boxes to work. You are considered to be a nerd if you brought along a pencil box to work. I don't think people bought one of those things to college either. A loser ( if you are a boy - girls bring pencil boxes to their retirement parties), is what you could be called, if you brought one to college when it wasn't examination season (But I would never call such people a nerd or a loser because I am indebted to them :-) and frankly! they impress me). So I guess high school was the last time one was expected to roam around with a pencil box.
In 1983-1985 - Remember the box that was released after we won the 1983 World Cup. The one with Kapil Dev holding the trophy aloft. Later, there was one with Gavaskar holding the Champions trophy aloft. The most famous Pencil box I have seen is the dark red one that goes by the brand name called "Natraj". It had a painting of Nataraja on the box. Buying a new geometry box was the only known form of orgasm to many primary-secondary school kids ( 2 years before I saw a middle-aged man carefuly inspecting a Pencil Box in Landmark in such a style that made me wonder, if it still is -- to some grown ups too). I have to admit it was exciting then to buy a new geometry box. Ofcourse I'd loose all the contents in, lets say, about a week. Then I'd go and pick a fight with anybody who I suspected, had stolen my stuff. There are ways to mark your pencil box items as yours. People sometimes wrote their intials on the back of their sharpner/eraser. But given that at any point in time, any school had 12 murugan's, 27 senthils , 72 Anands, 98 Subramanians (including the History teacher and Headmaster) and about 273 Srinivasan's (including the Principal and definetly including the Math teacher as all Math teachers as per Education Act of 1951 had to be named or renamed as Srinivasan) - it became very difficult to claim ownership of a sharpner with just a name on it. A stamped affidavit, duly notarized and finger printed was what was in order.
I also strongly believe that the Pencil Box is a mirror of a person's pysche. I have observed at least 2 girls, who seem to protect their pencil box(es) with fierce territorial intensity. One is my cousin and the other is my wife. Both have a peculiar habit of arranging their pens and pencils in such a way that all the nibs and sharpened ends face the same side. I say peculiar only because these pencils and pens would still continue to function and perform their duties if they were arranged differently. However, these 2 ladies were (and still are) not in agreement with me on the topic of arrangement Vs actual functionality. They, for some reason, get agitated if you try and change that order ( and believe me I have tried it just for the kicks and then got badly kicked by one very mad woman). From these observations, I think a pencil box can be associated with certain psycological patterns that are present in the deep dark recesses of the human mind. Certain other people who kept their pencil box in order, also were subjects of my wonderment. Their Pencil Boxes, were neatly organized with 2 erasers ( the second one was for the express purpose of loaning it to me), a sharpner, a set square, a scale, 3 pencils (ditto), and 2 pens ( ditto). OzDude at school and color king a.k.a the guy who "walked" with actress nadhiya at college (both visit this blog regularly) were two prime examples I can think of. " A virgo is systematic" my mother would say to my over-committing "gemini" father. " A virgo has everything organized, always prepared and spotlessly clean", she used to thunder when my dad produced one of his famous last-minute crazy-mohan-kind-of confusing bail outs. Looking at OzDude and Color King, both of whom were unabashed virgos, I would say that this attribute is true. Both of them at different points in time responded to the emergency wail - " machi! forgot my pen.. please gimme one.. " that I let out almost every other class. Both of them had clear counts on the number of pens they had loaned to me, including counts on the pens I had not returned. The best thing is they would think it is their responsibility to request me to return back their pens after the class was over. I had carefully trained these two over the years to behave this way :-)
While everything else that colorKing did fitted in with his pencil box mannerism ( you know the ever sincere, class first, college first category), ozDude was a mystery. Why? because ozDude was a bum like me. We were always the first two to be kicked out of class and rarely popular among "intellectual" circles. But they way he would confirm to the characteristics of a completely different species, when it came to things like packing and pencil box, would always amaze me. When I almost expected him to accompany me in the "I forgot my pencil ma'm" head scratch, he would silently open his pencil box and voila! 2 pencils would gleam in splendour.
Returning back to the topic - which is clearly the more important- Whats the sexiest item in your pencil box? We have to meticulously investigate the contents of the geometry box to answer this question correctly. The geometry box came with a particular pattern and arrangement. There were plastic partitions inside the box, like rooms in a house. One room would house the eraser. The sharpner sometimes also went into a separate room. I suppose both were moody enough to warrant privacy. The pencil, compass and the divider would roam around the box freely like sluts( which is why you get this dodack dodack sound when children with school bags run. It is the sound of the pencil, compass and the divider madly knocking the walls of the box, demanding to be let out). Below these three items were the scale, a protractor ( dunno what the hell this name means) and two other pieces which call themselves the SetSquare.
Let me digress to a whole new topic for a moment. Whats the deal with these two things called set squares? What purpose do they serve? I swear!! in all my years in school geometry, I have never used them. Not even in exams. Come to think of it -- what does the divider do ? I have to say in the house of a pencil box -- the pencil, sharpner, eraser, scale are the real bread winners. The others are, as the popular phrase to refer to unemployed youths go, "thandasoru" ( na-laayak in hindi). Some people say that, they have seen these set squares been used for drawing parallel lines. BS! I say, A scale ( and some times even a protractor) can be used by us warriors to draw a parallel line. We don't need no setSquare. Nobody has seen a divider been used for anything other than tying a rubberband inbetween and use it as a sling. The 2 setsquares and the divider are two of the biggest scams in the geometry box industry. Since the manufacturers of the geometry box were illiterate, the makers of plastic who produced the scales and the protractor, cheated them, and passed along two other vague set of plastic instruments and an iron thing into the geometry box. The ignorant students, when they first saw a geometry box in 4th grade, they waited and waited. Hoping that someday when they grew big enough, they would get to use these three things. Maybe they thought using them was gaining some sort of an adulthood. That day (using them not the adulthood), I am sorry to break it you, ladies and gentlemen, never came.
My vote for the sexiest item in the pencil box would be the eraser. I carefully keep saying "eraser" instead of "rubber" because of the obvious reason. As soon as you landed in the US, the first thing you are told by seniors is " dude! dont say it as rubber. Here rubber means condom yaaar!!". And we nodded our heads seriously and considered that moment, an ephiphany ( the other one being "five into four" means nothing in Uncle sam's land and you have to say " five times four" if you wanna say it at all). Somehow the eraser is too sexy to be used to just... erase stuff. It seems to have that " I am actually more than what you think" look. It seems to signify a hidden sensuality or an arrested sexual instinct. It almost seems logical that the eraser was kept in a separate room in the geometry box -- to protect it from the dangerous compass. Children on seeing an eraser somehow get the feeling " man! what a sexy little thing this is! I am sure there must be something more it it". They can't believe it can only be used for erasing stuff. Its worse than knowing the truth about Santa. "Its so soft and smooth its got to do something better" cries a kid. So the eraser manufacturers made the erasers smell good. That improved the sex appeal further. The children tried to write stuff on it, bite it and even tried to eat it. Sometimes they poked the eraser with the compass and the pencil. Right this moment, children are still probing ( or is it groping? :-) ) the eraser trying find some untapped potential or hidden sexuality. The manufacturers, just to make things more exciting, went a step ahead and started sending half-dressed erasers into the house of the geometry box. So that, later, the children could strip them naked. yeah! Then there were imported erasers -- "Staedlers" ( or something that spelt like it). They were big and strong (something for the women folk). They came in tough wrappers and did not undress that easily. Somehow the makers of the eraser have kept the aura of the eraser alive. The eraser seems to exude an exotic feeling of mystique and magic that till date keeps tempting children to explore the eraser until the end of time (or until the eraser is replaced by a member of the opposite sex).