Never be afraid to get dirty, but be sufficiently sure-footed to avoid the abyss of contamination.

Domestic Archaeology – Part II: Writings, Math, Collections

I kept wondering if the termites got to the books, but I didn’t recall them being affected. Then where were they? I started rummaging through boxes in the basement but didn’t find anything beyond a Calvin and Hobbes collection.

Giving up on the basement, I went back upstairs and started searching my closet. Inside were my yearbooks and various writing assignments I had kept. Among these was my journal from grade school, which included my trip to India. It described the accident I got into on June 17, 1992 driving my cousin Aarthi’s moped, my poonal ceremony (5/31/92), Sam’s wedding (6/22/92), and even my career goals at the time. In an entry on May 17, 1992, I wrote:

I am planning on becoming a computer programmer. I hope I can make a game. 

I guess interests change, which I realized when I found a scrapbook called “School Years” that my mother organized for me until the sixth grade. I wanted to be a fireman or policeman in pre-school, a soldier in kindergarten (G.I. Joe’s influence?), a doctor in the first grade, a doctor or detective in the second grade (Inspector Gadget’s influence?), an astronaut or computer consultant in the third grade, a brain surgeon or computer technician in the fourth grade, a lawyer or computer consultant in the fifth grade, and a computer programmer in the sixth grade.

I also found a bunch of math scribbled in the margins of the journal. For instance, the following was a visual algorithm for multiplying two digit numbers together, applied to multiply 69 and 72.

While I couldn’t prove the correctness of such an algorithm in the fourth grade, it was interesting to play with the same toy now and see how it could generalize to more than two digits and non-decimal bases.

By this point, I had given up on the books and found the trophy chest where I used to keep my allowance and other valuables. I couldn’t imagine what was in it. Opening it, I found it consisted of two levels. The top level included a postcard of Benzoni’s Veiled Rebecca, which I had seen at the Salar Jung museum in Hyderabad on the same 1992 trip to India. In the bottom level I unearthed my coin collection, which I had stopped maintaining after elementary school. Not only did it include a nickel from the 19th century, but several Indian rupee coins from the colonial era. It was odd to see King George V’s face on the rupee, but surprisingly, the coin was minted just under a hundred years ago.

It’s amazing how these objects could bring back so many memories from days gone by. Part of returning home is an opportunity to reflect on where one has been, and sifting through my closet and the basement brought back a set of memories richer than I could have imagined.

Incidentally, I found the books I sought in a box hidden in a storage room in our basement. Stepping into the now musty room to retrieve the books, I remembered that just fifteen years ago, it was our toy room.


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  1. Pingback: Unpacking Rat « Dirty Hands

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