Too many things

Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on August 23, 2019

“Today, I am going to clear out my cupboard!” I say. “Forget it,” says Bins. “Your cupboard can’t be cleared out in one lifetime. Start with your little sling-pouch. You might get that done by next week.”

Naturally, I pay no attention to him. It’s not such a big cupboard after all. It has four drawers on one side and a hanger-section on the other side. One cube-shaped space below the drawers, two long shelves across the top. “You’ll see. I’m going to start with the bottom drawer,” I say. Yanking it out, I empty the contents onto my bed and start sorting through stuff that hasn’t seen the light of day for over 10 years.

“Ooh!” I say. “Boar tusks! I’d planned to make them into earrings!” Bins wrinkles his nose. “Carnivore!” he says. “Poor little boar — it must have been a baby. Those tusks are tiny.” I tell him to hush. “Here’s a necklace I bought in 1977. My first visit to the US.” Fine silver tube-beads, strung together to make three shimmering strands, with tiny turquoise beads mixed in. There’s a thumb-drive that I thought was lost forever. A wallet of photographs taken on a trip to Bengaluru in the ’90s. Swiss nail-clippers designed to lie perfectly flat when closed.

I make two piles, one to give away and one to resettle. “Where?” Bins wants to know. “Hush!” I say to him as I start on the second drawer. This one is bristling with electronic bric-a-brac. Headphones. Adapters for battery-operated gadgets. A set of mix-n-match nozzles to suit different types of adapters. Three small cameras in varying stages of decomposition. My first iPad, its leather cover white with fungus. Two packets of flower seeds. An envelope full of used stamps. “You’re hoping these will someday be worth a million dollars each?” Bins asks with a smirk. I send him out of the room.

There’s a beautiful hand-crafted kaleidoscope. A carved iron-wood frog from Sri Lanka that croaks when its spiky back is stroked with a small wooden rod. A tiny owl carved from a tiny gourd, from South America. How can I throw any of these things away? They are heavily laden with happy memories. “But why are they in a drawer?” asks Bins, coming back into the room with a cup of tea. “Because they’ll get dusty,” I say. “You’re right,” he agrees, adding “This frog is wonderful.” He absentmindedly croak-strokes the little creature. It makes a startlingly loud sound, as if it has a microphone hidden inside its wide black throat.

I try to make two piles but it’s more difficult this time. Too many things that resist being thrown away. When Bins next comes in, I’m fiddling with a bunch of miniature LEGO pieces. “This used to be a tiny Toucan,” I say, “but I can’t find the instructions.” Bins grins. “Not in this lifetime!” he says. This time, I don’t argue.

Manjula Padmanabhan, author and artist, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere, US, in this weekly column

Published on August 23, 2019

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