Tiny pleasures

Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on April 20, 2018 Published on April 20, 2018


Every so often, someone will say to me, “Happy weekend!” Or “Enjoy your vacation!” But artists and writers don’t really have holidays. Certainly, for me, the only difference between the weekend and the week is that OTHER people are lounging at home on those days. As for vacations? I don’t know what they are.

For me, most days are pretty much the same: I am always just about to finish some bit of work or just about to start another. Most of what I do is defined by tight deadlines with longer projects hemmed in by their own urgencies, all of which will eventually become enormous thunderheads of obligation.

All of this is a preamble to saying that this morning, for the first time in months (or is it decades?), I finally came out of several work-tunnels, feeling surprisingly light-headed and burden-free. I mean of course there’s a pile of work just around the next corner, but today? Today, I’m cool, calm and fancy-free.

So I spend the rest of the day reading a charming book about owls (Owl Sense by Miriam Darlington), watching another episode of my current Netflix addiction (Lost in Space), eating zero junk food (because I finished all of it while meeting my deadlines) and listening to a very satisfying tell-all interview with James Comey, the FBI director who was fired by Donald Trump last year.

By evening, I am feeling relaxed enough to start building a tiny model of Disney World’s Cinderella’s Castle from a sheet-metal kit that my niece gave me as a gift. Just to be clear: the kit consists of three postcard-size sheets of metal with five pages of diagrams. The amazing design of the kit is such that the pieces for the finished model is stamped into the metal sheets. No glue or soldering or anything other than a pair of needle-nose pliers are needed.

Assembly does not require any special skills or expertise. All I need is the willingness to feel extremely inept for hours on end, while carefully inserting minuscule tabs into precisely positioned slots, then carefully pressing the tabs down to hold the pieces in place. Then cursing out loud as I realise that the last three tabs have gone into the wrong slots and will all have to be repositioned.

The end result will be about five inches high and will have no purpose whatsoever! The fiendish effort of getting all the minute parts to fit together is its own reward. The kits are produced by a company called Metal Earth, distributed by Disney Theme Parks. The suggested age is “14 and above”, but I suspect 64+ is pushing the upper age limit. After two hours, I’ve only completed the two-inch-high item you can see in the photograph. It represents less than a quarter of the finished castle. My fingertips are on fire and I’m crossed-eyed from squinting. Bliss! It’s the peak of relaxation for me.

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

Published on April 20, 2018

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