Cartons and Brown Tape

I am crossing the Ring Road this weekend, and looking to rehabilitate flatmate and myself on the other side. Packing and Moving, has somehow, been a recurrent image in visual memoirs so far. Cartons and brown tape to be organised. Suitcases and trolley bags to be dusted. House-shifting memories of Calcutta invariably throw up images of dust- everywhere, lots of pencils and erasers found, left companion of old blue ear-rings, forgotten broken toys emerged from underneath beds, half-baked angst poems written on last pages of Homework books.The site of our lives packed in cartons and brown tapes would always make me nervous, that when the cartons were reopened the alignment of our lives would be reconfigured.

Moving was sort of exciting. Reclaiming of spaces. Renaming of nooks and corners. Refighting over 'my side' and 'your side'. Remaking of friends in the new neighbourhoods. And never quite growing out of the old ones.

I went back to one of my old Calcutta neighbourhoods in my graduating year, in college, during the Pujas. To find fourteen-year-old boys still hanging around in groups, and making fun of girls in stretch jeans. And one or two lone bravehearts, crossing the bridges, and cracking South Point jokes with the Friend of the Pretty Girl. The names and faces were unfamiliar. The ritual was still the same.


After school, the moving became a me-myself activity. The shivers felt on the night before I was to be carted bag and baggage to the Hostel, all of eighteen. Straight out of missionary girls' school. Never having slept alone. This was the promise and jitter of Unfettered Freedom. And home on Saturday afternoons. And back on Monday mornings. For the next five years.

Friday-night Packing became a habit. Laundry, toothbrush, specs, lenses, project material, some reading. Leaving behind a boy to his Weekend Boys' Club respite.

Then there was Internship packing. For a month or so. Court clothes. Winter clothes. Ma's Handyman kit would contain medicines, san naps, hotel toiletries, facewash.


The next move was to Delhi. Which involved Ma's ruthless censoring of all things 'stupid teenager', that would not fit into 'Now you are a lawyer' era. So loud tank tops, tie-up pajamas, bandanas, glass bangles, stupid books, Aantel books, Aantel clothes, were mercilessly eliminated. Of course, a chapter of my wardrobe, that Ma never got to see, took the Karnataka Express directly from the hostel, in polythene bag, and came to Delhi. Independently.

And the New era over the last year and a half collected for itself, new Aantel books and clothes, new hats, new Sarojini pajamas, new unmentionables. And are now being cartoned and brown-taped for another round of the Pack and Move.


  • South Point: A beacon in the Bengal realm of education, holds some Asia record in being a popular/populous school. Ask any Cal bong for cultural context anecdotes.
  • Aantel: The French and Bong way of saying 'intellectual'.


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