PLACE FOR EVERYTHING.....
everything in its place. Indeed! I mean, if you want me to believe
that assigning a set space for each object will ensure that
it will be there every time you look for it you are either naive
or one of those ridiculous people who put their sunglasses,
spectacles, cell phones, handbags, lighters, scissors, false
teeth or lashes or whatever, in the SAME place everyday, who
hang their clothes in the SAME order of graded hues in their
wardrobes and who actually store sugar, tea, coffee and cookies
(okay, toast biscuits) in caddies marked SUGAR, TEA, COOKIES.....you
get my drift?
you mean where else would you keep tea bags? Aw! Come on! If
you're trying to imply that I am the only person in the whole
world who keeps sugar in the old DANO tin and the tea bags in
the ceramic container cheerfully lettered COFFEE, I will not
believe you. Hey, my everyday instant coffee comes in the Nesquik
jar and my special espresso blend comes in the Lavazza tin,
and the actual container saying TEA broke on the first day,
so I thought why waste a perfectly good, and perfectly useless
COFFEE caddy? (By the way, the ceramic set also came with a
smaller container saying (eye-roll!) SALT, in which, naturally,
I store my match boxes, I mean hadn't the manufacturers ever
heard of table salt that came in its own container?).
as we get out of my cheerful kitchen, and regardless of the
fact that my jar saying Cumin contains Oregano and the one titled
Turmeric contains....er...what the hell is this powder... sniff,
lick, oh, chat masala, let me assure you that since I and my
illiterate maid are the only people who use the kitchen, we
have NO problem finding everything, thank you, even if everything
is NOT in its quote unquote PROPER place. Fume!
why am I fuming? It isn't as if I never tried to be one of the
above mentioned crazy, okay, punctiliously organized people,
if you insist. Half my life has been a battle to establish some
sort of method to the madness of dealing with material things.
I have tried every known system to beat the chaos that seems
inherent in the objects surrounding our lives.
pet peeve, clothing. I adhere to the belief that Man was created
naked for a reason, and was meant to stay in his birthday suit.
Clothing was the blight of human invention and in creating this
monster mankind created not only social inequality and the tyrannical
concept of the perfect figure, but also that everyday hell-hole
called the wardrobe complete with its own instruments of torture.
I mean, the phrase 'hung, strung and quartered' for me, refers
not to medieval public hangings but to the business of folding
and hanging up clothes within a limited space, every darn day
of our lives.
I have yet
to find a system which will stop pile ups in clothes closets
or which will dissuade my lingerie and stockings from eloping
with members of the opposite secks, I mean socks, in the HIS
side of the chest of drawer. It's not as if I cannot impose
martial law or brute party-in-power type law on my wayward wardrobe.
In fact, the day I finish organising my home to military precision,
I gaze at my exquisite handiwork with tears in my eyes.
is in its place. Shoes march to the tune of functional use and
occasion (those meant for walking, grocery-shopping, casual
lunches, formal dinners, weddings, coronations, milads and throwing
at cockroaches, or those that are pretty-but-painful, dumpy-but-dance-friendly,
the might-use-this-when-the-corn-drops-off and the in-case-I-acquire-a-matching-jungle
print-outfit etc.); glass bangles glint in rainbow spectrum;
ball point pens stand cap side up saluting 'eyes right' while
cups and mugs salute 'ears left.' Knives and forks are pulled
out of promiscuous relationships; tool kits and sewing kits
are rehabilitated from various refugee camps ---the hammer coming
home from distant wars to be rejoined to his clan of nails,
and my envelope of rusted needles are finally thrown out and
a new packet given charge of the freshly untangled tribe of
coloured threads, and placed in neighbouring compartments to
the family of safety pins; Photos and albums are arranged in
order of subject and years, while National Geographics in order
of years and centuries (I have no compunction in confessing
that I have read not a single issue since 2000 and every effort
on my part to unsubscribe has been shot down by the rest of
the family who neither read it nor dust it but feel that its
arrival in the post distinguishes us as a family of wide geographic
interests, fume! Yes, it's a sore point); and spices are alphabetised.
Oh! I am enchanted with my neatened, categorised existence.
first few days I don't allow anyone to touch the things, least
of all myself. I don't change my clothes for fear of disturbing
the order. I tip-toe around my house, opening drawers and closet
doors in hushed wonder. Then, husband breaks the spell hollering
that he can't find anything. "Where are my navy socks?"
My reply is pat: "Second layer of the third column below
the grey ones." On second thoughts I run to get it myself,
but too late, I almost hear the yank and know that the inevitable
muddling has occurred. This has a domino effect on my entire
system. That for evening I need my cream silk blouse in a tearing
hurry. Damn! It was right there among the pastels. Yank! Rummage!
Ah! Found it, but I have lain waste the shelf in the wake of
my search. The order starts to topple as the rest of my wardrobe
rebels, and quickly the fire of revolution ignites all over
the house. Soon, clutter and madness are back in my household,
and my home begins to reflect my world.
unlike the streets of Dhaka, the mess in my house is mostly
out of sight, since I hide things well, shoving them into closets
and drawers. Here, on my desk example, which I cleared before
sitting down to write, things look under control but I already
hear the call of the wild, the winds of dissension and disorganisation
blowing. Now, where is the diskette with my article for this
week about the state of chaos in the political life of our nation;
our lack of civic organisation; our dearth of collective will
to address problems, our.....it was a good article. Rummage,
rummage...... Sorry, I'll just have to send in this page of
domestic ranting and raving instead. Please use it as a metaphor
for my growing conviction that chaos is natural and inevitable,
but each of us, individually and collectively, must vigilantly
struggle against its forces EVERY day of our lives. At a national
and personal level, it must be an ongoing battle. The wardrobe
today, the world tomorrow.
like a perfectly acceptable moral. Now if only I could find
my laptop under this pile of papers.
(The writer's collection of columns 'An Abiding City: Ruminations
from Rome' is available in book stores in Dhaka.)