Saturday, December 26

Stone in my shoe

Numbers are the bane of my existence.

When I was a kid they loomed because my elders never let me forget that marks were important. 99 in Math was okay, but where did that 1 mark go? Coming second in a class of 75 (and man were we packed like sardines!) was reluctantly acceptable, but why didn't I come first?

Of course, Math itself became enemy no. 1 very soon. Try as I might, the subject never interested me and in many ways, bounced way over my head. I took to English like a duck to water, and to Math like a duck to foie gras. As a subject, History fascinated me, but the curriculum left the hows-and-whys by the roadside and question papers seemed largely about remembering various dates, names and how people escaped their enemies in crates of sweets or flowers.

By the time I was in college, another number began to haunt me - height. While everyone else was shooting up like the young Himalayas, I was emulating the Chota Nagpur plateau. In more ways than one. As if that wasn't depressing enough, I voluntarily chose to study statistics for 3 years, convinced that it would give me an edge when I finally became a psychologist. Which never happened because there were 10 General Category seats in the University and the top 10 were separated by decimal points. If there ever was a meaner mode of flagellation, I have yet to meet it. 

When marks finally stopped mattering, money took their place. I'd discovered the joy of buying second-hand books, but had to balance it with the cost of petrol for the bike. Then, GRE scores came into the picture, followed by the number of zeros it would cost at various universities in the U.S. Once again, numbers influenced my choice of university. And, once I reached the U.S., they also decided my lifestyle.

Once I started working, the number on offer letter decided everything. Where I stayed, how I lived, the kind of workplaces I'd choose. A salary cut took me to the field I wanted but set me back a few years in terms of lifestyle. Living in Bombay also made me conscious of train timings, bus numbers and estimated travel times. The number on the waistband started expanding. And of course, every year, family and friends would tell me that I wasn't getting any younger. From being thrilled about turning 18 or 21, I had begun telling myself that age was just a number; that every birthday wasn't toll of doom on the social/marital bell.

A few days ago another birthday came and went. Another mark, another age, another year. Sure as eggs are eggs, trouble with numbers were still stalking me. Because as I raised glass after glass in celebration, I didn't know (and still don't) know how to get her phone number.

Song for the moment: Ordinary Superman - The Himalayans       

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