2019: Three Hundred and Thirty Eight

I sent out my first e-mail newsletter today. I’m not entirely pleased with the design of it, but it’s a start, and it’ll only get better design-wise from here. The content is entirely dependent on how much time I spend on the internet and how many nice things I find in a given day, so if you want a good newsletter tomorrow, tell the internet Gods to be kind to me. You can see the newsletter here, if you’d like.

The rest of the day was spent scanning and digitizing my library of certificates and various academic records which I may need access to in the future. My dad suggested this to me earlier in the summer, because I requested a neighbor of ours to help me out when I needed my board exam certificates. I was dismissive at first, but I’m learning how helpful it is to have access to documents that are important to you all the time. I ventured forth into my dad’s office clutching all my certificates with me, hoping that the process of scanning would be quick and not emotion-laden: because I was quite worried about how long it would take.

It was the exact opposite. It was slow, and an extremely emotion-filled day.

I’ve learned two things today, things I’m extremely grateful for. The first is the amount of work xeroxing and scanning things is. I’ve always been thankful to have individuals to help with all the printing and scanning we do in law school, in particular when we have moot memorial submissions, or we have projects to hand-in. Rashmibhai is a blessing on campus. I know how difficult the task can be, because my dad’s worked in printer sales for some time, which means I’m aware of how goofy the technology can be sometimes. But I’ve never fully immersed myself in experiencing it first-hand. I goofed-up multiple times today: once absentmindedly inserting a stapled document into the scanning feeder tray. I’m lucky nothing happened to the multifunction tool I was using, but it was a stupid mistake that set me back about 10 minutes till we resolved all the misfeeds. I’ve printed a lot of stuff at one of my law firm internships, but that doesn’t compare to scanning at all. I’m more aware of the kind of concentration the activity takes – and how much you need to pay attention to the process now. As a result, I’m very grateful for all the books I’ve xeroxed over the years in law school.

The second takeaway was the emotion-laden bit. Digitizing and archiving your own certificates means you have legitimate reason to look at pieces of paper marking various things you’ve accomplished in the eyes of an authority in the past. I’ve looked at my certificates to ask my parents stories about the day I received them: my dad usually remembers most of them, but today, I was looking at them alone. It was admittedly very difficult to recall some of them, like my kindergarten report, which describes me as being ‘social’. Others, however, led to a lot of nostalgia.

If you’ve read the blog for long enough, you are aware that I have a tendency to live in the past and feel the nostalgia fully. I believe this is because I enjoy stories, and I enjoy history a lot (my 4th Grade report says I had an “affinity for the subject and must be encouraged to do extra reading”). A piece of paper evoking a complex, vivid picture of the past is therefore, easy to imagine – and so it was. As I caressed each page, taking it out of the folder it was meticulously placed in by my parents, examining it, and flipping it over to scan, it felt like I was flipping through a scrapbook in my own head. As the lightbeam produced the image on the USB drive, an exact replica of the paper I placed in the scanning bay, so too did my brain produce an image of that paper. Except, it was a moving image surrounded with a cacophony of sound – a video snapshot of what transpired.

I remembered, for example, that I had completed my music theory examination – in 2009, at the Bishop Cottons Girls School, in Bangalore, and gone to visit my grandparents because my grandfather was hosting a small exhibition of his artwork. I remembered my grandparents accompanying me to my first (and only) piano concert till date, the pride on their faces (and mine) evident in the beaming smiles. I recalled breaking down when I received my 11 AS results, because my Physics score was particularly awful. I broke down outside my school’s main gate, on the phone with my father, because I didn’t know what to tell him. I had tried so hard, and done so poorly – it was something I couldn’t register properly for some time. He cried too.

I saw myself bawling into my beanbag when I found out the University of Oxford rejected my application in Grade 12, and deciding not to go to school the next day. I must’ve cried for a good 10 minutes. In equal detail, I remembered how much joy I experienced when we were runners-up at a basketball tournament, and got certificates for that. I finally felt like we had done something relevant as a basketball team – despite the fact that we had byes in two rounds, and I only played one quarter in the entire tournament. Collecting that certificate meant so much to me.

It was odd, that all of these pieces of paper produced such a variance of emotions, such an extreme range. What was odder, perhaps, was that I was able to experience all of them in a few hours.

Certificates meant a lot to me as a child. Trophies and medals did too. They were signs that I was doing things that my school, my society viewed as being worthy of noticing and commending. I was really lucky my school credited non-traditional accomplishments by giving out Awards to everybody on Awards Day – with small badges on a cap.

But looking back now, those experiences mean a lot more to me. The struggles and the joys those pieces of paper brought. They shape me more than the paper ever has. The paper’s merely a record, a recognition that something transpired – and I don’t think I’m going to let it mean more than that. I’d rather choose to remember how something happened, rather than the mere fact that it did. It’s clear that my brain remembers these things today. I’m hopeful that it’ll never forget.

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