It is exactly a minute past midnight as I sit at my table, typing on the computer. The desk is lit by a table lamp — the way all my desks have been lit since I was a kid.
I listen to the sound of the ceiling fan overhead. It is uncharacteristically hot for this time of the year. The window is open and I can hear a cricket or it might just be the tinnitus playing up. My wife stirs occasionally, asleep on the bed behind me as I try to type softly so as not to disturbing her.
I am not quite certain yet what to write about. I glance about the darkened room searching for a topic and finally my eyes come back to rest on the desk and the table lamp and I decide to write about that …
My dad (Baba), made sure that my brother and I always had individual desks to study at, at home from a very young age. Even as a preschooler, I remember having a desk of my own.
Baba never told me or my brother to sit at our desks. He just took us along to buy our own desks, then came home and set each of them up against a wall (so things would not keep falling off the further end), and placed them facing a window (so we could look outside during the day and have enough natural light).
So, when he came home in the evenings and sat at his desk to finish his work, guess where you would find me? Sitting at mine, feeling important, scribbling away with my crayons.
When it came to desks and chairs, we were pretty much like the bears from Goldilocks.
Baba had the biggest desk. With multiple drawers and cabinets. The top would be covered with a glass sheet and he would have family photographs, inspirational quotes and important contact details placed under it.
My older brother had a relatively smaller one with a pull out drawer. He would maintain it meticulously. All text books and note books stacked on the sides, sorted by size. The drawer would be full of interesting odds and ends.
I had the smallest one.
Mine had no drawers — to prevent me from accidentally hurting my fingers while shutting it).
Instead, it had a large shelf underneath (where I could stash my stuff using a random-access-storage paradigm) to keep the table top free.
Once I got slightly older and started going to school, Baba got me my first table lamp.
It was a sturdy piece with a low centre-of-gravity so it wouldn’t fall of easily and a goose-neck arm.
He insisted that it have a warm daylight bulb no higher than 40 watts — else it would be too bright and too warm.
Yup — I come from the time of filament bulbs.
He said it wasn’t just about aesthetics. He said it was about minimising distractions. When the entire room is darkened and the desk is the only thing that is lit up, you automatically focus on what is visible in front of you.
I eventually graduated to a desk with a drawer and taller table lamps with lots of joints.
When brother moved to college, for a while I even had two tables and two table lamps!
Even after I moved out from my parents, when setting up a house, the first thing I still did/do is set up my desk. It has to be against a wall. It has to be near a window. It has to have a good lamp. And possibly a drawer.
As I write this, I realise that my brother too has multiple desks at his home — for himself and for each of his kids.
We are often not aware of what we carry and what we leave behind. What we remember and what we forget. What endures and what fades away.
Thank you Baba. For everything.