Confessions of a stationery addict
When you have more unused notebooks than friends in your life
Some of the fondest memories from my childhood are from the annual visits my family used to make to the stationery fair at Pragati Maidan in Delhi. Maybe it was the rows and rows of untouched paper and colour coordinated shelves of pens and pencils that resulted in the onset of what is medically referred to as ‘Stationery Addiction’. If you were hoping for a cooler name, then I guess you’re the latest person to be added to the ‘People I’ve disappointed in life’, just below my parents and my regular Domino’s delivery guy who once saw me outside a Pizza Hut.
There are probably worse things to be addicted to — alcohol, drugs, Keeping Up With the Kardashians… But once you realise that I’ve spent almost a month’s rent on notebooks that will never be sullied with actual words, you’ll understand my problem.
In my zero years of experience with therapy, I’ve learnt that one of the best ways to deal with a problematic situation is to step back and examine it. So consider this an attempt to evaluate the growing ‘Stationery Addiction’ (we’ve got to come up with something cooler than that).
One of the first question people ask is why? The utilitarian aspect of stationery has slowly faded with the digitisation of everything, from the written word to our demonetised money. Ironically, I am typing on the very instrument that can be solely held responsible for the slow death of the stationery I profess an addiction to. This thought occurred to me once when I was buying my 737th unlined notebook and my mother reminded me that my job actively requires me to adopt newer, aka not handwritten, of writing.
I can factor in two reason why I continue to buy stationery when I should be saving that money for a rainy day or, you know, food. First, it’s the illusion of productivity. In college, I once had to catch up on a massive portion of my syllabus from the ‘Organisational Behaviour’ module overnight. I spent hours pouring over books I had issued just that morning from the library and finally utilised one of my many notebooks to make notes. The previously blank lines were now filled with the various ways to implement positive reinforcement in your organisation in precise handwriting. I colour coded the notes and used three different highlighters to mark the important passages. I even involved sticky tabs.
By the time I was finished, I realised that I might not know much about organisations and their behaviour, but I had the most organised notes any student has ever had for that module. That was infinitely more satisfying than scoring big in an exam. Fun fact: My parents didn’t agree.
The second reason is more emotional. It’s the promise a blank sheet of paper holds. The possibilities birthed from a blank book and a new pen are endless. Those pages could hold the genesis of a wildly popular, best-selling novel or a well-intentioned but crudely worded note that will lead to everyone finding out about your school crush giving you trust issues that will probably colour all your relationships going forward. This got real way too quickly.
I’m not going to argue the importance of letters over e-mails. That’s a debate for another day. But that debate holds a clue to what makes stationery just so special. Imagine finding an old forgotten note in your pocket, or finding an old diary that contains proof of your angsty teenage years where you’ve poured your heart out about the unfairness of your mother refusing to give you permission to go on a school trip and how it’s literally ruining your life. In a world where we’re desensitised to almost everything thanks to the technological apathy of infinite scroll, it feels almost like a duty to preserve stationery.
I may not have sage advice or soothing comfort for you in times of trouble, but be assured that I’ll always have an unused foot-long ruler in teal AND mauve.