I scribbled a lot of dreams and practised a lot of chemical equations on my notebooks. Every year in the month of April my mother used to sell those scribbled dreams and chemical equations, physics numerical, and some maths to Kabadi waley (scrap-picker) uncle. These deals were done in my absence when I was busy attending the first lecture of my new class.
I used to yell at Maa, “My notebooks?” and then mourn till new books and notebooks were placed on my empty table. I would often think about the recycling process of paper. I had read about it many times. Paper recycling is a long and energy consuming process which requires lots of water and energy. More than the technical process, I used to think about the ink on the paper which would get mix with water and other chemicals.
Soon, a very meaningful thought, hard work of one year and random scribbles which were a mark of my youth would turn into a mesh of “Nothing”. And the poetry I used to write on the last pages of my rough notebook, a piece of my mind and heart that was still secret from the world would also be lost. Machines have no heart. They crush the bad, good and everything else on the paper. I used to mourn the dead writings of mine.
When I passed my 10th board exams, I decided to meet the person who would buy my hard work of 365 days in 40-50 rupees. As imagined, he was a thin man with weak hands, half grey beard, rags and unexpectedly, a smile on his face. He carried lots of books and cardboards on his cycle. His cycle had a specially adjusted horn, which he honked after every five minutes.
“Congratualtions! 11th class now, great. So, where are your old books?”
I was astonished. How did he know which class I was in? Congratulations? Is he so happy or pretending?.
I smirked and said, “I’m not going to give my notebooks and books this year”.
“Why? Did you fail? You are such a good student with flawless handwriting. How could you fail?”.
I felt like some elder member of my family was querying about my result. I smiled “No, I got above 90 per cent but wait you were talking about my handwriting? Do you read my notebooks?”
So, a scrap collector knew me and my studies more than my relatives. Wow! This was something worth writing about.
“No, not me. Bhagwan Das reads a lot and he separates good looking notebooks before selling it to the paper recycling factory. He has treasured yours”. So, a new character was added into the story
“Who is Bhagwan Das? Your fellow scrap collector?”. I was more relieved at the thought of my writings being preserved by Bhagwan Das than anything else.
“Bhagwan Das is my son. He just passed his 9th. Now he is in 10th and needs your notebooks. He loves the way you highlight important notes and the clarity in your writings”. I ran into my room while he was pleading to give him my books. I grabbed the books, put them into a handsome jute bag with a box of my favourite pens. I rushed back outside where Bhagwan Das’ father was standing and handed over the bag, which was now scrapped for me but was his son’s now dreams. He smiled and gave me a note of 50 rupees.
I grabbed it and wrote “Hii! Bhagwan thank you for saving my books and for being my first reader. Happy reading”. I returned the note to him. His eyes were brimming but he smiled. That day I realised that REUSING IS ALWAYS BETTER THAN RECYCLING.
Story contributed by Renu Kotwal