Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Have you ever given an autograph?

I have. Three days a week, for nearly two years.

Who's that lunatic, obsessed fan...are you thinking?

Please do not go by my current state of middle-aged aunty-hood. At that time, I was a svelte seventeen.

I was a boarder at Lady Brabourne College Hostel in Calcutta, and I used to autograph an egg with an indelible ball-point pen three days a week (give or take a day here and there).

Was I a mad, narcissistic egg-head?

Not really.

It was a nutritional survival strategy, actually.

The food at the hostel was, to put it mildly, meagre.

I still remember the first dinner we had at the hostel. Dressed up ridiculously with hair in five pigtails and face painted half-man-half-woman, bowing each time we saw a senior boarder (ragging was a rite of passage then, not a criminal offence), we shuffled awkwardly to our table - some excited, many homesick, all nervous. Only to be met with dubious, watery khichdi (rice-lentil gruel), equally dodgy tomato chutney and a shriveled piece of fried fish that the tiniest kitten would gulp down in one bite. Sitting down to this sorry repast, our hearts pined for home.

Actually, for home-cooked food.

No wonder we were all so thin during those days. (Now, how I pine for that long-forgotten slim frame)

So, to supplement the slim (and slimming) diet, we had to adopt other strategies.

The signed egg being one of them.

The hostel kitchens boiled copious quantities of water during the day - for tea, for hot water baths,'t-make-me-think-of-weird-things. And if we gave them raw eggs, they would return the eggs to us after boiling.

Pretty straightforward, don't you think.

Not so.

Eggs have an irritating tendency of coming in different sizes. (Not shapes. I remember reading an Agatha Christie where the cubist-perfectionist Hercule Poirot wishes that eggs were perfectly symmetrical cubes).

So, to be sure of WYGIWYG (What You Give Is What You Get), we signed on the eggs. In indelible blue ball-point pen ink. And also made smiley faces, flowers, hearts, stars and whatnot.

Like fame, these autographs were short-lived. 

They disappeared when we cracked the (boiled) eggs and ate them.

And, sadly, my chances of giving autographs have also disappeared.

Of course, discounting chequebooks, exam papers and the thousands of forms we fill up to survive.