One of the best things my father did for us when we were kids was to get us a huge world map. The paper map was set on a rexine sheet (something pink, with random flowers all over) and had two steel tubes, one at the top and another at the bottom. So it could now be rolled, and, better still, hung from a wall. This must have happened when I was ten years old or so. He put up the map right in front of my desk.
I used to spend hours familiarising myself with countries and their capitals, with deserts, tracing the route of rivers, and learning a lot about the world. “General Knowledge”, you know. I was familiar with the capitals of most of the US states too, since, in the map, the US had the special privelege of having all the state capital towns/cities marked out, along with the state borders. Another quirk was that the map had an accurate and complete map of India — not the head split in three, with two of the thirds belonging to China and Pakistan, like the map that I have seen since like to show. The USSR was then one, and I use to marvel at the size of the mysterious northern countries. Canada, and Greenland were large too. Later in the ninth standard I was to learn that this was largely the work of Mercator’s somewhat flawed projection scheme.
Later, in the 8th standard, I learned the art of making darts using rubber bands, greeting cards, grandma’s sewing needles and the slender sticks from a broom of the kind popular in my house. Hours were spent trying to hit Burkina Faso, Sudan, Belgium and Mozambique with the darts, with bonus points for landing right on the capital cities. On other days, I used to throw the dart with my eyes shut, and beleive that I will one day happen to visit the countries the dart lands in. The almost always landed near the Falklands, or somewhere in the Pacific. If I was lucky, it would land in Egypt or Sudan. To this day, the name of a country brings a colour to mind, the colour of the country on this map.
I owe a lot of my knowledge of geography – political and otherwise – to this map. It also gave me a huge head start over my peers when it came to “G.K.” contests, and school quizzes. It was in front of my eyes for most of my childhood. My desire to travel also has it’s roots here.
Yesterday, as I was brushing my teeth in the now-remade house, I saw the familiar pattern of pink and black flowers under the wash basin. Why, I was standing on it. Appa had folded the map in four and laid it under the wash basin, like a floor mat.
I’ll do what I can to salvage the world, I promise.