Summer 2002 • Vol. XXIV No. 3/4 Nonfiction |

Paper

In my childhood home, paper, of any kind, was to be touched only by hand. If you stepped on a book by accident, you were to pick it up and raise it respectfully to your forehead. I am not from a culture, although that seems the wrong word here for any number of reasons, where you rubbed paper on your arse. I did not know what to write on the notebooks I first bought as a child when I visited my birthplace, Ara. The nibs we were given were of wood. We dipped them in ink. My cousins and I sat in a row near our elderly aunt who had become crippled with grief after her husband died young. His blood had turned black before his death; when he died, my aunt didn't move for months. Her legs swelled up and she could no longer walk. That is what at least I had heard my mother and others say. When she lay on her back in bed, my aunt couldn't sit up or raise herself without help. Through most of the day, she would sit with her legs immobile on the side of the bed that faced the door. Her so

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Amitava Kumar is Helen D. Lockwood Chair of English at Vassar College. He is the author of A Matter of Rats: A Short Biography of Patna, A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm a Tiny Bomb, and Nobody Does the Right Thing, all published by Duke University Press.

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In my childhood home, paper, of any kind, was to be touched only by hand. If you stepped on a book by accident, you were to pick it up and […]

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