A history textbook.

A black and white print of Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, which I had seen years ago in my history textbook, came to my mind today. Suddenly. A memory I never knew I had. I had almost forgotten that book in which I first saw the grainy prints of The Scream and Guernica. All black and white, barely there. It was a thin book about various art movements and artists of the 20th century. I was also supposed to learn about some important scientific discoveries made in the same century but I don’t remember anything. That thin history book served as an unimportant ally of our primary textbook, which was much bigger, telling us about the more important history. I remember being surprised, a little suspicious even, when I first saw that book. We had never studied art movements or artists before. Art in any form, actually.


The history teacher cleared my suspicion when she told us that we were not to study that book because no questions were ever asked from it in the board exams. I remember being a little disappointed. Also a little relieved because she was a frail, happy woman who had never heard about Matisse and thought that Italy looked like a horseshoe. It was amusing to hear her speak about Russian history. She often confused Lenin with Stalin. For all we knew.

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. 

Once, about 13 years ago when I was 10,  I’d lost my vision for almost a minute. It was so, so strange. It was a gradual degeneration of vision. As gradual as it can be. Not everything went blank suddenly. The whole ground first became an unfamiliar tone of sepia, then turned into a black & white before disappearing altogether. I did not stop exercising — I was in a P.E. class– I was too terrified.

Then it came back. Black and white turned into sepia before everything was colour and light again. I told my teacher that I was unwell and needed to go back into the classroom.

Maybe that’s how I remember. First in colour, then in sepia, then in grainy monochrome before a gradual but inevitable disappearance.


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