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MIT student blogger Hamsika C. '13

Remember? by Hamsika C. '13

A Blast from the Past

Second semester is just two weeks old, and I’ve already decided that I like it:
7.013 (Intro to Bio) has been kind enough to assign psets every other week (no pset this week, YAY!). 5.12 (Orgo) hasn’t yet caused me any significant pain. 8.02 (Physics) is essentially a review of high school E&M, which truly makes me appreciate my AP Physics teacher. 9.00 (Psych) is filled with cool videos, neat facts, and references to one of the best books ever: Oliver Sacks’s The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.

But my favorite class right now is definitely 21W.755 (Reading and Writing Short Stories): hard proof that MIT has humanities classes. And that they’re awesome.

For 21W.755, I get to write a short story every week. There’s generally a prompt, but the professor encourages us to go outside its boundaries, challenge it if we so wish. There are no dumb stories; there are no limitations. We write about what we want to write about, and then we read it aloud to receive feedback from both the professor and our peers.

I was scared to read my story aloud. Incredibly so.

The prompt for this week was to think back on our lives, pick out a memory that seems insignificant yet somehow memorable, and then write a story that starts with, “I don’t know why I remember…”

I wrote the following – a slightly embellished story that is nonetheless true in its essentials. Before I share, let me put out the following disclaimer: I am not a professional author, and the following was written in about one hour and never consequently edited. Please don’t judge me too harshly! :'(

Now, without further ado, The Short Story I Read Aloud:

~*~

I don’t know why I remember reciting multiplication tables to my mother.

I was maybe six years old – carefree, fearless, intoxicated by the New Zealand beauty that surrounded me. Our home was quaint – a one-story house, white with turquoise shutters, kept exceedingly comfortable by central heating. There were three bedrooms, two living rooms, a small study, and a kitchen. I spent most of my time in the larger of the two living rooms, in which resided four squishy, mustard-yellow couches, perfect for me to jump on when I got tired of my trampoline or bed.

My parents sought to channel my elastic energy into something more productive than bruised knees and bloody cuts; as such, there came a day when my mom led me outside, onto the back porch, and handed me the two times table to learn.

Undaunted, I ran about the landing with the paper in my hands, climbing onto ledges and catapulting myself off of them. Before every launch, I glanced at one line of the table, committing it to memory. After twelve such instances of perfect projectile motion, I was done.

I turned my attention to my mother, who had been plucking plums all the while, with minimal success. At 5’ 2”, she was a good four feet shorter than the tallest branch on the plum tree, even with the added height of the porch. While the branches closest to her had been neatly stripped of their fruit, the ones farthest away drooped pitifully with the weight they bore.

The plums that filled my mother’s basket were beautiful. Standing on one of the wooden ledges, I had a clear view of their deep magenta coats and still-attached stems. I crept closer and poked at a few of them, just to see what would happen. My un-cut nails easily pierced the skin of one plum, shattering its seamless surface and allowing its captive juice to ooze out. Momentarily surprised, I looked up at my mom, who was still reaching for some higher-up fruit, her face creased with effort. I glanced back at the fruit I’d punctured, touched the juice with my pinky, and slurped it up with a natural indelicacy.

Delicious.

My multiplication tables forgotten, I gathered the two bottom ends of my t-shirt to create a makeshift basket. After checking to make sure my mother was still otherwise occupied, I began shoveling plums into my cloth cradle, hoarding as much as my Youth Small shirt could hold. I crept away with my loot, curled up in the tiny space separating my bed from my wall, and feasted. Fifteen minutes, ten plums, and a stomachache later, I presented myself to my mother in shame, fully expecting to be lectured on the immorality of thievery. She studied me for a little while, noting my new purple mustache, as well as my sticky, still-dripping fingers. And then she laughed.

It was such a clear, high, joyous laugh. I stared at her in open confusion, which only served to intensify her mirth. Unable to speak coherently, she gave me a pat on the head, and still chuckling, gestured for me to follow her into the kitchen and swallow some strawberry-flavored medicine to ease my stomach pain. I loved that syrupy medicine so much that I would have consumed the whole thing, had it not been kept on the highest shelf in the fridge. As I licked my spoon clean, I continued to watch my mother, wary of further surprises.

Her giggling finally under control, she opened her mouth. I braced myself.

In Tamil, she said, “Hamsika, will you recite the two times table?”

I froze. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember what came past two times one is two.

“Um…” I faltered. My mother’s eyes were still dancing from the plum incident. I noticed the amusement and had an idea.

“Amma, can I tell you the two times table outside, on the porch?”

She agreed, her eyes now filled with curiosity rather than hilarity. The minute we were outside, I climbed up onto a ledge and jumped as high off it as I could. Within seconds, the two times table came rushing back into my memory.

“Two times one is two! Two times two is four!” I chanted with a rhythm fit to rival a metronome. “Two times three is six!”

I continued in this manner until finally, with one last gallivanting leap – “Two times twelve is twenty-four!”

I landed triumphantly on the ground, right in front of my mother, breathing heavily. She smiled at me, and I grinned in return. Thirty seconds later, I got clocked on the head by a plum, as if it too were offering me some kind of congratulations. I fell down, dazed. My mom helped me up, then handed me another sheet of paper. Two times table down. Three to go.

~*~

Thus ends the tale of what was most likely my first ever math lesson. Moral of the story: Take this class!!

One last thing: I want to thank Varun, a prospective student, for sharing the following video with me:

Writing isn’t the only way to remember the past :)

36 responses to “Remember?”

  1. ash says:

    i posted that video on tumblr awhile ago too :D i like the stories about new zealand. it sounds pretty :D

  2. Hello Hamsika Didi,
    It was a very nice story !!
    How much of it was fictitious ?? Haha !! Hey, I am kidding ! thats due to these points:

    The plum fell on you !
    While you were reciting tables !
    While you got a stomach ache !
    And Strawberry Medicine (Hey ! The anti-acids and all medicines for that i eat aren’t so tasty !!)

    Was that medicine so tasty?? Yummy !! smile

    Hey your art of writing is very good !! Reading it was like seeing a cartoon movie (you being like tweety with granny and all) !! haha !

    And you are the best writer, goodluck with your 8.02 and entire Course 7,

    hey, did u eat all the plums yourself or shared with your brother or sister??

    Noo ?? or Yes !!

    I think u did !! right !! they were delicious naa !! smile)

    Your story was really nice !!
    My rating 100/ 10 ! (the numerator and denominator are correct ) yaa

    100/10 !!

    Keep it up !

  3. Hamsika, this is such a lovely, vivid story!!! You’re an excellent writer–no need to be nervous next time. I’m honored to share your birthday. ;-D

  4. Han '14 says:

    Good story, Hamsika!

  5. Paul D. says:

    I’m glad to know that MIT has good humanities classes since I’ve been considering focusing on my writing. Thanks Hamsika

  6. Notnaify says:

    A wonderful story and a wonderful video… thank you for sharing! If anyone’s curious, the writing at 8:10 translated: “You’re always near”…

  7. Kien says:

    I absolutely loved my intro to writing class (ENG 290). We luckily didn’t have to read our short stories outloud, but we did have peer review for feedback. It was so much fun and I mostly used humor in my short stories and with each one it would get more and more outrageous, but very effective as I got an A in the class.

    I loved your short story too! Very well written and funny. You should really post your short stories every week. Something that I would look forward to reading each week.

  8. nicoletta says:

    that’s an excellent story!!! i loved it!!! will u please keep posting ur stories? smile

  9. Brad says:

    It was a pretty good story. I liked the details.

  10. Hamsika '13 says:

    You guys are so nice smile ‚ô•

  11. Anonymous says:

    First, yeah yeah, who cares. I get first all the time.
    its not impressive.
    nice blog,though

  12. Anonymous says:

    Just wondering, what is the average IQ of MIT students? Obviously it’s higher, but how many mensans? Or Intertels? Or triple niners? Eximias? Megas?Pars? ….giga?? (high IQ societies)
    i’ve been tested at the following-
    -titan test- 173, sd 15
    -test to end all tests- 168 SD 16
    – standford -binet(L-M(higher ceiling)- 170 SD 16
    -logica 37- 176 SD15
    -mega test- 171 SD 15
    – hit 160 ceiling on weschler and standford binet standard forms.

  13. Varun says:

    That was a great write up.Although it was a simple story your narration made it interesting, fun, and as suspenseful as an
    election full of dimpled chads.

  14. Varun says:

    Why don’t you start writing fiction novels or fantasies????
    Well waiting for your next blog…..

  15. Han '14 says:

    oNdru, irandu, muNdru, naNku, aindu, aru, yezu, yeddu, oNpadu, pattu……
    Vanakkam, Hamsika!

  16. Anonymous says:

    “and handed me the two times table to learn…”

    LOL! No kidding! I remember when my parents had me learn my times tables…ah…those were the days…NOT. Still, very inventive way of learning- I used the old tried and tested way of learning called MEMORIZATION, but in retrospect, maybe your strategy would have made my days more interesting!

  17. jialing says:

    i love reading your stories. smile

  18. Masod says:

    Hamsika-

    I enjoyed reading your short story, It’s awesome!

    Also, I posted that sand art on my facebook page. I hope you don’t mind. I commented “courtesy of Hamsika” smile

    Best regards, -Masod

  19. Anonymous says:

    “…which truly makes me appreciate my AP Physics teacher.”

    I can’t stand overprivileged snobs…

  20. Dhawal says:

    Absolutely loved your story….the way your mother asked you to learn your tables and you recollecting them sitting amidst the branches somewhat resembles my own childhood except that i didn’t quite recall but always forgot them whenever i was in front of my mother!lol

  21. K '13 says:

    Why are all of your posts so happy-go-lucky? Just an observation.

  22. Vedha('14?) says:

    Hamiska you are a great writer. I know this is completely irrelevant but I thought I’d just post a link to this website:
    Save the Words!

  23. Hamsika '13 says:

    @ K ’13 – I guess I’m just generally a cheerful person? I don’t know…

    @ Han – Impressive!! Vanakkam smile

  24. Jonatan Y. says:

    The video was beautiful…

    The story was good too >.>

  25. Varun says:

    oNdru, irandu, muNdru, naNku, aindu, aru, yezu, yeddu, oNpadu, pattu……are 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10

    Wat is Vanakkam???????

  26. anon says:

    That was a lovely story, you should post more of your prompt responses in the future! I saw that video a little while ago, it’s very powerful and moving.

    @Anonymous (might you have been genius ’18?) – From the MIT students (and those in other universities of the same tier) I know (I’m certainly not one, but I know a few), I can assume there are a ton of people at that level. However, a trend I notice with a lot of these folks is that they don’t brag about test scores or IQ levels. smile

  27. MATWADA says:

    Everything was fabulous!!!

  28. Divyansh says:

    hey varun
    vanakkam is namaste (dat is wat i know)

  29. Divyansh says:

    and i forgot to write
    hamshika a very well written story
    u r an excellent writer

  30. Divyansh says:

    and i forgot to write
    hamshika a very well written story
    u r an excellent writer

  31. Divyansh says:

    and i forgot to write
    hamshika a very well written story
    u r an excellent writer

  32. Ira says:

    You write soo well!! Its refreshing and interesting. and very sweet. =)
    @Varun Really Nice video.How did you come across it?

  33. Varun says:

    @Ira
    I love arts and my Physics teacher shared that video with me.