ELSE IF (dog)
The three-year old boy carefully ripped the old newspaper into four jagged, ungainly pieces. He laid them neatly onto the floor. To the uninitiated eye, they looked like nothing more than scraps of old, yellowing news type. However to the boy, the geometric patterns and ‘negative space’ outlined by their edges were as exquisite, detailed and precise as a symphony by Mozart. He gazed happily upon the hidden beauty delineated by the sheets of paper. Distracted by his servant calling him to drink his milk, he left the scraps on the floor and wandered over to the breakfast-table. His Ayah, Mary, was smiling at him warmly. As he sipped the milk he felt his mother’s sari breeze past his left ear. As he turned to watch her, milk-cup still firmly attached to his mouth, terror flitted across his face as he saw her collect the scraps of newspaper he had so meticulously laid down and, with a single motion, crumple and dispose of them into an awaiting trash-can.
The boy, shocked beyond words by this act of unprovoked violence, reacted the only way he knew how. Incapable of finding words to describe his rage, he lay down on the floor screaming, tears and snot poring from his face, and banged his head against the tile repeatedly. The soothing, firm marble was strangely reassuring. His brain was a cascade of fireworks – thoughts he could not (or dared not) articulate coursing through his mind. His screams echoed down the corridor connecting the living-room with the kitchen. His mother looked on, in turns horrified and fascinated as his tantrum continued, showing no signs of letting-up despite her best efforts to mollify him. No amount of shushing or bribing could avail him of his fit. He took great comfort in the rhythmic motion of his head banging on the floor (a trait that would find some utility when he was to go through his heavy-metal phase thirteen years later), his voice screaming till he was hoarse.
That little boy was me. I still remember the fascination I had with patterns, lines, spaces and images. Even today I find my mind wandering between the empty spaces made up from the wine bottles in front of me as I write these words. The sweeping curve on the tea-cup, the angle of the pen on the desk, all these geometric shapes and patterns fascinate, frustrate and constantly distract my mind. I cannot fully explain my tantrums except to say that, at age three, I did not have the vocabulary or the temperament to describe my extraordinary frustration when the lines and patterns I had created by ripping those scraps of newspapers were destroyed by my mother’s intervention. It has taken me nearly fifty years to learn that the fascination with the visual, as well as the precision of the delineation of physical features, is one of the hallmarks of Aspbergers. Today I am an artist and designer, as well as as a scientist and writer. But much of my fascination with shapes, patterns and lines I can trace back to my earliest memories, when I spent long periods of time alone on the cooling marble floors of our home in India, endlessly tracing, drawing, sketching and painting the lines and patterns I could see before me.