Tuesday, May 24, 2005

A "memory"

Last Sunday I was chatting with a couple of my room-mates, and among other things we talked about the experiences that each other had had in school. It took me on a nostalgia trip, and so while I'm stuck in 'school-mode', I thought I'd write a post about it.
For a lot of people at my age, college is what evokes a lot of memories, but for me, school is the place that I will have trouble forgetting. It's not that college wasn't fun, it's just that school was a place where I spent fourteen wonderful, unforgettable years, and I tend to look back upon my experiences there with more fondness than upon those I had in college.
I don't know why or how, but I have a long memory, and I tend to remember all sorts of things. Like my first day at school. It's burnt in my memory and every time I remember it, I'm surprised at how vivid it is...the bus trundling down my street - funny how buses are 'huge' when one is small, my Grandma telling my Mom that I was too little for school, and friendly, 'ice-cream agent' 'Jayanthy aunty' - my neighbour - suddeny turning into strict 'Jayanthy Miss' - turned out she was a teacher at my school, and then my first 'friend', D. D and I were the only kids in kindergarten who took the school bus, and since school was just 'half-day' for us, we were the only passengers in the bus during its noon rides. We used to have a rollicking time, jumping over the seats pretending we were 'Superman' or some other super-hero who was in fashion at that point of time, sprinting along the aisle, exploring (yeah, exploring a bus!) and generally making the poor driver's life miserable. And, hell, now that I think of it, I even remember the driver's name - Ramakrishna. Good man. Was so punctual and regular that he never gave us a chance to even dream of a holiday because of the bus not coming to pick us up. Some people are born to be school bus drivers, I guess.
I fell in love with my school. It was a small place, without the 'air' that characterises most schools these days, with simple and honest teachers who believed in the righteousness of their profession. A one-storey building housed the seniors, whereas the kindergarten classes occupied a small thatched-roof hut. There was this 'giant' Gulmohar tree, which used to be quite a sight in full bloom, at the northern end, an abandoned well at the western corner, and then a small playground, which was witness to a number of 'epic' football matches over the years. All us 'tiny tots' (yeah, that's how the teachers referred to the KG kids!) used to spend the whole of 'lunch-period' throwing stones into that well - probably an aftereffect of too many sessions of the 'thirsty-crow-and-pebbles' story - and our Physical Education master was permanently preoccupied with chasing us back to our classes. Was that man evil or what! There used to be a bunch of classmates whose lifetime ambition was to grow up and take revenge for all the 'injustices' he dealed out to us.
'Sports day' also features strongly in my memories. On that first 'Sports day' of many, we were herded out of our class, and were briefly explained the rules. Not that all of us understood what the teacher was explaining but then we were all sensible in the way only kindergarten kids can be. There were two 'events'. 'Running race' - a short sprint - and 'frog race'. Looking back, I cannot help but admire the ingenuity of my teachers in thinking up the latter. We had to sit on our haunches, plant our hands on the ground, and then make like mad to the finishing line. A few of us had trouble hopping in a straight line - one 'frog' would 'collide' with the nearby 'frog', often with hilarious repercussions. That I managed to come second inspite of all this is a matter of pride to me and amusement to my family. I still have the prize certificate with me, carefully preserved.
Math class was a favourite in KG. Not that I liked the subject, but it's because we had these snazzy, chequered notebooks to scribble on. And the teacher - Vasantha Miss, the name comes flooding back now - used to give us small, wooden numbers to 'kindle' our 'interest' in the subject. Little did she know that these 'innocuous' things often doubled up as missiles when things got nasty between us kids. 'Won't share your homework with me? Plonk! Take that...' And some of us became so skilled at this 'sport' that we were never caught with incomplete homework.
I also remember the first time I got injured 'officially'. The thatched-roof over our classroom had these flat bamboo sticks - with sharp edges - protruding into the walkways. I somehow contrived to split the webbing between my thumb and my forefinger on the left hand (I've conveniently forgotten how), and I saw blood. The other kids saw it too, and a few of them promptly fainted as well - what do you expect of 4 year olds anyway? Luckily, one of them - again I remember the name, Babu - had the good sense to call a teacher (I myself was too dazed), and I was taken to the 'Office Room' - the Principal's office - where the peon bandaged my 'wound' and gave me royal treatment - cold drinks, biscuits, a couch to sleep on...the works. What more could I ask for? Later that day, when I went back to class, I was given a hero's welcome (especially by the girls, and I was truly embarassed, girls being uncool then), because suddenly I'd become the first to venture into the 'ogre's territory' (the Principal's office) and come back alive to tell the story. And what a story! I lost a lot of credibility when I told them about the goodies that I'd consumed. Nobody would believe me because the rumour at that time was that the headmistress had a dog which ate up truant children.
But my favourite memory from that time is of the 5 minutes I spent every day rolling all over the floor with my dog - Tiger - after I came back from school. I was his favourite 'master'; maybe it was because the 'master' was the only person around who was his size. Every day, on my return, he would jump all over me, drowning me in fur, and would give me a good licking. I would be literally tickled pink! He was a handsome fella alright; his 'girlfriends' on the street used to go crazy whenever we took him out for a walk. But I was secure in the knowledge that I was the sole object of his attention. He stayed with us for a good fourteen years before 'passing on', but the memory of those 5 minutes is always something I cherish.
There are a lot of things about school and kindergarten that I remember and want to write about- like the picnics that we were taken to, the 'fight-club' that we had in our class, the dreaded rhymes period etc - but I think I'll save them for another post and stop this one right here. And yes, can't help but say, "those were the days..."


Anonymous said...

takes one down the moemory lane.... you said it ..."Those were the days.." My mom was telling me the other day abt my exploits when i was kid.. and I found my self wishing I never grew up!

Kripa Shankar said...

True...those were the days.
I had a hilarious time picturising the whole thing in my mind. (Psst....Psst... might be becoz I had this image of a small kid with 1 foot hair sticking right up , perpendicular to the head ..no wonder the video that was running in my head was in black & white;-) ). LOL...
Nice account dude!
Going all the way down to KG is a long fall down the memory lane. Din't you feel different going to office after writing such an account?
After recollecting those days of mine, I am wondering how I got here? (looking around my cubicle).

Kripa Shankar said...

That reminds me of a colleague's blog that I read some time ago:

Chk it out.

Brood Mode said...

I got nostalgic too... specially the dog part :(

. : A : . said...

The vividness of the details that you remember and write about is amazing!

I too like you feel that school was much more memorable than college, for several reasons. I can completely identify when you write,

"For a lot of people at my age, college is what evokes a lot of memories, but for me, school is the place that I will have trouble forgetting. It's not that college wasn't fun, it's just that school was a place where I spent fourteen wonderful, unforgettable years, and I tend to look back upon my experiences there with more fondness than upon those I had in college."

eden said...

strikingly true! those were the days......

musafir said...

@ anon, brood mode & eden: Thanks, glad this piece could take you back in time. Yes, "those days" were truly wondeful.

@ kripa shankar: I guess I'm never going to hear the last of that '1-foot-hair' photograph ;-) Yes, the day after I wrote that post, i was more aware of what I'd 'become', more so at work.

@ .:a:. : I sometimes wonder how I can remember so much! And yes, school is more memorable, purely due to the innocence that wraps every memory from that time!

consumerdemon said...

ancient history dude!i miss my dog too... Rana died during my 12th holidays. I was in chennai for TOEFl and he got bitten by a snake. I sometimes call my current dog Rana and he looks very affronted. :D