Inspired by chowk media writers
Living in a politically and academically strained town has its pros and cons. General population was well educated and everybody was somebody, definitely known to another somebody. I lived my school years through millions of political discussion and arguments , even the illiterate rickshaw walla had big opinions on how to run the nation. Families believed in being a part of a cohesive community, People judged each other by the caste, sect and locality. Years of prejudiced behaviour becomes refined into a well established code of conduct. Nobody minded his own business and poking nose into others’ affairs was a socially accepted norm.
I was an elite student becoz the convent school bus came to pick us up, all the aunties would say, “ convent ki bas aati hai ladkiyon ko le jaane k liye”. It sounded similar to the charwaaha cajoling the sheep or goats to flock up and follow a certain path. Given the list of imposed restraints on the girls, the society could adjust to the Christian decorum of the nuns and fathers.
Who cared how the boys went to school, or even if they did end up reaching school limits. The same aunties laughed , “arre bade hokar sab aadmi ban jaate hain”. Great insight indeed!
Going on a tonga was below status, do not know why For some reason college students found it awkward to sit in a Tonga. I never wanted to stand out in the crowd and I quit it myself. Tonga wala protested as he could not maximize his trip to our colony anymore. He had a mehndi colored famished horse. He used his whip ceaselessly on the piteous animal to force more acceleration out of him. Sometimes he did it just for the heck of it, knowing the animal could not run any faster. Poor horse had inches long wounds on its back. I wondered if horses could take over this world and whip Tonga walas in the same manner. I knew it would not happen. Horses are not as ambitious as humans are. They followed a routine: They got tied in the Tonga in the morning, transported commuters from here to there, endured whipping and abuse, got back to the barn, ate stale barley, slept and then repeated the same old cycle again. A horse’s life anyways was devoid of conspiracies, desires and delusions.
I am not able to remember what it is called that they put on the sides of the eyes’ of the horses, attached to the rien, so that the horses run in straight paths. Or mostly pre-decided paths. Their vision should not get distracted. That must be the reason why I hated my geography teacher, because I could not make sense of anything to do with maps, distances, locations, directions. My personality was not designed to take tours or detours , just follow a few known paths, much like the tonga horse. But that is not what I regret much, since life and experiences taught me to dare step by step and explore the world.
It was distancing from life long love of Literature and Arts which I end up regretting. Principal of my school was outright conservative with a make believe world of her own. Whoever reached early to school, was supposed to spend time praying or revising homework. Playing, discussing, or chatting was a waste of time because the good lord of the chapel did not appreciate any noise. Besides I come from a conservative Hindu (Sindhu) family, they have no appetite for fine arts. Creativity at its maximum was choosing patterns for embroidery from other works done in the mohalla. Music or sketching polluted the virgin mind.
Time and again I have bumped into principal-like patronizing figures in my life. The tug of the cross with hindu temple and sindhi gurdwara ideals left me in an incomprehensible religious state of mind. I had been meaning to debate all this with my elders and teachers, but the repetitive moral science lessons killed any such possibility. We were supposed to behave identically. Hypocrisy was never contested and obedience was an integral ingredient of an ideal student.
I fell in love with Shakespeare, but my teachers found my looks & demeanour unfit to be able to read Shakespeare aloud. It made me feel hughly shy. I started writing, quoting in all my literature submits, and my 9th grade teacher was the one who spotted the genius. She was one of those big Catholic women, who smoked (rumour) and believed that poetry and prose groomed students for future life. On ce she rumbled in class – this is brilliant stuff, get up and come in front of class and read aloud. Tongue-tied, leg tied, almost everything tied, I stood up meekly. She thundered this time, “ for pete’s sake get up from there!” somebody prompted, she IS standing! She walked around to see for herself – exactly how little are you? Ok, now, from today you sit in the front row in my class, always, is that clear? Thereafter she waited after every reference, every quote for me to elaborate, every pause was meant for me to fill in. I could not figure out this was appreciation or punishment. Until she was completely sure of my abilities, she started giving me unheard of scores a 9.5 or even full 10’s, without looking it seemed , becoz once I spotted a mistake myself on a corrected test paper.
My elderly science teacher boasted of her knowledge of politics and the constitutional rights and wrongs. Hence she also gave us lessons in civics. Her enthusiasm left me highly confused in science, and more in civics/politics because of my own shortcomings though.
I still remember her despair and tears on the day Indira Gandhi was assassinated. She gave a very sad speech that morning , in between her sobs, and all I took back home was sadness of a loss. The graveness & danger of the situation became visible as the days passed by with horrifying commotion, killings, curfews, gut-alarming reports, panick activities. Some revenges are taken diligently.
She was most excited when Rajiv Gandhi visited our town for a rally and speech. He was breathing freshness and new waves into Democracy and people were flared up with promises and hope. Our school buses took us right inside the congregation venue, and we were proud to be seated in front for her speech and we received little food bags also, when the public was almost breaking the the front wall to catch a single glimpse of him.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..In the making