The School Flat with the Chapel
The first time I travelled without shackles- without the company of someone from home was when I and a few delinquents sneaked out on a train journey to Quilon some 70 kilo meters away from Thpuram. We went to the beach there and loitered before eating a good platter of mutton curry and parattha.I must have been sixteen or there about. It has been stifling times at home, more because I was a rebellious character. Perhaps it is better to rephrase and say, a different sort of fellow unusual for a conventional family with quite conservative leanings in tune with the establishment. I ceased to be religious in the conventional sense, no temple and Providence from that age, was questioning everything including the existence of God or even he himself if he were real; began to be fascinated with skeptical readings in literature. Rebelled against the diktat from home to keep away from friends etc as they thought friends were bad influence, even the good ones next doors. In the bargain I landed with some unsavory elements to the great distress of my mother.
I dreamt about a life in the boarding. While in college I was in awe about the fellows who lived in the boarding. The College hostel was tucked in the midst of a rubber plantation and we used to venture there during recess. It was a different fantastic world. But I knew that my yearning will be still born as I hailed from the same town.
When years later, we had to decide to admit A in a school away from the town we lived, the only option was to put him there as a boarder. Constraints of our work , besides lack of good educational infrastructure in that town we lived then, gave us no room to manoeuvre and the option was to put him in that distant school in Ooty as a boarder. He was then going into the first standard. The agony that we went through, and the distress and lost feeling him as little child went through then, are still painfully alive in memory. Both the children growing up were given enough room to manouevre, and freedom to tell us, talk to us anything and everything. I was keen that they must not feel the constriction I felt when I was their age. They still enjoy the freedom and we hope they make intelligent and conscientious use of that.
There were interesting alumni there. People who came back with their children. One day during our visit to the school we saw this guy in his forties hugging the huge pine tree near the hostel of the primary class laughing with tears in his eyes. He later confided that he was a parent and it was to this tree that he used to go to while he was border during his bouts of loneliness and home sickness. He said he used to hug the tree for long and feel comfort.
The school was not an elite institution fees wise, as well as by way of philosophy and motto. It was an institution that was begun by an English clergy man some seventy five years ago. With both our children doing their schooling from the first standard there, we can confidently content that their formative years were well taken care by the institution. Now to hope that they carry those things of value they imbibed from there through into their lives.
A, passed out his twelfth from there four years ago. He was the Head Boy in the final year. And being an active participant in various activities especially music and dramatics he was in the elite group fancied by the Principal and the faculty. But strangely the relationship of the whole class with the Principal turned sour towards the fag end of the term. The Principal was a strict disciplinarian and that may have turned the tables on the boys and girls of the twelfth who were all in a rebellious age in their lives. The precarious times when one is not a child, but is neither an adult though one wants to be noted so.
A’s class mate and chum,G, as this boy may be called was a happy go lucky sort of fellow with occasional exploits and fond of girls. The Principal had notified that if found in sneaking on conducts considered unsavoury, dismissal from school, or confinement to the school hospital tucked up far in the campus for other infractions will be certain. Infractions such as carrying a tuck, pocket money, cell phones in the locker for instance.
A, used to tell us his apprehension when he was home on short breaks from school. That G is being recalcitrant and may land up in serious trouble. He was warned by A to avoid his flirtations. He did not want an incident to mar the year. But G being the glamour boy for some girls, A was in a quandary. G was too indulgent! One night during the group study, G and his girl friend were hauled from the garden nearby. It was the Gorkhas who busted the matter. News reached A, and he slapped G for the infringement. The Gorkhas refused to hush up the matter. The lid was blown and G was dismissed. The Principal smelt that the matter was going on for some time and he was furiously cross with A for not revealing it. A was adamant during the enquiry and the threat to strip him off the Head Boy badge, that he was not aware. The Principal did not believe him. He mentioned the matter to me, while I met him to collect A’s mark sheets and certificates after the examination results were published. I felt quite miffed when the Principal covertly aired the accusation to me. I felt cross with A. It was the feeling a father would have when someone accuses his child of infarction and misconduct.
I could only tell the Principal that I will enquire with A.
When I confronted A, he said, “Yes I knew about G’s relationship. I even hit him and tried to discipline him. I forewarned him of the peril should his conduct be known. The whole class was aware of how I took him to task and reprimanded him often. But if the Principal wanted me to be a snitcher, well no, I cannot be one. G is my friend, he may have done wrong. But I cannot disown him and compromise him. Not over even the threat of my dismissal or stripping me off the badge of the Head boy."
I did not know what to tell.
A, & friends getting ready for the farewell dinner ( 2008)