As a kid, I hated going to school – the blessed place that imparted me with all the skills necessary to live a life as a functioning adult. From the importance of being punctual to the value of dressing well, everything was internalized in me by my teachers. I didn’t realize all of these things at that time. I despised the fact that you couldn’t wear your regular black shoes on Mondays and Saturdays. I despised the fact that teachers made us carry different notebooks for the same subject. I despised exams, I despised mathematics and I despised certain classmates. Even then, I would give anything to go back to that time. It’s ironical, but I failed to appreciate the beauty of that time when I was living it.
Just yesterday, while on a date with someone I had known in my previous office, I brought up the topic of my first day at school. I remember crying a lot because I had never seen so many unknown faces at once. Also, it was probably the first time I was left on my own. It was comfortable to live with three people who loved you all the time. I had serious separation anxiety and it took me a bit of time to get rid of the lump in my throat.
“Did you make a friend on your first day?” Leena (with whom I was walking on the Marine Drive) asked me.
“I am coming to that,” I said.
When the lunch period came, I talked to my classmate Rohit who was sitting next to me. The exact details of the conversation remain hazy in my memory but it was probably something about a teacher. I found out that he stayed close to my house and we promised to meet sometime soon. In the next few periods, I actually enjoyed the lessons and felt secure. We had an English class where the teacher narrated us an interesting story about Snow White and the seven dwarfs. We had a Mathematics class where we were taught to count. We also had a games period where we just ran on the ground with a football. I hardly got a touch but it was refreshing to get some air.
When the time came to leave the school, I was extremely happy. My mother was waiting outside and I ran into her arms. “I missed you beta,” she said.
“I missed you too mummy,” I told her with a beaming smile.
“Where is your water bottle?” she asked me after that.
“Oh no, I forgot it,” I told her, suddenly swept with guilt.
“It’s okay. Always remember to carry your water bottle when you leave school okay,” she told me and called for a rickshaw.
After coming home, I switched on the TV and started watching Cartoon Network – the only channel meant for kids during those times. The images kept me hooked and I was lost in that world for a long time.
“You have such a nice memory. I hardly remember my first day at school,” Leena told me. We had reached the bar where we were supposed to have drinks. We decided to order some whiskey and soda and continued our conversation.
“I joined school a little later than usual. I was four years old. Most people join Nursery when they are just three,” I told her.
“Oh, I was three when I joined. I remember waiting for the final bell, but I was a very obedient girl in school. I completed all my homework and scored good marks throughout. It was only when office life hit me did I start getting depressed,” she said.
“Are you in touch with any of your kindergarten friends?” I asked.
“Not really. Though I speak to them sometimes, it is mostly mundane small talk. The camaraderie that we shared as children has been lost,” she said.
“It’s the same with me. I don’t even have anyone’s phone number. I just know them as Facebook friends. I am close to some school friends though. It’s just that I met them after fifth standard,” I told her.
“It’s nice talking about school days. So many memories come back. I wish there was a time machine with which we could go back,” she said.
“Hahaha, I wish so too. I had read a novel a few years ago called Swami and Friends. It was by RK Narayan. It’s pretty good and takes you back to your school days,” I told her.
The night passed by with similar conversations. When it was time to say goodbye, I felt a pang of sadness similar to what I felt on my last day of school. I knew we would meet again, but separation was still painful. Life had come a long way since school but it was still beautiful.
Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.