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Classroom. Chapter #6

Its been 2 months since my 3 year under-graduation got over. By virtue of no gap years, its only been that many years since I left school only to realize that I can’t get over it. By virtue of this gap year, I have the time to pen it down.

‘Gap year’ is an interesting concept and shows the obsession of the society with the fact that learning and education can only be availed formally. The other interesting concept, one which has given me some of the best memories from school, is that of a House system. A few days ago, the world celebrated 20 years of Harry Potter by showing their loyalty towards their favourite among Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, Gryffindor or Slytherin while it struck me how important is this system for every school-going student.

The sports teacher, Ahluwalia Ma’am, entered on our first day of school and read out our House names from a register. Little did we know then that these freedom fighter names that we’ve been attached to, were going to be one of the most special things of our school life. All we did then was laughed on the little pun in her surname, Aloo-walia, with all due respect to her. We had four houses in junior school named as Nehru (Red), Tagore (Blue), Gandhi (White), and Netaji (Green). For once, houses only meant that on two particular days in the week, I had to wear white by virtue of me being Gandhi house. Back home, Mummy wasn’t too happy with the idea of me being in the same. Any other house would have meant low maintenance of the P.T. T-Shirt and as a child, I was an un-named endorser of  ‘Daag Ache Hai.’ But, it did not take much time for us to become patrons of our houses. The first Run-Touch-Run Back-Tag was where it all started. Four rows of four colours were aligned for the whistle to blow and the race to start. Winning the race might have been the best thing to have happened. But losing the race made me realize that the next time I am running, Netaji house needs to be defeated. Loyalties got etched when Sports Day happened which shouldn’t have been the case. We were too young to realize that in the name of discipline points for the house, we were not being allowed to act notoriously. I cannot just do away with Sports Day without mentioning Free Milo which we tried to sneak out twice. Apart from all the strategies behind doing so, our focus never shifted from the ticking scoreboard. Seeing the senior classes race, we realized that this loyalty is no where near to ending. At Rabindra Sarobar Stadium, I found a home (Or, house?!) inside my home, Birla High School.

Our major chunk of activities like public speaking and music started in the third standard. And so, the thirst to keep contributing for Gandhi House kept growing. There were charts pinned to soft-boards where we got red stars for our houses if we performed well and black stars if we misbehaved. Of course, I was competitive enough to ensure the net red stars (Red Stars – Black Stars) were always the most in class but that isn’t what I loved the most. The best part was when the teacher finally decided to negatively mark a student and asked someone to volunteer draw the black stars on the charts. Out came running the representatives from the other three houses opening their shoes, climbing the chairs and drawing the respective stars. The other good thing because of this was that Back Benchers felt a sense of employment.

Pro Kabaddi League happened much later. Our inter-house Kabbadi competitions were held in junior school, and we were boastful enough to call ourselves Pros. In classes IV and V we were made vice-captains and captains of our respective houses, and I had the opportunity to serve my house in both these positions. More than being proud of the investiture ceremony, I was ecstatic about the fact that we got to move out of our classes while the classes were on. Just when junior school was ending, one of my racing partners died while on his vacation. We only spoke before races on Sports Day. It felt like losing a very important family member. A family called Gandhi House.

Enter senior school. Now there were six houses which only meant that we recognize two more freedom fighters – Shivaji and Pratap. Ashoke came in for Nehru. (Details mentioned to not hurt Blue house students) We were told that we’ll all be shuffled into new houses. I wanted to don a different colour. I wished I was in the same house as my best friend’s. I missed the sorting hat who I could tell my wishes to. Ashoke went to the first roll number, Gandhi to the next, and it carried on. I was Roll No. 10. Number System was on my side, until there was a twist in the tale that I was in Gandhi House again. I was sad at that moment, but when I see it now I am proud I belonged to the same house for 12 years whereas my mother never got an opportunity to feel good about the same. If we really had a sorting hat, we would have told it to not sort us into any house, only because we had to wear the house badges on days we had Assembly, or otherwise we’ll be detained. It isnt so simple as it may seem. House badges were never in place and why would it be? We were growing teenagers taking pressure of the larger phenomenons in the world and all the schools expects us to care about is a small badge? But in that moment before Assembly started, the largest phenomenon was some 10-20 students running around the whole school for a badge. Any badge, of course. Who would remember our house? Some volunteers did. I was one of those volunteers. *Cinematic Pause*

In senior school, we had to decorate our soft-boards when it was assigned for a particular house, and we were marked on the same. We got this opportunity twice a year and all the 6 times till class eight I did it with all my might and with all my free-riding friends. Senior School made it for certain that in the name of houses we have been exploited. We have been asked to be disciplined, to be prim and proper, to stand in rows properly, to participate in cleanliness drives and to decorate soft-boards too. Good habits are these, but still we have been exploited.

The better opportunities included Debates, Elocutions, Quizzes, etc. Senior school upped the ante with all such competitions. With rising intensity, the rewards were also huge. Two of the most special rewards were – one, being the commander for my house at Annual Sports March Past and two, being judged the best house for the year and getting on the stage as one of the representatives to receive that award. There were pitfalls too. For a house that I had been a been a part for 11 years then, did not elect me as their captain in Class 11 which basically made up for the heart-break in this 12 year affair with my love. My love – Gandhi House.

A home. A family. A love. Being a part of a house introduced me to ways of becoming a true patriot. It gave us an identity as a group which was always guided with one purpose – to get our houses above the rest. Whenever I have visited school in these three years, I have never missed visiting the soft-board in the fountain area which shows the grand points tally of all the houses. I still calculate the points to see if my house, Gandhi house, is winning. Thank you Gandhi House. Thank you Birla High School.

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Classroom. Chapter #5

15th January 2014: A Winter Morning.

Normal school is over and so are the selections exams. A day in January, so rare, where I did not need to wake up at 6. A winter morning, where I wasn’t struggling to get out of my blanket, or trembled with cold while dressing up. 12 years of winter mornings behind me where each day mummy has given all her efforts in waking me up and I? “Mummy paanch minute aur sone do!” Then eventually leaving home, and checking how much of smoke is being let out from my mouth that day. All of us at Birla High School would know how much cold do girls feel in their skirts, given that we have had half pants for 5 years in the junior school. Then their were the sweaters. ❤ The full sweaters which we wore less, and tied to our waists, more. That was the most awesome thing which ever happened in my school life in winters. The dance classes we needed to attend, bare footed, and all the shrill voices claim, “Zameen kitna thanda hai na?” For once in our junior school days, we would not be too excited for the Air conditioned Computer Labs, given the Celsius dip. Nothing can make a school day better, than no studies taking place at school. Winters meant sports practices.
Middle school set in motion. Mummy’s difficulties in waking up aggravated. Full sweaters were no longer a part of the uniform. There was just the excitement of being in that part of the school, which has always been there since five years now, but never explored. We never realized that we will be missing Junior school only until studies became bullish in class 7 with a dip in our marks. Ties around our neck and small shoulders carrying the oversized blazers, and teachers telling us that blazers are not to worn around the waists.
Class 9 & 10. Senior school. Blazers became our love and so became the pockets in them for they were now home to chits and mobile phones. Photos in blazers had to be clicked. Bless the tailors who sewed five pockets on the blazer, including two on the inside. Winters escaped studies even more. There were march past practices. Sports teachers always had the funny air around them; in their way of speaking, pronunciation or their behavior.

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This was the time, we first realized our love for winters.

Class 11. Go slow, winters. That awesome feeling in the November month that you will soon be wearing blazers. And there was Fare thee Well 2013. Annual exams weren’t too far but our escapist journey continued, this time with the Farewell programme we were organising. Not much of a difference it was; first, we escaped studies, then the studies escaped us. The best winters of my school life. We sat in the classroom only to give attendance for the day. The dance practices, paper work, master of ceremonies practices, making new friends… like life had just begun. A group of students will have to mean some fights. Big and small grudges set in. They say, fun cannot be permanent. They were true. Our fun stopped at the sight and voice of one person, our dear co-ordinator. Winter did not play much of its part, maybe, but there was something about this season that the good things landed up right here.

Class 12. :’) Blazers were soon to be non-existent. Mummy’s struggles were coming to an end. School lessons can no longer be escaped from. School got over. I hid myself in a blanket. 😦

Classroom. Chapter #4

6th November 2013: The last few recess.
There are only a few tiffins, which live till the recess. Those who do, get killed rather ruthlessly. Each tiffin seems an end to 100 years of starving And each bite has endless halves, because everytime you sneak a piece, there has to be another person standing at your back saying, “half kar na.” Then there are times when friends will come to you and say, “paav bhaaji mast tha.” What follows after that, is probably censored. The last few recess. Who has ever loved the food? The fun has always been in looting tiffins, struggling to save them, and struggling even harder to have a bite.
Recess, when the air in corridor feels to be the most fresh and then suddenly comes a backhand hit on your main point. Welcome to tiffin break, it means. 🙂

The canteen. The home to beg, borrow, steal. Searching in there, as to who to catch for treat that day, which wallet to run after or whose food to snatch. There maybe five stars, but canteen’s samosa or bba’s submarine shall always be the food to die for. Who shall fight for 5 Rs now? Who shall now do the fake promises of returning the money the next day? School life ends, and we will no longer be the dogs running, fighting, or starving for food. Its just not the school that is ending, it will be an end to the samosa, the submarine or the fun flips.

Our wild side is not only limited to food. The school ground is another wild thing. Basketball, Volleyball, football are just excuses. In reality, we just keep banging into each other, pushing each other, or dodging each other while running. Somewhere between throwing your junior’s cosco ball, and getting our ball thrown by seniors, we have all grown up. Where else would football be all around with cosco balls? Where else would i be injured so many times? mummy maybe happy. She would no longer find my pants torn at the knees. Where else?

And when? The bell at 10:40 😥 is soon, oblivious. Today, the 6th of November, mummy said while i was leaving for school, “tiffin kar lena.” One of those days, when i wanted to obey her, but could not. Recess. 😥

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