My Fondest School Memories

I think of those days in reverence, wondering what is happening now in my land.  Girls cannot feel safe on the street in the middle of the city where they fear the hyenas in the modern world that takes pride in the trappings of the so-called developments and certifications.

The image was taken from my family album in Canva frame

So many matters line up in my mind when I think of school memories. It comes at the closing of the two months of summer vacation spanning April and May. In the scorching month of March, we burn the midnight oil-the promotion examination we write in the month stands out as the determinant of our future- our promotion to the next class/standard.  

Summer is from March to May. March is the month all hell broke loose in our world- the temple deities do the rounds to visit the subjects. It is the time to celebrate various art and cultural forms. Temples make it a priority to arrange for the best ballet, and the dance troops-leaflets announcing the weekly or ten days programmes arrive at your doorstep with fanfares accompanied by the drumbeats-Chenda a percussion instrument particular for Kerala. 

 The day breaks came with the drumbeats. In every temple, the deity's flag gets hoisted for the annual festival.  An army of resolute believers arrive at your doorsteps carrying colourful flower arrangements on a bow on their shoulders, elephants caparisoned with gold with the temple goddess on their back visit every home in the village- the entourage expects welcome gestures in measures of paddy.  

When all this happened, you stay by your study table.  It is exam time- if you don't want to fail in the class and bring shame to yourself and your family. If you don't want the title of a dumbass, empty-headed bimbo, the one who is determined to break the bench in your class falls straight on your head.   We didn't have all passes.

So, you can imagine the feeling of the escapade the moment you make the last line of the concluding exam-you throw your pen and pencils to the remote corners with the grudge of never finding them back. Ha! the freedom comes with the two-months summer holidays. Trips to family homes are planned-the grandparents, uncles, and aunts wait for you to make you feel like the princes and the princesses. The mango trees and other fruit trees are waiting for you. You show up they lower down to greet you with the juicy gifts.  

The school opening commences on the first of June. It invariably coincides with the menacing South-Western Monsoon. The two months' stay at home starts to kindle in us a wish for socialness- we want to reclaim the joy of the collective bliss. We become busy searching for the pens and the pencils hiding somewhere in the obscure corners. We get new sets of attires, textbooks, writing materials and a math set.  No school uniforms and the accompaniments arriving with that-no school badges on the coats or colour-defined school buses-let alone proper transport- the trappings of modernity were far beyond the national borders. 

There was not all promotion in our time. The headmaster declares the promotion announcement date on the day the school closes.  By that date, we were back home completed the family visits and some of us made the pledge never to repeat the visit. The cousins kept you locked up in the room while playing hide and seek, or an uncle behaved in partiality. The anxiety of the promotion hangs in the form of dark shadows around us.  We tempt the neighbouring gods with large offers to interfere with the promotion list on your behalf. 

My father took immense pride in visiting my school on the promotion day. He, a tall well-built man, walks in the front, followed by a wiry girl struggling to catch up with his pace. I studied in three schools before I matriculated for five years in primary, two in the middle, l and three in high school like any other child in the village. There were no school transports or autorickshaws. We walked to and back from school and carried lunch in steel or aluminium containers. 

Ours was a hilly terrain- the high school stood on a hilltop- we had to cross a humongous rock formation that had cropped out of the earth to reach the school. Legends held that a type of green growth on the trees swaying in the rock valley was the remnants of Seetha's wedlock that Raman had broken off from her neck and dashed high into the air- declaring the closure of their matrimony- they landed on the trees and took a new birth on them. 

My father was sure of finding his daughter's name on the top of the promotion list.  After his usual chitchat with other parents and the headmaster, he was ready for the treat. He takes me to the only all-men coffee shop in our village- he announces his pride moment to his bosom people. The men lavish their praises on the father-daughter duo-the little girl settled beside her father makes a shy smile.  

My father ordered me milk-water-milk boiled with water. He kept the view that coffee and tea are the adult's business. When we step out of the shop, two packets are ready for us-my father's order for the confectionaries and the daily fried items. 

The packets are in calico covers-carry bags in the plastic were unheard of then. I walk in the front now carrying the small bag imagining the bright smile on my mother's face, who would be standing in front of our home to welcome back us. 

I think of how we young boys and girls walked together to the school every day. We had to trek along a narrow path that rambled through the wilderness climbing up to the rock top, and down from one shaking stone to the next. We moved as a single body- each took the other in faith, care, a practised kinship, and the village ethos. Not one incident I can recollect of a young man harming a girl with grievous intentions. Not that we were saints-there were Romeos and Juliets among us, and those keeping unpronounced love for another in the inner layers of their hearts.

I think of those days in reverence, wondering what is happening now in my land.  Girls cannot feel safe on the street even in the daylight. No day breaks there without a woman murdered or their bodies torn apart by lecherous men, who take pride in the trappings of the so-called developments and certifications.

I submit this post in memory of those good old school days when young boys and girls took care of each other in trust and humanity.    


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