Now a days when I see children going to school , getting up early into the bus and around the world in three hours and reaching school at ten, makes their school life.
I feel how lucky I was, not just myself but "we were"( our generation) to have a school life as free as careless birds without harsh and tedious academic schedules.( I am an unlucky guy who had to give special tuition for three LKG students a few years back. When their mom introduced me to them saying "this is your tuition teacher" her son asked "mom.. is this tuition something eatable...?")
My magnificent school memoirs starts from my 2nd standard class onwards.. before that, a misty memory... My first day in schools were always bitter, even though there was no specific reason for that.
I was hailing from a place where there are no hills..Only plain land and water bodies. And I reached to the land of hills..Malappuram for my schooling. My parents were govt employees and they were destined to be nomads.So it was a day today affair for us. From one place to another.
That was my first journey in train after I had reached enough consciousness. I can recollect that night where I stayed slumber less, watching the drifting and fading lights. When I travel in trains during night, reminiscence of that day enters my mind... evoking inexplicable delight and varied emotions in subconscious mind that I cant etch out.
And I do remember, the confused sensation of panic that started from my belly to my heart, when I saw deep abyss on the sides of road, while I was travelling in bus.
When I reached the place we are supposed to, I heard a prayer call from a mosque, that again lit a fire in my heart. I wondered at the girls who were wearing a shroud on their head. It seemed to me that they were ashamed of showing their hair outside. But later I came to know that its a religious practice.
Our parents took us-my brother and me- to the school which was about one and a half km away from our home. My father was also a teacher in another school, which I was unaware until he took me to his school and I saw him teaching students.
We reached school at about 11 in the morning, a lower primary school in a flimsy condition. We were lucky enough to get a warm reception over there. Teachers were eager to fill up forms and while the formalities of a school joining was going on I heard the "tring tring tring" of school bell indicating an interval.
There started whole the mess. Somehow word spread faster than fire that two students from some other "country" have reached their school to join. The three windows and one door of office room were surrounded by students all on a sudden. They were bustling around the windows and door, to have a look at us, as if we were landed on earth from mars or like some newly brought strange animals in a zoo. They stared at us, some hundred eyes... I could listen the shouting like"get lost you idiot.. Let me also see them.." ,"I haven't seen yet..", and finally those who were not able to see us pulled down the others hanging on to the windows by holding their legs, because I could very well hear a yelling " oh..come on you dirty guy, don't pull my leg...". The "law and order" worsened and a teacher went out with a rod outside and chased them away. Even before he reached back the windows and door became house full again.. We sat among them like scapegoats. I was admitted to 2nd standard and my brother to 4th.
The next day our neighbour girls, Rubeena, Jaseena-my class mates- and Bava a 3rd standard student were in charge of us. To take us to school and bring back.It was a month of June, I still can feel the thin, silver string like rain that wetted me on that day. The tiny droplets were shining on my hair like jwells. So far in my life I have not seen a rain that was so tender...
All the way to my school, Jaseena was asking me a number of questions. "baby..whats your name..?" "baby where are you coming from.." and so on. Each and every question had a prefix "baby". As a colleague and a Man, I got insulted at this salutation which is used for addressing small Kids. But there was no room for annoying at her, because their language was quite unintelligible to me then. Even though it was malayalam, our mother tongue, the slang was entirely different and tough to pronounce and understand. And my answers were restricted to a nodding or a humming. But my brother seemed to manage somehow with them.
The school was opposite to a mosque,a mysterious one, where I have never entered.One side of our school was a Khabarstan or cemetery, an arboraceous cemetery.Later I came to know from My friends that there lived "Jinns" , which would enter into people who pass by in the night. So it always gave me frightening illusions.
In those days we never carried a cumbersome bag.We had only a few books , a slate and some pencils, that's all.Most of the boys never used a bag,instead they tied them together with a rope or rubber band.But Girls were specific to use some kind of bag and the large umbrellas which was made up of cotton cloth which we used in those days , has come to an extinction.
On that day class stated and continued without any hastls for me.During interval everybody went out to pass urine.The three girls came to me and asked"are u not going to piss?". Each and every time they asked me a question, I took my own time to translate it into my language. The word piss in their slang resembled to me as "plate". So I reached a conclusion that they might have asked "Haven't u brought a plate?"and I answered "I haven't brought one".Abruptly the three girls burst to laughs. Without stopping they laughed until they had pain in their kidneys. I was ashamed and decided not to answer those strangely speaking idiots , even if they ask something.I knew that I had given a foolish answer.
All the time the students were staring at me, standing around me. They scrutinized my shape, actions words and everything , to reach some kind of conclusion. I heard them murmuring. I accused them that they are talking in "Tamil" for which they retorted as I am the one who speaks Tamil. I wanted to sit near either Rubeena or Jaseena. But there was no way... Poor me.., I pitied myself.
The next chronicle I had to face on that very first day itself was the "Arabic class". As soon as the Arabic teacher with a beard that is specific to goats, a turban with red mulmal cloth and white cloths, entered all children stood up and wished "asalamu alaikkum" instead of "good morning". I became so nervous and felt as if world is toppling because till then I haven't heard such a strange language. I had a strong intention to cry,because the situation became more and more worse.I cursed my self to be amidst of those "strangely speaking idiots" absolutely helpless.
To my wonder,before the commencement of the class I saw a few children running out fast as deer ,I blinked at them in surprise. If it were in my native school the teacher would have appointed some strong fellows to arrest them and he would treat them with a rod for running out of class.But here nobody paid attention to them.
The teacher then started Arabic dictation.He dictated "Davathun" Kithaabun",and everybody started writing. I sat there with trembling hands and heart.I couldn't write anything. I began perspiring and started exuding my confidence the least that I had. I just stared at my slate and the teacher. I peeped at the boy sitting next to me.I saw him"drawing" some strange script in his slate from right to left. I cursed my parents for getting me that school. After a couple of minutes,the teacher came to me and said "This is Arabic....you need not learn it.If you want you can go out". OH!!! I sighed deeply. That was a moment of complete relaxation for me, which I would not be able to describe.
Arabic was not a compulsory language for students other than Muslims. So Hindu students went out and played during Arabic classes.Later on I myself became one among them and we five students made all Arabic periods extremely enjoyable and exotic hours that I myself finds it difficult to believe now. Because I wonder whether its me who had all those fun and merriment in those days.
We experimented some business enterprises in those hours.We brought back the age old tradition of "Barter System" into practice , unaware of its significance in History.we collected fallen arecanuts from arecanut orchards, and it was a tough and tight item of competition for us so as to know who would be collecting more arecanuts, without the concent of its owners-or we stole them-and exchanged them to a near by shop against sweets.Each of us collected 10-15 arecanuts and when we exchanged this, the shop owners gave us 3-5 cheap candies. To get this 3 candies we had to negotiate to the cost of 300 candies. Even before we protested against this exploitation of shop owners, the owners of arecanut orchards came to beat us with a huge rod. We ran away and escaped. Fearing that complaint would reach in front of the Headmaster against us, one guy went home saying "my belly is upset.. I have loose motion". Finally what we had feared was happened. The headmaster called us to the staff room and gave us a strict warning to not steal the arecanuts hereafter, along with the support of some morale stories. When the events went into oblivion, we again started stealing. More elaborate and diversified this time with items like cashew nut , coconut, mango, pepper etc..
Our schooldays were opulent with pleasing events. Academic work load and Home works never made any inroads into the territory of our merriment in those days. And more things left to write, an encounter with a ten foot King Cobra( only king cobra that I have ever seen directly in my life other than in zoos), A glimpse of beautiful "Mermaid" girl, Spectating a Love making behind rocks, swimming in the flood water , a "school beauty" and some silly romances, and other stories.. Which I hope can share with you in the coming days...