It took me a long time to write this. I was asking myself what I owed to Chinmaya Vidyalaya. A lot. But I did not want this note to turn out to be a flowery article of hollow praise, lacking heart. Neither do I want anybody reading this to not fully take in what my school did for me. A fine balance is to be struck between the two and hence I tried my level best to do so.
It has been more than two years since I left the Vidyalaya. But it seems to me only days ago that I wore the brown and white proudly. The school was my second home for 8 years, a place I yearned for, and curiously enough, still do. Wandering through the corridors, looking out at the garden during lectures, bickering with friends, standing in the assembly, travelling places for quizzing, memories come gushing back , unbidden guests who are mighty reluctant to leave.
I am yet to love my college as much. For some strange reason, even with all the freedom offered by the college life, I prefer the comparatively under-the-reins fun I had at school. Maybe it was due to the over-expectations about college life that I found it wanting. Or maybe it is due to my inherent laziness which requires opportunities to be held out to me in a platter instead of me taking the initiative. Or maybe I resent being a small fish in a big pond and liked being a big fish in a small pond. Whatever it is, I am not doing the things which school helped bring out in me, after I have landed here.
When I say the things which school brought out in me, there’s a pretty long list to be ticked off. School made me what I am, today. And whatever I grow up to become tomorrow, school will have had more say in it than college. Being a Chinmayite has always worked to my advantage. The name carries respect and pedigree of a high order. Whatever, if any, talents I have was molded by the school. Different teachers have been instrumental in recognizing my talents and my weaknesses. I won’t name any teachers here since they’re too numerous to name. Lest I should leave out one of them inadvertently, it would be gross disrespect on my part and hurtful to them.
I joined Chinmaya Vidyalaya in fifth standard, a kid heartbroken at having to leave his old friends and feeling out of place in a far-off school amidst strange children. I used to weep silently during the Chinmayashtakam and then make up reasons for the tears, if asked. I wonder if any of my classmates then thought about why the new kid always got dust in his eyes during the assembly. The hour-long journey too, was hard on me till I finally got used to it.
Slowly I took to the new school and the new pals. Friendships were made, some of which endure to this day. Classes from sixth standard onwards were at Chala. So we entered the new campus, which was under construction then. It was in sixth standard that I discovered the pleasures of reading, a habit which has served me well. The school library fed me Enid Blytons and Hardy Boys which were my stepping stones to the world of English fiction. Incidentally, I remember I lost the first book I borrowed from the library and had to buy another copy to replace it. I haven’t lost a library book since, though purses, umbrellas and pens have kept up the disappearing act on me through the years.
I started to go quizzing in the sixth standard. Quizzing was a passion of mine throughout my school years and I doubt any other institution would have lent me as much opportunities as my alma mater did. The school has never flinched from sending us to any event if we had qualified to go or if we wanted to go, however far it was. This goes for many other events apart from Quiz, like Tennis, Chess, football etc. In my own experience, four Chennai trips and an absolutely awesome Delhi trip, not to mention several events in the state itself testify to this fact. We did the school proud on some occasions, couldn’t do so on other occasions, but the reception back home was never cold. We were lauded for success and praised for our efforts when success was elusive.
I fancy myself to be a fledgling writer and the credit to this goes to my English teachers over the years. They helped me build my style and self-esteem; maybe even bloat it a little by their overestimating my skills. I got the conviction that I could write passably well, ever since then I have been inflicting my ‘works’ on them and on my longsuffering friends. When Indian Express came to the school for the Youth Express, I even got a chance to try my skills on the unsuspecting public. If any of them had called me up to complain of ‘waste disposal in public places ‘, I’d have pointed my English teachers out to them. For good or for bad, they made me love the language and they will get a fair share of whatever my literary adventures bring me.
My ultimate ambition in life is to write a book. Not any book, a bestseller at that. From being a young kid to a young man, my ambitions have ranged from being a train driver to being a pilot to being an engineer. But there is a point where you realize what you really want. I believe I know mine. And God willing, if I am able to fulfill it at some point of my life, I will not forget the origins of it all.
Another pet dream of mine is to be famous enough, one day, so as to be invited to the Vidyalaya as a guest to give away prizes. What in the world, could give a man greater pride, than to walk down that aisle in the garden and listen to thousands of young hands clapping him on, his eyes roving up and down the corridors where he himself once stood? My friend Zamrud Wajdi, super senior at school and classmate at CET have already had that honor, as a result of the acclaim he received due to his exploits in the NCC. I envy him and hope to emulate it one day. Of course, it’d be easy once I fulfill my other ambition. 😉
Mornings bring to mind assemblies which were commanded very ‘expertly’ by yours truly for a year. There were complaints that my “School Attention” came across only as “Cool Attention”. Which I denied vehemently of course, until a teacher told me as much. Helping the poor souls who forget the pledge midway, to avoid humiliation, by muttering the pledge sideways was another amusing experience. The most memorable occasion was of course, when I kicked off the assembly with a “School Disperse” instead of a “School Attention”. This absent-mindedness was a trademark of mine, during the school years. My class teachers will remember me being punctually late for everything. Any number of zero-periods spent outside still hasn’t cured THAT in me.
Looking back, there’s a lot more yet to tell. But for good or for bad, I’m not writing my memoirs, merely a collage of my school life will do. Sights and sounds which spring up are of various hues. Academic triumphs are a thing of the distant past with studies in a downhill slide at college. But oddly enough, studies are overshadowed by the other half of school life, which was the least important then.
The last 3 years are unsurprisingly the ones, which stay afresh in my mind. The fun we had in class. The absolute ruckus in the school buses. Evenings spent playing football at the ground and then the long walk down the hill. The excursions which were amazing experiences in bonding. Friendships built in the most vulnerable age of life. Pangs and passions of adolescence. The rapport we shared with the teachers – Incidentally, the lack of which is the single worst factor I find in college.
I miss everything. I miss school. I can say unabashedly that I miss my school. The admission may seem quite out of place, coming from a student pursuing a professional course and about to set out to face the world, but there you have it, the truth. I have missed my school from the moment I left it. Even with the glamour of a much-trumpeted College life beckoning, I knew I was leaving some part of me there, when I set out. I may sound clichéd, but I will give anything to live in the past for a week. And then, once the week got over, maybe I would give more for it continue forever.