Old Habits Die Hard – Part 3 – 6th Standard

If almost failing the Science exam was one thing, trying to pretend a heart ailment for bunking a Science unit test was the  complete extreme of my actions. Every day, those who had to go to the General Hospital were lined up and sent after the Morning Assembly was over. So quite often, I would find some or the other excuse like eye-pain, eye-infection, sprain, allergy etc to somehow go to the hospital and thus be able to bunk the first period which was always default ‘Human Values’ except when there was an exam or unit test.(ironically I just hate anything to do with hospitals, and begin to nauseate immediately upon entering one due to the smell[however sterile the smell maybe, guess I just hate the sterile smell itself], however the two hospitals which are an exception to that list, are the general hospital and the super-specialty hospital at Parthi which I found to be strangely devoid of any of that horrible smell)

So one fine day, when I had run out any more excuses to bunk the classes by going to the General Hospital, I decided I had to somehow bunk the HV classes, and so set upon devising my next excuse to get to the Hospital. This would be my boldest attempt yet, at creating excuses. I decided(don’t know why I used to always think that when doctors put a stethoscope over yur chest and back and ask you to breathe in-and-out, they were simply trying to find some patterns, which I then believed, from my limited knowledge gleaned mostly from watching movies, that I could simply fake symptoms of some mysterious heart ailment), to change my breathing style into spurts whenever Doctor Aunty(Sunanda Aunty, of whom more will be described in the next standard experiences) closed her eyes to concentrate on the stethoscope or looked up or around while asking me to breathe.

So it came to be, that she gave me tablets for a few days, but I kept returning with the same complaint, a sharp pain in the lower part of my heart, specially whenever I do strenuous things like running or jogging or lifting my bed. She must have found it strange not to notice anything, but never mentioned anything to me. And after I came twice with the same complaint, she sent me to that long-awaited destination, General Hospital. I spent a good part of 4 HV classes on consecutive days, happily enacting the same drama over again for the doctors at General Hospital, who tried out a different medication on each day, and still couldn’t come up with what the ailment was, since they couldn’t find anything wrong, and I kept claiming there was some pain. So they decided to wait a week, and see if another medication they prescribed would bring about any change. As usual I took the tablets, threw them straight into the dustbin, happy at having bunked another class again(yes, since we used to get those tablets free, I never knew their value then).

In the meantime, some serious developments took place in the  classroom. A lot of times, I had got delayed in the Hospital during those checkups and as a result had missed out on the 2nd period of most days, Science. This wasn’t a very good thing. Firstly because I was very very very interested in Science, and secondly, because the Unit Test we scheduled after 2 days, and I knew absolutely nothing to write for the Science Test. Probably the first time I hadn’t studied. I was terrified like hell, not for failing, but more for my image. I was generally regarded as quite brilliant and especially so at Science, which I really was, back then. I was afraid of what would happen to all that image if I failed this Test, which I surely would, if I was forced to write it. So I began weighing my options and found the only solution was to somehow bunk the Test, and the only possible way, was to get someplace that would eat up more time than the Science period to somehow get back after the Science period.

So I set the plan in motion by complaining the next day, of severe pain again, and was marched back to the Hospital, where the doctor must have decided either he must be dumb, or I must be mad. Whichever it was, he decided to put an end to this charade, and told me he was referring me to the Super Specialty Hospital for tomorrow, which was exactly what I wanted. My joy knew no bounds. At last I had somehow managed to bunk or atleast make sure I would bunk one single test in my life(sadly that was the last test I bunked, I never got to bunk another one all my life). I spent that night trying to rehearse how I would fake my pain tomorrow, because the tests were obviously going to be more exhaustive. In my limited knowledge I tried to devise a foolproof plan to fool people who were in that field for more than 15 to 20 years. I decided a strategy of alternating my breathing styles between fast, slow and gasps would be enough to solve the issue, specially if it was done in a manner of random repetition of each of these with seemingly no patterns between any two sets of breaths.(must have probably been one of the few people who put so much thought and effort into professionally acting sick)

The grand morning arrived, and I went around telling everybody that I would be bunking the Test today, since I had to go to the “Super Specialty Hospital”. And atleast for a few minutes they looked at me in awe, because most of them hadn’t ever gone in, only seen it from outside(me included, that was my first trip in, atleast I got to get in that way. After Assembly we left for the Hospital in the Ambassador, with Aarti Aunty driving, and soon reached inside. Since it was the first visit for us three students who had come, Aarti Aunty took around on a tour of the entire hospital, showing us some sights that left us spellbound for the rest of our lives(atleast the rest of my life). Soon it was the time of reckoning, and I was taken to a bed and made to wait till the doctor finished with the patient next to me. Then he came to me, asked me what my name and problem was, and took me into another room where there was only a single bed with a monitor(TV, didn’t know the word Monitor then) in front of it. My shirt was taken off, and a green gel was applied all over my chest, and he had a kind of rubbery sponge handle that he moved over my chest all the while looking at the screen, asking to breathe in different styles. I saw some gibberish lines moving across the monitor, as well as a representation of my heart and the way it changed its beat each time I breathed differently.

So I set about the ultimate challenge, fooling the experts in their own field without even having any knowledge about it. I thought it definitely put the doctor off the track, since he kept asking me if was breathing the way he was asking, and he kept putting a serious expression through it all. Then after about 3 or 4 minutes which seemed to last atleast an hour, he told me to put on my shirt, and leave. I asked him, what my problem was. He replied in the sweetest way I ever knew of somebody seeing through my game “the problem with you is, you have absolutely no problem”. However my feelings were, the one person whose face didn’t hide any signs of relief was Doctor Aunty. So we began the journey back. I kept praying Aarti Aunty would drive more slowly, because I had no idea what the time was, and whether the test was over by now or not. Finally I reached the classroom just in time, to find Beena Maam leaving the class with all the answer papers. That day I really believed I would never see a happier day in my life.

to be continued… … …

Old Habits Die Hard – Part 2 – 6th Standard

To think I had improved would be an overstatement. I began to honestly feel I had improved simply because I was never dragged into HM’s office throughout my 6th Standard. But on a more sub-conscious level, whenever I thought about it, I never found anything in me that had changed. It was as if I was still the same person, but the circumstances that led me to HM’s office every year, were simply not happening now. Though I never thought of it that way then, now that I realise, it must have been within me all along, only I never had the opportunity to get myself dragged into the office.

This was the year when I got back into an old habit of mine, copying, probably for the last time in my life. I don’t know what led me into it, probably the long gap from attempting to study and the subsequent pressure to study to appear good or probably something else.Whatever the reasons, I forced my self to appear hardworking and sincere, because I found the results being appreciated(thank Vasanthi Aunty for that) and therefore felt like being good(though it was all an act, nevertheless, it is very difficult to act good). This copying thing was a one-off experiment I had decided to try and so teamed up with IAK. Since after the 5th Standard, the batches continued to be divided into Ooty and Parthi, we both were in ‘B’ Section, and since we had joined in Parthi itself, he was Roll No. 1 and I was Roll No.2.

Since for the exams we were to be seated in attendance order, he was in the first bench, right under the invigilator’s nose, and I was right behind him in the second bench. We devised an ingenious way to not only get through the exams, but do so in flying colours.(Ok. Many would find nothing ingenious in it, but back then, it was very ingenious to us, since nobody else was trying it. Also it seemed like something made for us[wish I had known about SWOT analysis then]. It complemented our both strengths very well, as well as brought about a kind of synergy between us)

We decided to learn half the syllabus each, for the half-yearly exams. For every subject, he would read the first-half of the notes and I would read the second-half. And I mean read as in learn it to the maximum level of perfection that can be achieved from mere reading of a book. If any of us was asked something from our half, no matter from any nook or corner, we could answer it a hundred without getting it wrong a single time. Back then we never knew of words like ‘division of labour’ or ‘specialisation’, though now those words seem to make a lot of sense. So we dutifully learnt our respective portions, and we would tell each other the answers to the paper based on whose syllabus it was. And for the Final exams, we would reverse our positions in the book and get to know the entire book in a phased manner.

The one special character who deserves mention in the midst of all this is Raghu Ram. He was our junior, and used to sit next to me for the exams. For every exam we both used to have an open challenge on who would submit the paper first. The challenge was to not only finish within the first 2 hours and submit, it was about who would submit first and also score more. The moment the exam would begin,he would ask for 5 or 6 additionals and never raise his head till he finished. Whereas, the moment the exam began, IAK and I would tick off which questions fell into whose share of the bargain, and begin forth the exchange process. Despite that I was always the one to submit before Raghu Ram, however when the results were out, ti was always he who scored in the Nineties and IAK and I always scored in the Eighties. So much for speed.

It all seemed a fine arrangement until the final exam for Science. We both prepared for our respective halves of the portions. The only twist being, that since very little had been covered before the Half-Yearly exams, and therefore what we learnt for the Half-Yearly exams was hardly 25% of the entire syllabus. Besides, my penchant for maintaining incomplete notes, or rather my laziness for maintaining notes of any kind came to the fore again more acutely in this case. We both studied our halves for the exam. Once we were handed the papers, we both had probably the most whitest/blank of all faces in the room, if there were any. We had absolutely no clue to more than 50% of the questions. And the person to blame was none other than me. I realised that I never had the notes of all that portion of the syllabus to begin with, and secondly IAK got the first half of the portion which we had already studied for half-yearly, and which accounted for only a pitiful 30% of the marks now.

That was probably the last day I copied in my life. The exam left me with so much self-deprivation on my planning and execution abilities, that I decided never to copy again, something I continue to follow religiously even today.

 

P.S.

The 6th Standard was the only year in my whole  school-life(high school included) that I got a Proficiency Prize, and I still have the Blue Slingbag with the Sarva Dharma logo, that I received as the prize. And evertime I look at it, it keeps reminding me, that this was something that I didn’t deserve, something that I cheated to get to. Something that now that I think of, was never worth cheating for. But then, in those days we never studied to get the Proficiency Prize. We only studied or cheated to get praised in class later.

to be continued… … …

Old Habits Die Hard – Part 1 – 6th Standard

I know am back after a very very very very very very long time, so thanks are due to those who kept checking back to see if the procrastinator in me had decided to write on this blog again. To many it might have seemed that it must be the end, but deep in my heart, i always knew i would come back here, because this is where it all started.

Having gone through such a traumatic experience i expected to behave in a such a manner that from the next time anybody needed to be disciplined my name would be quoted as an ideal example to follow. I hoped my name would be exalted as the model of discipline that everyone should follow. So i thought as i stepped out of the room having done the impossible, becoming the only student whose name was in the list of 20 to get admitted. And i seriously believed every word of what i thought at that moment.

However, fate had other plans in store for me. It showed me how little i knew of myself, and how naive i was in thinking that change was so easy and permanent.

The 6th standard brought about 2 things that would stay on in my life.
1. Vasanthi Aunty.
2. Self-Belief.

Though the two might read differently on screen or print, to me they came to mean the very same thing, a belief that nobody ever gave me before. For the first time in my life i couldn’t believe that somebody would go out of their way to teach delinquents like me Suprabatham and Astothram by including it in the Human Values Syllabus and making us learn it and recite it, simply because she found most of us never even knew 2 lines after attending Suprabatham and Astothram for a good 6 years.

This was also the first year when we had access to additional books apart from those that we had to read in the library. The 6th and 7th standard classrooms were stocked with encyclopedias a couple of alphabets for each section(including the girls classrooms), with the rest of the books being scattered among the higher classes of the girls classrooms. Since i had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, i ran through the ones in our class in the first week of school reopening, and from then began to think of where i could get more of these wonderful books that showed me so much of the world that i never knew existed(although i had already run through the complete ‘Tell Me Why’ series at Jhansamma’s house during Holidays, those were more science-oriented, while this was general-purpose).

Needless to say, i ran through the two books in our class within 3 days, and soon had to begin looking for other ways to get more books. So i began the ‘great clandestine exchange’. Every week i would take the 2 books from our class cupboard and exchange it quietly with 2 others from another classroom. This way by the time 3 months were up had run through the whole series of the alphabet, and was left wishing there were more letters in the English alphabet. On one such day, Vasanthi Aunty was taking a class one day and suddenly she asked us what a Beagle was. Immediately i raised my hand and rattled off about it, and went to the cupboard and brought out the book i had just finished (the letters B and C), and showed her the picture of a Beagle. She was so pleased, her eyes were beginning to glint with the first drops of moistness.

Immediately she told me only one thing. “Thandav, when you become big, and become an IAS Officer, and when you come to see me, you must bring sweets.” “Gladly”, i told her. Sadly fate decided otherwise, and am nowhere near interested to becoming one, however, one thing i can promise her, i will definitely take sweets for her. One day i hope to keep the promise.

P.S.

That year-ending, Pandu and Thatha garu came to take me home, and they were discussing with HM Aunty something when i entered the room. Apparently it was something good about me, because everyone was all smiles when i entered. Then the conversation continued, and HM Aunty asked me “What will you become when you grow big?”. Without batting an eyelid, i replied “An IAS Officer”. Everyone’s eyes just popped out. “Why?” they collectively asked. I knew the answer but couldn’t tell them so, and therefore told me because everyone in my class tells me it is a nice job. The real answer was because i wanted to get sweets for Vasanthi Aunty.

to be continued… …

The End Of Innocence – 5th Standard

The year came to its inevitable end, and we all packed up, all eager to go home. I was taking back with me, not only the physical baggage, which I anyway never carried, but also the emotional baggage of experiences, ones I had never had before that year, and ones I believe I never had had ever after.

Maybe because I chose to learn lessons from each of them, maybe because they left too deep a scar that hasn’t yet healed, whatever the reason, the endpoint being I never felt that way about things anymore. Maybe I never felt those experiences anymore because I chose to not react the way I did then to them anymore. Or maybe they were the last in stock, of such experiences, and God was done testing me in that manner. Well, proved to be wrong later, but then, that much imperfection does go a long way in helping the growth.

As usual, I went home, to enjoy yet another two months of uninterrupted joy(its a different matter that it was also during the same holidays that I ‘ran away’ from home, only to return for entirely stupid reasons, I mean stupid for a person who ran away. But I won’t post that here, or else Pandu will kill me). The months passed like hours and soon I was waiting for the ‘clothes letter’, the one that would tell me the time was up, and that I had better pack up. Besides, I had got myself a new suitcase, one to fill in all my belongings, one that gleamed for quite a long time, and was therefore eagerly waiting to fill something into it.

And then it arrived.

A letter, that looked in all ways like the ‘clothes letter”. A blue ‘Inland’ letter, which used to be typewritten, containing the marks and accompanied with the clothes list. Only, this one didn’t have the clothes list attached to it. It had another sheet instead, which said in as polite terms as possible, that I was being let go of, and was no longer required to attend the school. It also said that my parents could come and collect the TC whenever they wanted and that there was no hurry, the important emphasis of the letter being that I should never be brought back there.

It was really the first time, (and in many ways, the only time of that kind) that I found myself short of words. They just wouldn’t come out of my mouth, despite ‘talking’ being the need of the hour, since everybody wanted to know what feats I had done that got me such a rare recognition. I just couldn’t speak not only because the words wouldn’t come out, but more because I myself could not comprehend, what I had done, that had so much as upset the powers that be. So I just maintained that bland “I myself don’t know, how can I tell you” look throughout the rest of the holidays.

Then began the long journey, back to school. Although I was instructed not to come along, I was anyway taken along, along with a list of ‘probable’ clothes that were needed. The train seemed to take its own sweet time to get moving, and every two minutes, my grandfather would keep staring at me(and maybe muttering inside, “what has this bloody fellow done this time”, because nobody really forgot the ‘Guiness Book’ feat, and they kept saying that was the reason I was being kicked out). I was wishing the train would crash somewhere due to some cyclone or something, and then maybe we wouldn’t have to go back to school. Atleast I just couldn’t imagine what I would do standing in the room waiting to be surely kicked out.

But trains never behave the way you really want them to. Seems they have a mind of their own, which is bent on disagreeing with every passenger’s wish at the same time. So we finally reached Dharmavaram without any unfortunate(fortunate in my mind then) incident and caught the waiting bus to Puttaparthi. The bus reached there ten minutes earlier. Seems everything on this earth was conspiring to make my life as miserable as possible, and my pondering over them was not making things any easier.

Soon we were dressed and loading the luggage into an auto, we were headed towards the school. Still don’t know why atleast that auto didn’t crash into something or overshoot the school into some wilderness where nobody knew anybody, but anyway it didn’t. Once we were into the school, and neared HM’s office, we were greeted by Manorathi maam(only knew her name because she never taught us any subject till then, however everybody knew she had a fearsome reputation) who checked on a list in her hand(the list of the 21 students who were already kicked out) and politely asked my grandfather why I was brought along, since they has specifically mentioned that I was not to show my face there again. My grandfather mumbled something about meeting HM one last time or something to that effect and was able to convince her to let us go inside. So even my last shred of hope was shredded beyond redemption, and I was forced to go inside.

I finally entered, after being almost dragged in, and stood there waiting for the big bang. My Judgement Day had arrived, and I didn’t look in the best of form to even sit through it. But that day the day belonged to people. My grandfather and HM. We were inside for the better part of an hour, an hour that saw many tears, many accusations, many denials and more refusals than I ever saw ever or was ever to see(it was also the hour when for the first time the ‘fatherless’ card was played out in the discussions, and it would be played out many more times later in school life).

I finally walked out of the room having done with the fees payment and in the process of walking out they way I did, created history. I was the only one among the 21 in the hit-list that walked for more than a full day in that campus again, in fact I waled there for 2 more years. I still don’t know what worked inside the room that day, the 1st of June, 1995, but what I do know is that, it is the day when I lost the last shred of my innocence. I lost it through the two lessons that I learnt out of it.

1. I wasn’t invincible, above the law, or for that matter, I wasn’t even indispensable. I was only as good as my behaviour throughout my contact with a person was. I was only as good as were people who weren’t worser. If I happened to be the worse, there was only one way the door would point, outwards. Nobody was desperately trying to cling on to me, because I was smart or because I talked smooth. Everybody had their own list of problems, and I was never going to be allowed to be the first on that list. If I became a problem, they would just let go, I was not a problem that they had to live with, there were other problems more pressing than me.

If I believed that because I had got into a school that thousands could not get into every year, and would therefore not be kicked out irrespective of what I did, then I was not only stretching my dream too far, I was also refusing to come out of it, before it burst. If I believed that I would be kept in because of who I was(a nobody), then I was fooling only one person, myself. And besides, the next time also, not only would the train not crash, it would arrive earlier also. God would make sure I never missed that train or auto, the next time, if only to prove to me what my place was in this world.

2. There exists something called forgiveness, and every person on this planet deserves a second chance. That was the culmination of all my learning at primary school, a fact that I would never and can never forget all my life. And the one person who taught me that is HM. When you have decided to jump from a building and die, and have already jumped, it takes takes the greatest amount of love, to stop midway, to save a child who slipped down by mistake. That was the love and compassion that HM had. It was she who persevered when Prassunna maam and Jayarathi maam were urging her from behind to get it over with, and move on ot the next person, because there were more than 300 students still waiting. She still decided to spend that time listening to my grandfather cry about my potential and future out of that school, and took the pain to decide what that one more chance could do to my life, rather than go with a decision that was easy for everybody concerned in the school. She decided that I deserved more than the deal I was being handed, despite strong objection from even Shruthi maam(I still don’t know what spark she saw in me), and that giving me that extra rope in life was going to take me farther in life than cutting the rope was.

But why should she care? Whether the rope being cut put me on the street or whether the rope extended would not also extend the torture for the teachers for another two years. She cared because she truly loved each and every one of the students, and it really pained her to see such students(ones she treated like her own children) develop into what can be mildly called juveniles. So she believed that if her decision could save atleast one student from such a fate, her life would be worth it, and believe me she has done this a hundred times over, I wasn’t the first, and I certainly wasn’t the last.

She taught me that in life, everybody deserves a second chance. A chance that may save the relation from going bad, a chance that may do more good than the rejection of the first time. She taught me that this is a merciless world and among the pack of hyenas eyeing someone’s blood, being the one with a heart is what mattered most. It is the one that is remembered most, and the one revered most.

These pieces of knowledge signaled the end of an era of innocence, where I believed all actions would be taken in a light spirit, and that I was still a child who could have as much fun as he wanted on anything that caught is fancy. The world was no more willing to indulge me and be my playtoy, it was time to understand that and live upto that.

– GUPTA GHOST

Vinasha Kaale Vipareetha Buddhi – Part 5 – 5th Standard

A lot more incidents come to my mind(atleast about 50) about 5th Standard than I don’t want to share, because they were not my personal incidents and besides a lot of people would be much happier if such incidents remained buried forever. Therefore I shall post one last incident involving me(and no, this isn’t about the Gupta Ghost story, although that did happen in the 5th Standard, however it has been reserved to be narrated after the school experiences) in the 5th Standard.

This one has something to do with the dhobi box. I am sure a lot of people have had a lot of experiences with the dhobi box, mine was one a similar though on a completely different tangent. Irrespective of what a lot of people used to use it for, and there really were innumerable uses of it, for me the dhobi box used to signify only one thing, ‘bunking box’. I used to use it quite often whenever I wanted to bunk Suprabhatam.

I still don’t know what it was about Suprabhatam that made us enemies, but from the very first time I have heard it, I have never managed to stay awake through each and every line of it even for a single day. Don’t know what it signified for the others, but for me, Suprabhatam was a wake up call telling me to get to sleep again. Upto the 4th Standard, I wasn’t daring enough, and besides the dormitories we stayed in till then were not accomodating enough, for such stunts, and so I was forced to attend Suprabhatam everday. I wouldn’t have really minded if they were conducted the way Prassanna maam used to let them be conducted. With the lights offed, and only the lamps at the beginning glowing. I always used to sit at the ending always at the corner row, because I used to wake up last, brush last and thus used to arrive last.

Things were really good then, because the lights would be offed, and Prassanna maam used to let “sleeping dogs lie”, and never bother with us last row people whose only work would be to sleep through the entire proceedings. In fact, we would just come in, sit, bend forward, onto the back of the guy front of us, and sleep. It would seem like a huge sleeping Mexican wave of students, the entire last row. But things can’t always be so rosy can they?

Our nemesis was Warden Aunty, who would come in once in two days during Suprabhatam and give a crackling shot on each one’s back that would resound for quite while. It got a little disconcerting the first few days, because we would have scalded backs for the rest of the day. However Darwin was right about evolution and adaptation, because soon we programmed our sub-conscious to such a level that the moment we heard the first sound, everyone would immediately sit up ramrod straight and pretend as if we were singing along(hell, we didn’t know the lines even after we finished 7th Standard, though Vasanthi Aunty made a valiant effort by including it in the HV syllabus in our 6th Standard, and I bet, more than 60% of the guys learnt it then rather than before).

However, by the time I reached 5th Standard, I was fed up of this routine, specially since I usually used to turn out to be the last guy to turn out, and that made me a regular target for Warden Aunty. So in the 5th Class, I devised a way out of all this headache. The dhobi box. The idea itself was very ingenious, because by not attending Suprabhatam at all, I could avoid being hit at all, and at the same time sleep to my heart’s content.

So everyday, like always, I would be the last to get up and get ready. However this time, my schedule took a slight change, after everybody else had left, would slip into the dhobi box, and pile clothes upon myself and sleep away to glory, till everyone came back to collect their shoes for games(the shoebox was right next to the dhobi box). After the whole dormitory quietened down, I would emerge from the dhobi box and leave for games myself.

Since this technique was such a hit, I decided to extend it to other areas as well. We used to go for Darshan only on two days(Thursday and Sunday, apart from festival days) and that too only in the mornings. But I got bored of that also, and decided to bunk Darshans also. So after the morning breakfast on Darshan days, I would again run up to the dhobi box to begin my second innings of sleep and would sleep till Darshan was over, and students came back(Suprabhatam was there on Darshan days also, and we used to have morning bath and have Vibuthi applied, that gooey paste of dark grey that they made out of it to make it stick properly, was a real treat, not on the face, but into the mouth. We really used to relish clearing out a whole packet).

Even this would have worked fine, if my reach hadn’t exceeded my grasp. I decided that I was bored with the evening bhajans also, and so decided to bunk them also. That proved to be my undoing. It was the third day of my bunking bhajans by sleeping in the dhobi box. I was really tired, playing hard that day, and fell into a deep sleep as bhajans were going on. It seems the dhobi had come to collect the clothes then, and had lifted the topmost pile and found me sleeping there. He wasn’t sure if I was alive or conscious, so he called Warden Aunty. She came to me, called out my name, and tapped me on the shoulder, before shaking me. I immediately sat up and asked “bhajans are already over aa?”. I didn’t receive an answer in words. Instead I received a tight slap across my face, which brought me back to reality and to the gravity of the situation.

That day ended with a lot of cover-up stories ot Warden Aunty who never seemed to believe a single one(don’t really know if she was too smart, or if I was really a very bad story-teller then), and therefore ended up getting more than a fair share of whackings for each story I came out with. Wonder what they do in those dhobi boxes nowadays.

– GUPTA GHOST

P.S.
Even though I got caught, I never managed to reveal the real reason for my being found in the dhobi box to Warden Aunty and so although I no longer bunked bhajans, I continued to bunk Suprabhatam and Darshan throughout the rest of the 5th Standard. Besides, I would often have company from other like-minded people who saw me getting into the dhobi box.

Vijay Mallya would say ‘let the good times pour’. But for how long will the good times pour. It was an answer that I was going to get very soon. And it wasn’t an answer I had ever expected in my life. Though it was the first such incident, it was much worser than the rest.

Vinasha Kaale Vipareetha Buddhi – Part 4 – 5th Standard

The ink incident was after all a precursor for the days to come. There would be even worser incidents that would change my whole outlook towards a lot of events. However they didn’t involve me personally to a great extent and have therefore decided to skip mentioning them here. However one incident that did involve me and taught me a lot of lessons that I have never forgotten is the ‘bath’ incident.

It goes like this. Dileep, Dinakar(Chikka) and me and another guy I don’t remember used to have fun in the bathrooms after the games period, and just before bhajans. We used to clean up the sink kind of basin that people used to use for brushing, block one end with a cloth, and open all the taps to fill it with water. Once filled, we used to use it as a swimming pool. Also, the hot water tap used to be used to fill bucket after bucket, and simply splash it all over the floor between the bathrooms and the toilets, to get it all cleaned up, to begin skating on the floor, knee-skating to be precise.

And the middle bathroom, we used to block the exits from both sides and start filling water, so we, Jai Sai and Jigmee could use it as a bigger swimming pool. Everyday we used to rush in 15 minutes before games got over and start filling it so that we could enjoy for atleast half-an-hour before bhajans. Jai Sai, Jigmee and Rohit Parmar would jump into the middle bathroom and splash around, while Dileep, Chikka and I would enjoy outside, playing knee-skating and waddling in the smaller pool(well I settled for it because I never knew swimming(and I still don’t) and besides my efforts at trying it have always failed).

Lots of seniors(big brothers) would take offence to it because we didn’t spare anybody, but we were left unharmed only because Jigmee and Jai Sai also happened to be there. Whoever came in got a splashing welcome of a bucketful of water on them. So people would enter from the other door and get through with their work and leave as fast as possible. We always used to have a lookout in the beginning because we used to enjoy till the last moment, and maams’ would always come into the dormitories to herd all the guys for bhajans. So we used to take turns being the lookout.

However after about 2 months of such fun and frolic, not a single maam came upto the bathrooms and so we stopped caring about the lookout job. One fine day(or rather fateful day), we were enjoying as usual, when ‘Tall’ Parvathi amma came inside the bathrooms and in our usual style we saw somebody was entering and we just emptied a bucket on her. Flabbergasted, she screamed at all of us to stop and ran out. We had a good laugh and continued playing. I was just coming out of the bathroom with another bucket filled to splash on the next entrant when everything fell silent. I called out “Dileep, Chikka”, and got no response. I decided they were playing a trick on me, and so ran out with the bucket, and emptied it with all my force.

Guess who was standing there, waiting to get splashed by me. No prizes, it was none other than Warden Aunty. I dropped the bucket when I saw her dripping wet and tried to run. I found that she had closed the door at the other side and was standing at this door. Boy, did we get a thrashing. Even today when I see some marks on me, though temporary, I keep thinking it must have been a remainder of the thrashing we got that day. She caught each of u by our necks and banged our heads against each other(phantom style) and was all the while blasting us about enjoying by wasting water, and about our discipline in general.

We believed we were dead that day, and that she would never stop punching and slapping us. Luckily bhajans started and somebody called her, so she left, leaving us to wash our red faces and get ready for bhajans. Still wonder whether somebody really called her that day, or she left us because she thought we would pass out if she hit us any longer. Well, so much for my adventures with bath.

to be continued… … …

– GUPTA GHOST

Vinasha Kaale Vipareetha Buddhi – Part 3 – 5th Standard

Well, Shruthi maam and Shashi maam weren’t the only ones who had something against me. The next in the list is none other than HM. Well it wasn’ t actually my fault, but nevertheless I got properly beaten for it.

It all began with my craze for inventions. Always used to be mad about inventing something(still am, keep thinking up new things that can be made everyday), and the fad then were pens. We had just joined the 5th Class and this was the first year in our lives that we were allowed to use pens(had to make do with pencils until then, don’t know about other schools, but for us, upto 4th Class end, we had to use pencils, that were sharpened by those machines that were gifted by someone, the ones where you put the pencil in, and and twisted the handle until the pencil got sharpened, really used to be fascinated by it then).

Although I wasn’t the pioneer in pens, I did get into some really wacky stuff with them. The credit for being the pioneer innovators in custom-made pens goes to Sadde and Yagna Valkya. They were the ones who first got into this field. Although others before them made minor modifications to their existing pens, these two were really the first to craft an entirely new pen. They had taken the nib and base from a fountain pen(Hero pen), and put it into a sketch pen, and filled it with ink. Was really a marvel of that time, and in no time, the class was filled with people attempting lookalikes of this version(me included, although I was also trying to develop my own model also).

So I decided to one better than them. I took a ball-point pen(ball pen), emptied it throughout except for the body. I attached the filler portion of the Hero pen to its rear end, and attached a conventional nib and base to the front and filled the entire body as well as filler with ink. Thus in many ways it was an easy to fill pen, all you had to do was press the filler, and the whole pen would fill up. And it would last for atleast 2 weeks with the amount of ink it had. Was very excited about it and showed it around and immediately got 3 enquiries/orders for such pens. But my joy wasn’t about to last long.

It was after bhajan time, and I just set about making the first of the orders that I had received. Suddenly the whole class grew quiet, and HM walked in. I didn’t know, the deeply-engrossed inventor that I was, I was just putting away the pen after completing it, when HM told everybody to line up for dinner. I also joined the lines, and stuffed the pen into my pocket. The ink began to leak(well it was just a prototype and wasn’t yet ready for commercial production), and soon enough my pocket began to spread into a blue enlarging dot(which brought to mind a bad reminder of the ‘tar’ incident).

Obviously HM noticed it and asked me what I was doing, I raised my hand to explain, and she saw it dripping in ink. She immediately demanded to know what was going on, and I pulled out the pen to explain that it was the reason for the whole mess. Unfortunately for me, Shruthi maam went ballistic seeing the pen, adn tried to wrench it from my hand. But being my first successful invention, I wasn’t about to let go of it so easily, and starting waving my hand wildly to prevent her form reaching it. In the process, the ink got sprayed all over HM’s silver saree, until the pen drained out. By the time Shruthi maam let go of my hand, HM’s saree was redesigned into a trendy one(well not everyone would have my kind of taste in fashion, so people who object can ignore that word) with dithering droplets of blue all over the silver.

She just walked out in a huff to change the saree. But my story didn’t end there. I got yet another whacking form Shruthi maam for redesigning HM’s saree, although truth be told, if she had left my pen alone all this wouldn’t have happened. But then, am I to judge events, she too had pressure to react when a student of hers was surely fiddling around(was just saying I could have been spared the thrashing).

to be continued… … …

– GUPTA GHOST

Vinasha Kaale Vipareetha Buddhi – Part 2 – 5th Standard

One of the most favourite timepass of mine any day is whistling. It not only helps me pass time on really boring days, but has also got so embedded in my sub-conscious that although I would be involved in very serious works like examinations, I would without my knowledge start whistling while writing much to the dismay of those around me. The arrogance I once had is the cause for this wonderful habit(wonderful according to me) of mine.

It all started during a class being taken by Shruthi maam(she used to teach us Maths then), when she was taking a class just before Sports Time(the sports time was the months of November to almost mid-Jan, when hardly any classes used to take place and all the days used to be spent playing when we were not practising for Sports Meet). She too got bored of taking the class and besides nobody was even interested in the class, so she decided to spice things up a bit. She asked us to guess what music there would be for our drill that year. Nobody could guess, and she revealed that it was to be a ‘film song’ theme of the then chartbuster “Tu Cheez Badi Hai Mast Mast”. No sooner had she completed this, the class broke into a clamour, and she had to shout on the top of her voice to even be heard, finally she got the class quiet and told us it was a secret and that we were not supposed to leak it to anyone.

She was going to elaborate more on it when she was called away from the class on some work. In the meantime, somebody started whistling the tune of that song in the class. I really didn’t bother because my favourite pastime of all-time used to be sleeping. The moment I got any chance, I would just go into sleep. So I took a short nap, before maam came back in. It so happened that this guy(girls were ‘very’ disciplined then, and would never resort to such things), continued to whistle since he didn’t know maam had come back in. He managed to just stop when she reached her table. She immediately turned around and began to ask “who was that whistling?”. Naturally nobody answered, and besides those weren’t the days when the new guys had joined. Guys who would sell us out to the Faculty just to look good in their books. Guys who would grow in life, only by trampling the existing guys. So nobody answered. She got really infuriated(as it is, she had a really short temper) and started bashing up whoever was within her reach(that’s one of the disadvantages of sitting in the first bench, also that happened to the last year I would ever sit in the first bench in my entire life), which brought her to me.

I was just fully awake, when she started slapping me. Out of instinct, I caught her hand and pushed it back and told her it wasn’t me and that I didn’t even know how to whistle. She just wouldn’t listen. She kept asking me, “if not you, the who?”. I couldn’t tell her because I really didn’t know(not that I would have even if I knew). So she went on and so did I. After a while it really got irritating and I told her “how many times do I have to tell you I don’t know, can’t you understand. If you want I will learn how to whistle and then whistle in front of you, then you can trash me, but until then don’t even dare touch me”. I still don’t know if she was shocked enough or just left me because her anger had cooled down, but anyway she let go of me, and fumed out of the class.

However, I wasn’t the one to let things rest, I was too arrogant back then to do so. So I set about learning how to whistle. I went around to guys who I knew, knew to whistle and asked them how they did it, and began my earnest efforts to get it as fast as I could. Somehow, within a week I was able to get some basic tunes and then began to look when I would find maam alone. One fine day, my chance came, was just entering class when she also was. Just called her and whistled the tune of that song, and told her now hit me, I whistled. This took the lid off her. She trashed the daylights out of me, and then dragged me to HM’s office. I was beginning to become a regular there.

Even today when I think of it, I just don’t regret my actions, because it led me into a habit that has benefited me in life. So that’s atleast one thing that I have learned through arrogance, if not from it.

to be continued… … …

– GUPTA GHOST

Vinasha Kaale Vipareetha Buddhi – Part 1 – 5th Standard

It has been quite a long time since I have found the leisure to post here. But I intend to make up for it in some marathon posting sessions. Readers will note that this is my first non-English title for a post. Have thought over a title for many days, but couldn’t come up with one that could express the above title perfectly in English, and have therefore decided to do away with language as a barrier for the title(for those who are not familiar with Sanskrit, the closest translation that I can offer is “you thinking gets most twisted just before your downfall”. Alternatively the one English saying that fits it to a certain extent is “Pride comes before a fall”. However to say that only pride does is a gross understatement, and have therefore decided against using it as a title).

To begin with this post I am tempted to quote Charles Dickens about the times that were in the 5th Standard, but shall pass on the chance.

To begin with I would have to describe the structure of the groups(gangs?) that then were the predominant employers of the class. There was Jai Sai’s group that consisted of himself(the leader/ringleader), Naga Ranjan, his enforcer, Dileep Kumar, his confidant and a host of others I don’t really remember. There was Jigmee’s group that consisted of himself(the leader/ringleader), Rohit Parmar, his Man Friday, P Gunaranjan, his confidant, and Mayur Pradhan and Bhagat Singh, his enforcers(don’t remember the ‘A’ section setup more precisely because I was in ‘B’ section, maybe Nagi would be of more help here).

Although I wasn’t in the thick of these things and didn’t have any particular allegiance to any of these groups, I was a kind of freelancer/mercenary who dabbled in odd jobs for both these groups as the wind favoured. I used to sit in the first bench beside the door with two guys who were the thickest friends of each other at that time, Harshith and V. Sooraj. I would sit between them both, with V. Sooraj sitting nearest to the door. Harshith was known for his rubber body and V. Sooraj for his ‘dead stand’, where there were regular contests between who was best(for the record, the fight was always between V. Sooraj and Nagi regarding Dead Stand, and Saurabh Aggarwal, Rohit Parmar and another 6th Standard guy, GKK I think, regarding hand stand(in regard to number of dormitories they could walk, although Nagi and Sooraj were also active participants in this category. On a completely different note, a fad that picked up at that time was juggling and there was always a contest between Jeevan Reddy and another 6th Standard guy, I think finally Jeevan won, headstand hadn’t yet come into vogue then).

Our classroom was the last one just beside the toilets(where we had innumerable adventures(specially in the room inside the toilets where shoes and other discarded sports materials used to be stored) and lots of secret fights, it was our very own bloodsport arena). We three(Harshith, Sooraj and me) were the official lookout people for the entire class and thus were able to smell Shruti maam(Shruti Raja maam, our class teacher for the year) and her Yardley powder much before everyone else.

Although I must confess the most fun anybody ever had in 5th Class was in the Hindi class taken by Shashi maam. She would always have a class in ‘A’ section before ours and would take her textbook/notebook from there and head to our class which was next door. The moment she entered, all pandemonium would break loose, not that there was any noise, it was more a flurry of activities that were silent and yet mischievous. These were made possible because of the way she took the class. She had only one modus operandi, enter when the bell rings, walk from one end of the class to the other end with the book in her hand, and when she reached the end, turn around, and walk to the other end, all the while never taking her eyes off the book in her hand. She would stop this routine only when the bell rang, when she would keep walking, albeit with the closed book and just walk out of the class.

The best adventures from our bench used to be the hand stand, that Harshith and V. Sooraj used to do, following her halfway till the table and then running back to sit before she turned around. I never took part much in the other games that used to happen behind her back(some were so horrible, can’t even mention them(like the bubble gum in the chair one), except for one game that I felt was a little challenging. It was a contest between me and Rohit and sometimes between me and Jigmee. They both used to sit in the last bench and would run upto the board the moment she crossed the first row, where they sat, and draw as best a picture of a cat they could on the board(in such a short span, they sure couldn’t draw a Garfield), and then ran back to their bench and sit(Shashi maam was called ‘pussy cat’ then, for reasons that I cannot perfectly recall).

That was when my part of the adventure would begin. My work was to get up after they had sat(mind you I used to sit in between two others), and rush to the table, pick up the duster from it, rub the cat they had drawn, and place the duster back and get to my seat before she turned around(lots of times, had to put the duster into my pocket because of the time crunch, it wasn’t the conventional duster of wood with a little padding stuck on, it was a huge chunk of sponge with a dark blue(the one we wore for our uniform) cloth stitched around it for longevity, Kasturi Aunty would get quite a number of dusters a day for repairs).

This wasn’t a pre-planned trick that had an exact number of repeat performances, and the specific time for each one fixed beforehand. It was just based on pure instinct, which made it all the more adventurous. We did it whenever we were short of kicks, which was very often, about 2 or 3 times in every class. The understanding was very simple, irrespective of who had done it, it was my job to get the cat cleaned if there was one on the board. One such time, Rohit who was always known for pushing his luck, delayed till the last minute and then drew it and ran back. I was dumbstruck because, Shashi maam was beginning to turn around and I hadn’t even begun to get up to clean it. Upon further thinking I decided to wait it out, since she never used to look anywhere, I was gambling on her just passing by and turning, whereupon I would seize my chance and clean it up.

However, I wasn’t the only person with plans. Rohit was really tense that he had drawn it and although I had failed to rub it, it would be he who would be taken to HM if maam saw it, and thus was making his own plans cursing me all the time. The moment maam crossed the first row, my moment of reckoning arrived. I ran with all my strength to get to the duster, but unfortunately I wasn’t alone. Rohit too ran to rub it off. The path being narrow, he collided with Shashi maam who was dazed and turned around to see the duster in my hand. She took one look at it and turned to the board. Guess what she found there. Well atleast in my life there were no filmi surprises, off we were marched to HM’s Office which was just down the wing, but not before we got a good round in the class itself. That was the first time I was brought into HM’s office for gross misbehaviour(meaning behaviour that was unacceptable to any standards of an educational institution, leave alone the institution we were studying in), although there would be many more frequent visits, the first one has however stayed in my mind forever.

to be continued… … …

– GUPTA GHOST

A Prelude To The 5th Standard

Before launching into my account of whatever recollections remain of my 5th Standard, it is important, to emphasise on the circumstances and events that surrounded the times then. This was by far one of the most important years of the development of my character. It taught me a lot of things, none of which I can ever forget.

It taught me the value of friendship, and of the need for friends(or rather the needlessness of it). It taught me about following your calling, no matter what it does to you and the people around you. It taught me about ‘herd mentality’ and the excesses that have always been committed throughout history in its name(communal riots, racial discrimination to name a few). Most important of all, for the first time ever, it taught me about the accountability for my actions.

Be that as it may, I would like to first elaborate on the conditions at that time. The divide between the Ooty guys and Parthi Guys grew really large and there emerged two groups that were called ‘Jigmee’s group’ and ‘Jai Sai’s group(led by Jigmee Lama and T. Jai Sai respectively). And two new students R. Prasanna and Nirupama had joined. Prasanna was put in our Section(B). Later due to a colossal fights between the two sections, Prasanna was shifted to ‘A’ Section.

Fights between the two sections were quite commonplace, both sportive and non-sportive. Shruti maam(no longer at Primary, I am told) was our Class Teacher. This was the year from when we began to learn Sanskrit(never quite got the hang of it, Vaidehi maam, who used to teach us then, came in for a lot of criticism in 6th Class from Bhavani maam, who cringed at the fact that Sanskrit ‘shabdas’ were being taught in a singsong manner).

Overall, it was a year, that ended with many a tear.

– GUPTA GHOST