Legend has it(well actually I was told by my family) that, the first time around, they had actually taken me to join in the 1st Standard itself. Munni Aunty(hereinafter referred to as HM a.k.a Principal, for the rest of the blog, even if otherwise specified) had asked me my name, and I just stared from HM to my family and back(and back and forth a few more times). For those who didn’t get the joke, I had done my Kindergarten in Telugu medium and those were as far as I remember, probably the first words of English I ever heard in my life. Hell, I didn’t even know what language was being talked around me.
There was some discussion and some pleading(voice-reading?), after which I was taken back home. I didn’t even know what had happened and asked whether I was in or out. Everyone just laughed and said “your time hasn’t yet come”. So I came to join Bala Sankara Vidyalaya or whatever school it was, that was in T. Nagar. I was made to stay at my grandfather’s house, as it was only a few hundred feet from the school, and my parents were in Guntakal at that time.
I was told that I had one year to learn English and join the school I was earlier taken to, or continue in the school I was forced to join. Sometimes I think, I was made to join a Tamil school(a language that was completely alien to me) in order to force me to learn English. I jumped to the task only because of one reason, the Elephant Slide in the playground. When I had come to take admission in 1st Standard, I was really fascinated by seeing other children emerging from the head of the Elephant and sliding down its trunk. I badly wanted to slide down its trunk, and besides the school I was made to join didn’t even have a decent playground. Thus the one and only deciding factor for me to learn English was the Elephant Slide.
Nobody in the house were well-versed in the language. So the only alternative was to learn it myself. My grandfather taught me the alphabet and I figured writing it out on my own (so you now know why my handwriting is so impressively illegible). I was given only one exercise the whole of my 1st Standard, to read aloud the newspaper everyday morning. In those we used to subscribe to The Hindu(and I believe we still do), and as soon as the paper came flying through the gate, until the time to leave for school, the only task I was assigned, was to read the paper aloud and my grandfather would stop me at every sentence and make me pronounce the words right. He would then make me read the line again until I got the word right. Well, it was really bothersome, but only for the first 3-4 months, after which I had got a good hang on the words. Then came an unexpected blow to my skill, seeing that I was blazing through the paper, he made me hold a dictionary in one hand, and would suddenly stop me and ask me the meaning of a word I had just read. This exercise which lasted for about 6 months really took away all the juice that was left in my brain, and filled it with God alone knows what. The last two months were spent in an even more bizarre ritual, knowing that I could tell him the meanings of almost any word in the paper, he began asking me the meaning of the paragraph I had just read, and what I had understood from it.
Thankfully, the most gruelling year of my life came to a quick end(with the final exams turning out the way they did, as described in the previous post), and I was all set to apply again to the Sri Sathya Sai Primary School(Primary School hereafterwards).
I remember we had arrived a day early, and spent the night before the entrance rehearsing dialogues in English, while my family was busy stitching my initials(PTK) onto all my clothes, which in itself was a big motivator. Well, to understand the significance of this, you have to first understand the procedure.
After a prospective student writes the entrance exam, he or she is sent back and then a call letter is sent informing the parents about the admission and attached to it would be a list of clothes that were required for the year(for all the subsequent years, the ‘clothes list’ letter was the only way I knew I had been promoted to the next class).
The fact that my parents were stitching/engraving my initials on my clothes itself signified the confidence they had in me. They were sure I would be in, and they didn’t want to cause a delay only because I had to go buy those clothes and then get them marked(the academic year had already started).
Well, the next morning, I went for the exam, and was given the paper and made to sit in the library and write the exam(the room next to HM’s room that was then doubling as Staff Room).
I was done in an hour, and was told I had to wait around 20 minutes for the result.
An important point that I forgot to mention was that, despite all the confidence and stuff, my grandfather was really tense and anxious about whether I would atleast get in this time or not, and so he knew the next best thing, that he thought would seal my admission – Influence. He got to know that Anjali Devi was in fact that very day in Parthi to have Darshan, and having produced a few movies with her, invited her to accompany him for the admission.
While we were waiting for the result, Warden came into the corridor to go to HM’s office. On the way in she saw Anjali Devi sitting on the little bench outside the office, and began talking to her instead. She was told that I had come to seek admission, and immediately took us into the office. Just as we went in, the results also were brought in along with us.
One look at me, and HM said “him, you brought him here again?”. She then looked at the exam result, then at me and back at the exam result again. Now, I was really beginning to get tensed. Did I really flunk(well that was not new to me) or did I get through. I was sure I had written absolutely well, in fact it was the only time I had felt good after completing an exam. But the look on HM’s face was inscrutable and gave away not the slightest hint. She just looked up and asked me a few more questions in English which I answered. She gave the marks sheet to my parents and told them to preserve it. Later, I was told the reason why, it seems I had scored a 98, which nobody else had ever done before in the entrance exam(I did learn a few days later that somebody had scored nearly the same figure).
I was immediately admitted and after the fees were paid and all the clothes were tallied with the list, I was taken to the dormitory, while my parents were made to wait downstairs(and man, were they real, those were the biggest rooms I had seen in my entire life of 6yrs, I didn’t even know they were called dormitories). I then went downstairs and told goodbye to my parents and was just waiting for them to leave. The moment I saw them exit the main gate, I ran to the Elephant Slide and huff-puffed my way up for the first grand slide of my life(no pun intended).
to be continued… ... …
– GUPTA GHOST