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

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