In Pursuit Of Fame – (Part 2) – 4th Standard

Just when I thought I had enough of adhesives, and there weren’t anymore to try, Jigmee and Co. bettered themselves. This time there was no shortage of materials to try out. It was soon time for rubbers(erasers, the white ones are really damn good, although can’t say the same of the greenish blue ones), and plastic covers(not really tasty) and even limestone(chunnam, flakes of it were peeled off from different walls, for me to sample and comment on their edibility). All though all of these didn’t really bother me much, what really did was the ‘tar’ incident. It was the one that made me infamous for the Guiness Book feat.

We were walking for Darshan one Sunday morning, when we used to pick up small stones with our feet and throw it on the guys walking in front of us. One such time, I picked up the stone and was about to throw it, when Vaidehi maam came up next to me. I immediately dropped the stone into my shirt pocket, to throw after she passed me. Unfortunately, that day the stones were different. They had just laid the road before General Hospital in tar the previous day and the stones were still wet with tar. I found that out when I put my hand into my pocket to pull out the stone. I felt it very sticky and looked at it, and to my shock found that tar was stuck to my hand. I tried to rub it off but it wouldn’t go. I tried scraping it with a leaf, but that too didn’t work. Finally I thought maybe, if I could use my teeth to peel it off, I could then spit it out. So I began to set about the task, when the guys walking next to me saw me licking something and asked me what i was eating, I sowed him my hand. He took one look at it and began shouting, “Thandava is eating tar, everybody, Thandava is eating tar”. That was the event that made me(infamous). Soon throughout Darshan that day, all the guys(don’t know about the girls) were talking about the tar.

If that wasn’t enough publicity, the tar had also soiled me shirt pocket when I threw it in, and on the way back everybody would break line to come next to me, look at my pocket and walk back to tell the tale. Yes, they had seen it. There was still lot more in my pocket, I used to eat it regularly, I had just run out of tar, and so on so forth. And if that still wasn’t enough, I did something after Darshan, that would make the whole set of incidents unforgettable. I ate a whole 3 inch nail(or did I?).

After Darshan, we were sitting in the lobby, waiting for our turn for ‘buffalo milk’, when I began to feel bored. I looked around and found that one of the nails with which those green visitors chairs were fixed to the ground, was loose and coming off. So I put in a little effort and pulled it out completely. I was wondering what to do with it, when an idea suddenly struck me. I keep wondering how I could think of something so diabolic, but then there it was, right in my head. I decided to have some fun with it.

I called Kali(DKC, alias D. Kali Charan) who was sitting beside me and told him I was going to swallow the nail. He thought I was joking and told me to go ahead(after all even a kid knows eating other stuff and eating a nail has a lot of difference. Sure, I had eaten gum, rubbers, and just finished with ‘tar’, but those wouldn’t cut my throat on the way down). I was seated at an angle to him and started to put the nail into my mouth and pushed it right in. Well it seemed so but I actually didn’t. I took it by the side of my cheek and threw it down(those who have seen Aamir Khan swallow a whole fish in the title song of ‘Dil Chahta Hai’, will know how this illusion can be achieved).

That was it, immediately, Kali started shouting that I had swallowed a whole looooonnnngggg nail and that he had seen it with his own eyes, that was the ‘Estoppel’ that prevented any further denial from my part. I was immediately hauled off by my collar, by Vaidehi maam and taken to Warden Aunty who was serving milk inside. The story along with the other ‘tar’ anecdotes attached was repeated by Vaidehi from whatever legend the students made it out to be. Immediately Warden Aunty swung into action, called Kitchen Aunty and told her something. She went in and returned with a bunch of bananas, which I was forced to eat(cleared about 7 of them and then had to drown the whole thing in 3 glasses of ‘buffalo milk’). I was then told that it was to help me shit it out soon. And that after I was done, I was to bring the nail and submit it to Warden Aunty(never really understood that part, maybe it was to ensure that I had really shat it out). Anyway I was told to go immediately to the dormitory and try to shit it out. On the way, I walked to the chairs, picked up the nail, and took it up with me(they weren’t seriously expecting the nail to cut through my intestines also, were they?). I waited for half an hour and then went to Warden Aunty and submitted the nail. By which time I was told, she had gone and reported the matter to HM also.

That was the end of my first attempt to pursue fame.

– GUPTA GHOST

P.S.
Although the incident put and end to my Guiness Book aspiration. It also made me infamous, and every mention of any Guiness Record in the school also brought out my feats as a joke for discussion. This not only continued throughout my High School days also, but still continues by my family members, who were apparently personally called up by HM to be informed of this ‘most urgent’ matter.

If there is one lesson that came out of the whole episode, it was that fame really is a fickle mistress. The moment they learnt that the whole episode had made me infamous, the very people who had encouraged me to take it up in earnest, and who went to great lengths to supply me with innovative materials to sample, started avoiding me like the plague. This continued upto the end of 4th Standard.

In Pursuit Of Fame – (Part 1) – 4th Standard

Although the three episodes were supposed to be the sum of my 4th Standard experiences, have just recalled an important episode which must be told. For a lot of people it is necessary to clear this particular episode of its infamous trappings(must admit contributed to it myself in no small way). Anyway for those who cannot wait, it’s none other than the ‘Guiness Book’ episode.

The one thing that my batch, some of my seniors, lot of my juniors and the staff cannot forget me is the Guiness Record episode.

It all began this way. Sometime in the beginning of 4th Standard, I began to hear talk of book that people called the “Guiness Book of World Records”(Guiness Book for short). All the students would talk about how the greatest, fastest, highest, longest and many such records were entered into this book and an entry into this book meant lifelong fame and recognition. Really don’t know what made me suddenly for inexhaustible fame and the limelight, man, did I love the very thought of getting into the book.

So I mentioned it to some guys, who told me I had to do something entirely different and adventurous to get in. They asked me what I would do. I really didn’t know. I mean, later when I sat to think on it, I realised, that I couldn’t jump or run, or throw or do anything faster than anybody in the class, leave alone the record-holder. So I let go of my plans to enter the BOOK. A few months went by when one day, we were talking about a lot of things, when one of the guys mentioned the Guiness Book and said lots of people were now getting in for eating. And mind you, it wasn’t ‘NORMAL’ eating being referred to here. People were getting in for eating bulbs, tubelights, bicycles and even a whole plane. This suddenly struck me as a brilliant idea to get into the BOOK. I mean the route into the BOOK was so simple, as simple as eating. I just had to find something different to eat from what these people were eating, and I would smash my way into the BOOK and splash my photograph onto the front page.

So, in all my enthusiasm I set about informing everybody in the class that I was attempting to enter the Guiness Book and that I would do so by eating. And announced that anybody could help me choose items to eat that would get noticed(was initially in two minds whether to announce it or not, because I had a great fear of failure, and used to think what if I couldn’t eat the things I promised, I would be laughed at by the whole class. So my brain got the better of me, and anyway, I decided that having a lot of witnesses would surely be a help, and thus went ahead with the announcement).

The initial interest soon fizzled as I set out trying my own experiments in private. I began by eating the first available thing in the classroom, paper. To my surprise that paper wasn’t so bad after all, I mean, it was just a tasteless ball of something once you got it into your mouth, cardboard is an entirely different horror story though. Slowly I got into chalks as paper soon bored me. The moment one teacher went out, I would collect all the broken pieces of chalk and begin munching on them. The calcium really made them taste good(though I must admit that over the years the quality of chalks has deteriorated and the chalks available now are just a little classification short of toxic). Getting bored with chalk pieces also, I moved onto pencils, the next available resource. Although the lead tasted good(used to call it so, later learnt it had nothing to do with the element ‘Plumbum’ and was actually graphite), the wood was really bad, especially the ones by HP(Hindustan Pencils). They tasted like rotten beechwood. After many such experiences with easily resources, I got bored with the idea and had decided to drop it.

Then began the twist, one fine day, when no teacher came to take a particular class, Jigmee(more of him in 5th Standard) got really bored and decided to have some fun on me. So he sat next to me and told me if I was still trying to get into the BOOK. I decided to humour him since I too was bored and said yes. But also told him that I had run out of materials to try and was hence taking a break on the whole thing. He told me “don’t worry, I will get you as many things as you can try eating” and set about that task. He returned with a transparent tube of gum from the cupboard(the pinkish hued one by Camlin, still in the market) and handed it to me. I was now bound to try it since he had looked a lot to find me something, and expected to see me eat it. I thought why the hell not, I anyway didn’t have anything better to do.

Thus began my graduation into gums(no pun). Tried drinking the thing but it tasted awful, so I spread it all over my hand and let it dry. Once it had dried I peeled it off and tried eating it, to my surprise, it tasted wonderful. One thing led to another, and soon, I was into Fevicol, which tasted much better when hand-dried. Soon they had to resort to getting more from even the girl’s classes to help me keep up my appetite for it(in 4th Standard our class was the last in the girl’s wing, just before the cooler). Not all adhesives taste good however. Specially ones that are cheap, mass produced and meant for office use. Learnt it the hard way, as always. Once we were through with all possible gums’, they decided, there was only one gum left which I hadn’t tasted. The brown syrupy one sold by Camlin in a blue bottle. But there were only two bottles of it that we knew of in the entire school. One in HM’s office and the other in the Staff Room. They decided that it was better to try risking the one from the Staff Room since it was rarely used, and even then only to stick torn library books(the library had not yet been separated then).

So one afternoon, whe everyone was coming out from lunch, Rohit Parmar(more on him too in the 5th Standard) was sent to smuggle out the precious syrup a.k.a last gum left. He was in an out like a cat and had a capful of it with him. The cap was handed over to me and 4 pairs of eyes moved from the cap to me and back. I decided to give it a try although it smelled awful. I took one sip and felt like like spitting out the whole damn stuff, but dared not, since they had gone to a lot of trouble to get it in the first place. So I forced myself to swallow it and hoped I wouldn’t vomit. Luckily I didn’t(WARNING: Those of you who may be inspired to try eating adhesives after reading this, please note, I REQUEST you not to try the brown gum in a blue bottle, it really tastes like vomit and will churn your insides out).

to be continued… …

– GUPTA GHOST

P.S.
Still eat paper and chalk to this day. They really are a harmless lot(despite the warning about the chalks of today). Can’t really let go of the habit. Its the paper that keeps pulling me back into the habit, because of its abundant availability, I mean, anywhere I go, any place I look there’s always some or the other paper, so much for computerisation and digitisation.

A Tempest of Temper – 4th Standard – Part 3

Well having got the spelling episode also behind me, I shall move on to the interesting and now that I come to think of it quite funnier of the episodes of my 4th Standard. Chocolates. Readers must understand that although many would know me as the embodiment of peace, or atleast remember me as appearing like one to them, I wasn’t always that way. For quite a long time I was the most unruly kid you would ever come across. I still believe that it was the episode after 5th Standard that changed my life 720 degrees.

Chocolates

The incident began in quite an ordinary way. Although I have since come to believe that it I who blew the whole issue out of proportion. Attaching God alone knows what emotions to my actions. Anyway here it goes. In the year 1994, my grandfather was brought to Parthi for an open-heart surgery, and my parents too came along with him. They stayed there for the better part of a month and would come to visit me every opportunity they got(which was obviously only on Sundays). I remember them asking each time “what shall i get for you next sunday?”, and the answer would always be the same “foreign chocolates”. They had found a store near home that sold these confectionaries and had brought a big load of it with them, knowing I freaked out on chocolates. Since I would clear the whole lot on a single day, they used to bring some every Sunday.

One particular Sunday, were returning after Darshan, and I was just walking in the line, when I felt somebody lunge at me and pull me out of the line. I turned around and saw, it was my mother. She had spotted me in the great spotting contest that was a prelude to every parents meeting on Sundays. She was about to talk to me, when Shruti maam(who was leading our class since it was Vaidehi maam’s duty at the hostel) yanked me back into the line. But not before my mother managed to slip me a chocolate, which was noticed by Shruti maam. She didn’t react then, but calmly led the line upto the dining hall, where we had a glassful of horrible milk(the Sunday milk used to always invariably taste horribly, and we used to call it ‘Buffalo milk’. Later on I got to know that, it must have actually been cow milk, since buffalo milk tastes much better than cow milk. Poor buffaloes, always got blamed for the horrible Sunday morning milk).

The moment we got out of the dining hall, she called the class together, and as if she was announcing the results of a bumper draw, called out my name in the dormitory just as we were getting ready to go out for ‘games’ and pinched me by my ear. And she announced “this fellow’s mother doesn’t know how to behave. he pulled him out of the line to give him a chocolate. She couldn’t wait till evening”. Saying this, she told me to give her the chocolate. I asked her why and she told me it was the punishment. Now I was really pissed off. I honestly believed that she wanted the chocolate and since I wouldn’t give her, she took it this way(to this day I don’t know why I thought so). I was filled with a flush of anger, and threw the chocolate at her, and ran to my shelf and took out all the other chocolates I had managed to smuggle in on Sundays, and hurled them at her face saying “here, take these also, eat all of them yourself”.

Well the ending didn’t quite please me. I was made to kneel down in the central lobby throughout the afternoon until the time for parents meet. Thankfully HM didn’t went by without noticing me, although Warden Aunty did. It was getting to be time for the parents meet and I was fidgeting on my knees, wanting to get up and go. Warden Aunty just came up and saw me there, she asked me why I was kneeling, and I told her. She also whacked me one, and told me never to repeat it and let me go. So much for chocolates, never lost my taste for them though. Don’t believe any of you would, if you went through so much for them.

– GUPTA GHOST

P.S.
I don’t know what you people inferred from this incident, but I know the lesson I learnt from it(although not then, I was far too arrogant then , to learn anything from such incidents. Learnt it much later when I used to retrospect on such incidents). I learnt never to react hastily when you are angry. You will stand to lose more than you already have. And you will be none the wiser.

A Tempest of Temper – 4th Standard – Part 2

Well, I don’t really know if the incident(third eye) served as a catalyst for our relationship later on, or whether it was just another seemingly disjointed occurrence in this world of unexplainable happenings(well there are those that believe that there is no isolated event, and everything is inherently linked to everything else and all events move at the behest of a primeval cause, don’t really have an opinion on that though, because some days, when times are good, I believe in it, however I don’t when times are bad). The essence being however that, it was my first recollection of Sadde as a person. He still maybe the same person(with a very short fuse, that’s right at the tip of his nose, and just as easily given to laughing), but it doesn’t really matter, because once we have forged the pact, it becomes our duty to be bound by it.

Moving on to other events during the 4th Standard, the next one that comes to mind is the Spelling Test.

2. Spelling Test

Although I don’t remember the first instance that she became our teacher, I honestly believe it was during the 4th Standard that she became our English teacher. Of course people who are more sure of their memory are always welcome to correct my faltering memory. The person I am talking about is none other than Anantalakshmi maam(of the “not even a blade of grass can move without His will” fame).

She was our English teacher in our 4th Standard and was a formidable one at that. Not that she had an imposing figure, she was actually reed thin, as if she might be blown away any minute if we switched on the fan. If there was a reason she was feared, it was because of her voice. It had a reed-like quality to it, as shrill as a trumpet stuffed with macaroni can get. Although no glass ever shattered during her class, there was always the risk that it might happen any day(just kidding, her voice was like that only when she got angry, though one must admit, it was the norm, because she would get easily ticked off at the slightest movement).

Anyway, returning to the crux of this post, maam conducted a spelling test one day, when she was really disgusted at some of the spellings she saw in the unit test. It was for 100 marks and there were hundred words to spell. She would rattle off the words and we had about 20 seconds to write the spelling. The test was over and done with, and she went about correcting the papers. The marks were soon out, and to my great astonishment, I had got a 99.

I mean people would say why crib when you got the highest. But its not about getting the highest, it is about getting what you deserve. I deserved a hundred because I put in the effort to get it and wrote all the spellings correctly. It irked me more because the whole issue was about the legibility(my handwriting contributed to it in a major way, being almost as neat as a doctor’s prescription).

The whole issue was that my ‘i’ looked like an ‘e’ according to her. And to me it was clearly an i. To this day I don’t know if she refused to give me the mark because of a genuine misunderstanding or because she refused to accept that anyone could get a hundred. But I do know the consequences of the whole incident. I refused to attend any more of her classes, until she gave me the hundred, and just walked out of the class. She too stuck to her stand, and refused to relent. Thats what I relish, a fight with an opponent who doesn’t bow down. And besides women have always been the haughtier of the sexes and thats what makes it all the more fun fighting with them(not physically i mean).

Anyway matters came to a heady climax, when I started walking out of the class the moment she walked in. For two days she just shouted at me to get back in. The third day, she decided she had had enough and took me to HM. HM was as usual looking through those inscrutable glasses at both of us. And I don’t know what made her do so, but she just told maam, to get my paper and took a look at it and said “it looks fine. why don’t you give him the mark and get on with the classes”. That settled matters and the verdict was binding, and yes, although she could have still fought, she decided to be a gentlewoman and gave me the mark.

to be continued… … …

– GUPTA GHOST

P.S.
1. Its quite a paradox that the word in dispute happened to be ‘friend’.
2. For those who didn’t know, Anantalakshmi maam used to brag that she had “four eyes” and could see everything we did(referring to her moony speactacles). Surprising though that her four eyes couldn’t help her decipher the spelling. That’s what happens when Gupta Ghost writes.

A Tempest of Temper – 4th Standard – Part 1

Have decided to do away with the ‘clothes list’ letter, because it’s beginning to sound more and more like a Harry Potter custom. But that’s how it really was. I mean we really wouldn’t want to go home for a long time. Liked all our classmates more than family(whatever our misgivings), so we were always anxious to get back. And the clothes list was the first sign that school was going to reopen soon. Although we never had a 9 3/4 Platform and invisible train, the good old train by Indian Railways was equally good enough for enjoyment quotient. So enough about clothes list.

I came to the school and found that Vaidehi maam was our class teacher for the year, and was really pleased, because she always had a disarming smile that would put you off your guard. Of course, those who have seen her frown(with eyebrows, surprisingly arched downwards , and pouting lips) would vouch that she seemed quite uncomfortable acting angry. Anyway there she was, checking the luggage, as the students checked in, one after the other.

My memories of the 4th Standard are not quite momentous. Although I must admit, that things did happen then, which have played a far greater role in moulding my character to a greater extent than during any other class, specially the ones involving Vishnu and me. A pity though, that I don’t yet want to share them. May never want to. But you never know. Times do changes. Atleast for now, those episodes are best left unmentioned for the benefit of everyone concerned.

There are however incidents that have come to mind, that I believe can be shared for the purpose of this blog. Actually I currently remember only three, and hence this series will be limited to that number unless my memory can do better. They are:

1. Third Eye.
2. Spelling Test.
3. Chocolates.

1. Third Eye

This was the first experience in my life that I recall with my lifelong comrade-in-arms, Ashish Verma a.k.a Sadde(hereinafter called so for the rest of this blog). The classes had resumed and one fine day, in the afternoon, after lunch, we were in the dormitory(still wonder why, because we had classes after lunch, maybe a bunch of us came up for toilet). Whatever the reason, about 10 of us were in the dormitory, and I was actually just walking in.

Everyone was surrounding a guy, who was in the middle of the circle and was apparently talking something interesting. I decided to get up close and hear for myself what seemed to be so interesting to a bunch of 4th Graders. Sure enough, there he was, mesmerising everyone with his sales pitch kind of talk. It was about his spectacles. He had just got a new pair of them and as is wont with children, was already bragging the earth about it. I wouldn’t have taken much interest in the whole episode if it wasn’t for a claim that really set me thinking(really couldn’t resist my Newtonian urges then).

He was saying “these are unbreakable. just drop them anywhere and on anything and see if you don’t believe”. Since there were a fair number of naysayers, he felt it an obligation to give them an unwarranted demo by dropping them a number of times onto the floor. I was naturally fascinated just like the others, but unfortunately didn’t stop at that. I went forward and asked him if they were really unbreakable. Really irritated by my question even after seeing such an impressive demo he said “if you don’t believe, any of you can try”. I promptly accepted the offer and took the spectacles from him. I lifted it as high as I could(too bad, wasn’t really so tall then, wish I was ten feet tall and had done the experiment), and threw it onto the floor with all the force I could muster. It hit the floor with a resounding bang and the inimitable shattering sound of glass. It was then I found that he wasn’t as sportive as he was a few moments ago.

Rama amma too had heard the sound since it had disturbed her afternoon siesta. She immediately got up, took her stick and came as briskly as she allow towards us. I was just frozen there transfixed, not sure what to do, when Rama amma reached us. It was then that Sadde pulled the most coolest trick I ever saw anybody pull.

He pulled the stick from Rama amma, and that itself, although really shocking, was enough for me to get unfrozen from my ‘petrify’ spell and start running. Unfortunately, that was the year when the cots from Ooty were put in the dormitories and they occupied the entire central portion of the dormitory, severely limiting my escape routes. I tried to get as far away as I could before I got hit. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be my day. Adding to the trick he had just pulled, Sadde pulled another ace from under his sleeveless sleeve.

Unable to chasing me he was about 10 metres from me. I was just about to break into a grin, when he pulled off a smart move. He decided to turn the stick into a missile and hurled it at me. Caught unawares, it hit me squat in the center, on my forehead. It hurt for some time and then subsided, but not before being replaced by an enormous blob of a swelling, which stayed that way for a good part of four days despite any medicine I applied on it. Throughout that period I was taunted as Shiva, because my name was Thandava and the swelling on my forehead exactly resembled the fabled “Third Eye”(the very same one on which many tales were cooked up amongst us about pralaya and that kind of stuff).

I don’t remember him talking to me again, throughout the 4th Standard. Although I wouldn’t blame him for it. If I was in his place I too might have cursed the guy who broke my brand new spectacles that weren’t even a day old and besides there was the explanation he would have to give his parents about what happened to his spectacles(he was never much of a storyteller, though he has vastly improved since).

to be continued… … …

– GUPTA GHOST

To Enjoy And To Learn – 3rd Standard (Part 2)

Well, ‘eye infection’ will forever be remembered as the shortcut to bunking classes. It was the evergreen disease. Measles, scabies and chicken pox came and went, but eye infection would be the one that would outlast them all, not because of complexity or because of being an endemic disease(as popularised by the ‘madras eye’), but ironically because of the simplicity.

The simplicity of transfer, that made it spread through 40 to 50 students in a single day. For the more enterprising ones like me, because of the simplicity in obtaining it(or should I say faking it). We were a batch of guys who would hover over the horizon, like vultures, looking for he first signs of eye-infection in anyone. The moment it came to our knowledge that so-and-so person had it, we would rush to that guy and try prying open his eyes and looking in them. We were told that it spread by contagion, that is, through contact by air. The best part of eye-infection, is that there was never a slack in supply of people with it. It was always in fashion, 365 days a year or more.

Upon such prying open and staring, a few of us would get it. For the rest of us, there was always the ‘detergent infection’. All we would do is wait for these guys of our gang to get admitted and when the number reached about 10, and a separate dormitory was being opened, the rest of us would rub a speck of detergent into our eyes and lo-and-behold, we were into the world of eye-infection. We were a kind that thrived on mass-production, long before we even knew the term. Because of the sheer number of us waiting to be admitted, there wouldn’t be a formal thorough checkup, if your eyes were red, you were in, and when they cleared, you were out.

So, on alternate days, when there used to be checking, we would help ourselves to liberal supply of detergent(from the dhobi box, ah, the very mention of the word, brings memories of the dhobi box adventures). Not only when someone else contracted it, we would even use it to bunk classes on some days, and also to bunk unit tests. Unfortunately the curtains soon fell on eye-infection, when I left Primary School.

The other most significant activity apart from bunking classes by faking diseases, was to read books. Upto our 5th Standard ending, the library was a cramped room next to HM’s office, which initially was also used as the staff room. The library then, had about 8 to 10 racks of books that were mostly childrens’ classics in a condensed and usually hardbound illustrated form. We used to have one period called ‘library period’ in the whole week. This was the time many used to gather in a corner and chat(there never was, and will never be, any dearth of topics to chat about). However, I used to use this time to read about 30 pages of a book(the periods then were for only 40 or 45 min. if I am not wrong), or to conclude a book I had started the previous week. After about 2 months I found it really frustrating that there were almost 1000 books and I was not even being given an hour a week to read them. At this rate even if I continuously failed for about 40 years I would still be nowhere near completing them. Besides, what made it so frustrating was the fact that the books were not allowed to be borrowed(even today I have not been able to comprehend the reason why, although childish negligence and carelessness, leading to loss books seems a probable answer). You could only read whatever you could within the library period.

That was when I decided to take matters(or should I say books) into my own hands. I decided, that if you were not allowed to borrow officially, then you were entitled to borrow unofficially(flick?). So every library period, when no one was watching, I would take 4 or 5 books, depending on their thickness and tuck them between my shirt and short(we never used to wear pants then). Then after classes, while everybody went for games, I would go up to the dormitory and hide them in my shelf. And everyday night, after everyone slept, I would go into the bathroom and sit on the top wall, and read one book a day(as much as I could finish before I felt sleepy). Then the next week on library period day, I would take all the books down to class, and from there to the library, to be ‘exchanged’. There was only one minor incident, during my whole stay, regarding the library books. It happened during my 3rd Standard.

We used to stay with 4th Standard guys, and one fine day, there was a raid in the dormitory for 5 stones(the eponymous games, that led to a great number of fights, breakups, and needless to say enjoyment), and all the shelves were being checked. They were approaching my shelf, when I suddenly remembered that I had a library book in my shelf. Immediately, I took it out and hid it in the nearest place I could find, out of the window(if students recall, every window had a ledge above and below it, where a lot of trash used to be thrown, it was a place where even a prized set of 5 stones, much akin to a pair of Shakuni’s dice, used to be hidden).

I forgot about the whole issue. Towards the end of the year when everybody was packing for holidays, I put my hand out of the window and groped around for my set of ‘lucky 5 stones’ that I had hidden there. To my astonishment I felt something long and hard. I pulled it in and found it was a hardback edition of “Treasure Island” by R.L. Stevenson. I was shocked, because I had forgotten to remove it on the raid day, and had forgotten it totally in the days thereafter. Besides, we didn’t have any more library periods in the year since our exams had also got over. The only option, I decided, was to take it home and bring back the next year and return it. And so, in it went, as I packed my clothes all over it. To cut an already long story short, the book inevitably never came back. That proved to be my good fortune(my criminal mind was not so razor-sharp, back in those days). Because if I had brought back the book with me, I would have been caught while I brought it in, during the luggage checking while joining.

– GUPTA GHOST

P.S.
I still have the book in my collection.

To Enjoy And To Learn – 3rd Standard (Part 1)

Having got the ‘clothes letter’, I got ready for school after 2nd Standard vacations. Upon reaching school, I found myself at the end of a long line of students checking in(rejoining) after holidays. The best part of school was the timetable. It was always perfect about two things:

1. Holidays would always start on April 1st(some used to leave on March 31st evening). An interesting coincidence being that April 1st was also HM’s Birthday.

2. School would always reopen on June 1st(This has been the schedule for all the years that I have studied there).

Coming back to the line, I don’t recall them checking the luggage so thoroughly during my 2nd Standard, but I would recall them do so from now on for every year. It was always a list in the teacher’s hand compared against actual luggage. God help those who bring 1 underwear less or one white pant less.

The line was how I learnt that our class teacher for the year was Uma maam. Was never much fond of her, because initially she was one of the ‘pinching stars’ of the faculty’. However my opinion of her gradually changed, when I found that if you knew how stay on the right side of the fence, there was a lesser chance for you to get pinched, unlike other maams who would pinch for the glory of pinching(quite a few readers will know who I am referring to).

The most prominent events of 3rd Standard that still linger in my memories are the diseases(or should I rather call them epidemics). I went through one after another. First it was Measles. No sooner did I recover, I was struck with Chicken Pox. And of course not to forget the evergreen ‘Eye Infection’.

The best part about these diseases was that they were highly anticipated and awaited like springtime. Those who were ill were placed in a separate dormitory(the sick room was never sufficient for the number of students that were down everyday), and did not need to attend classes(for obvious reasons of contagion).

Those who were down with measles(am talking of the lucky guys like me, who were early birds) were taken to the room near Sai Srinivas(guest house) on the way to Mandir. There we would laugh, play around, jump and shout, and enjoy all day long except for the few hours that ‘medical amma’ would appear to apply a pink lotion all over our bodies and bring us breakfast, lunch, tiffin and dinner. We would also get those lovely cars that Swami gave, for playing, and cars would be hotly fought about(I still remember that the most ‘in-demand’ car was the pull-back car, which was a very prized possession, and Sanjit got one in 4th Standard as a prize). In fact they were the reason a lot of us became sick, to play with cars. Unfortunately, for those who came in late, for measles I mean, because the number grew too large for the room, they were kept in the school itself in a separate dormitory(well that was fun in its own way, but you can never compare it with the charm of a few guys staying in a room, having fun all day).

Even the chicken pox guys used to be housed in a separate dormitory, but that was after a lot of them got down with it. Luckily even in the case of chicken pox, I was what I would like to call a ‘pioneer’, and the chosen few of us got to stay in that room again. This time it was one hell of an enjoyment purely because of the classes we were going to miss(all of us missed about nearly a month), and that made it feel it like heaven, although then, the sick room was a kind of mini-heaven even otherwise, because of the food we used to get and simply because of the schedule.

And to talk about eye-infection will take me to the end of this page, so it would be better to talk of it in the next post, along with my other adventure of the 3rd Standard(library).

to be continued… … …

– GUPTA GHOST

Friends and Foes – 2nd Standard(Part-2)

The second incident I remember about my 2nd Standard, is my fracture.

It was a really funny incident, and even now when I come to think of it, the only thought I get is “How could I have been so stupid?”. It all started on the third day after I joined. I was passing through the central hall between the dormitories, when I happened to see, some of the seniors in their dormitories having a hand-stand race. I was really fascinated by it. I mean, I had never seen anybody do such a kind of thing even in the movies.

Immediately, I went back to our dormitory and started attempting the same. needless to say, even after about 40 trials I hadn’t even got started. Then came the most stupidest thought. I still don’t know if the idea itself was good and the execution flawed or vice-versa. But, the important point is that it got me a fracture.

I decided that although I didn’t know how to do it, if I tried to do it on the steps leading down to the lobby, somebody who knew, would notice my efforts, appreciate my dedication, and get right down to teaching me. It might have still worked out, if someone didn’t have a bigger plan for me. Right at the moment that I started it at the first step and fell down there itself, NBR(N. Brahmananda Reddy, who studied with us upto 4th Standard) was passing by and he stopped. He asked me what I was trying to do, and I told him. He told me “It won’t work this way, you wont get enough attention. Instead, if you try doing it on the railing(he meant the railing of the steps), everybody who is standing beside the steps for breakfast will notice you.”

Now, I was really beginning to get cold feet. I mean, I was literally wobbling at the knees. It was one thing to try it on the stairs where I would land on the next one if I failed, and it was entirely a different thing, to try it on the railing where if I failed, I would go all the way down. So I refused flat out to try such a thing and asked him”What if I fall?”. He simply said, “I am there, I will catch you.” Somehow I felt a lot more reassured and got ready for the big stunt.

Everything went as per the plan, except the climax. I caught the railing with my hands and pushed myself upwards. Only to flip over and land on my hand, down the other side of the railing, in front of the toys showcase and beside some boys waiting to go in for breakfast. For a while I just lay there not even sure what had happened. And then I got up and found I couldn’t feel my left hand. Poor NBR, was waiting on the stairs and was wondering where I had gone. I just didn’t happen to fall on the side he was waiting to hold me.

I remember walking to the medical room, and telling Aunty(I really don’t remember her name, I think it was Radhika or something like that, something that started with an R. She loved to write the most nasty-tasting tablets and would almost always recommend an injection, and was therefore considered one of the top terrors in the hostel) that I felt great pain in my hand. She asked me how, and I told her, I slipped from the stairs and fell on my hand. She immediately gave me some damn injection(I knew I shouldn’t have come there in the first place) and took me to the general hospital for a checkup.

At the hospital I was made to undertake an X-Ray, and was told it was a fracture. So we went to the dressing guy(still don’t remember what his official title is) and he put my hand in a cast. The first few days, were a real torture, as everybody who found me walking around in a cast, would stop me and enquire how I had got it. After the first few days however, I began to see the upside of having a fracture. Everywhere I went, I got preferential treatment. Even for food where everybody used to fight to go in first, I was allowed to go to the head of the line, just because I had a fracture.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. And so did my fracture, which was removed after a month. And boy, life did get back to its usual routine nondescript way.

But not for long, adventure was never an earshot away from me.

– GUPTA GHOST

Friends and Foes – 2nd Standard

If you remember, in my earlier post, I was talking of somebody nearly equaling my score. It was none other than IAK(I. Aditya Kumar), who got 97. He also happened to be the first guy whom I befriended, maybe because of unpacking our luggage on the same day or maybe otherwise. But the fact remains that he was my first friend in the school.

IAK and I have a long and chequered history(of fights and make-ups). For quite a long period of time(maybe 6 years) we were on-off buddies, who would be friends for a few days and be at each other’s necks for a few more days. Well, the significant reason why we were even friends may have been due to a factor called ‘Sections’. In the 2nd Standard there were 2 sections(although later we were split into more, only to be rejoined into two again in the 5th Standard. Now these sections were fundamentally divided on the basis of origin of batch. There were the Parthi guys and there were the Ooty guys.

Ours was the last batch for such an occurrence, because the school in Ooty was closed down after the Ooty guys from my class finished with their 1st Standard(the very last batch of 1st Standard there). So since the school in Parthi already had a section for 1st Standard, the Ooty guys were all just moved in as a separate additional section. Since we two(IAK and myself, although I believe there was also a girl who joined along with us) were new admissions, we were just added to the Ooty section that had been created. We were to continue there until the 6th standard, when after the great ‘gang war’ and ‘great cleansing’, the two groups(Ooty and Parthi) were finally mixed.

I have very few memories of my 2nd Standard, because there were not many really memorable incidents. However the two things that I do remember about my 2nd Standard are:

1. Pin-Drop Stories
2. Fracture

To keep the post from getting unusually lengthy, I will only deal with the first one here.

PIN DROP STORIES

Well, to begin with, there is nothing as a Pin-Drop Story, its just a name I have given now to stories that we were told almost everyday. There was this maam called Soumya maam. Everyday(well almost) after bhajans, we were sent to the classrooms to wait our turn for dinner(the dining hall was not large enough to accomodate everyone and thus classes would be sent one after the other), and Soumya maam usually, invariably was sent to ‘mind’ our class until dinner. She would keep us all engaged by telling us a-story-a-day. However there was a small hitch to it, she would only tell us a story if we kept quiet(you can imagine how noisy a bunch of almost 40 2nd Standard students can get). To ensure this, she would call for what she termed ‘pin-drop’ silence(and no, believe me, it’s not the cliche you are used to), which literally meant, she gave a minute to get silent and the she would drop a pin onto the floor(literally). If she heard a sound, she would tell us a story right away, else we were given one more chance to get ourselves a story. If she failed to hear a sound the second time over, it meant we were simply not going to be told a story that day.

Now comes the most important question of the whole exercise, did it work? Well, honestly, for most of the days, say 20 days a month, we used to be told a story. As to the rest of the days, well, there was always somebody or the other(me included) who decided they had to talk when they had to, and this deprived the rest of the class of the story for the day. The most difficult part of the exercise was not just hearing the pin drop, it was about having to keep absolutely quiet until the end of the story. It seems an improbable task, but somehow if a story got started, I never remember it being stopped in between because someone had talked.

to be continued… … …

– GUPTA GHOST

Of Effort And Trust – Part 2

Well, once I had my fill of the Elephant Slide, I moved on to the other rides and went around trying to guess which animals were what. By the time I was done, it was evening and everyone was rounded up and taken for bhajans. Now, that was another concept that was entirely new to me. I had never seen anybody pray this way before. The only exposure I had towards prayer were the incoherently muttered mumbo-jumbo by my parents at home. Even that was never as lively and engaging as the bhajans. I felt drawn into it just by the tune and kept trying to follow despite not understanding a single word, they were so enveloping and infectious.


After bhajans, we left to the dormitories for a few minutes before dinner, and lo and behold, the first person I came into contact with was Ganesh, and he immediately asked me if I was a new admission, and which class. When I told him 2nd Class, he told me he too was in 2nd Class and to this day I remember the first time anybody mispronounced my name, it was him. I can understand Britishers calling Ootakamund as Ooty and Thiruvanathapuram as Trivandrum, but here was this guy, a pucca Indian, pronouncing my name(Thandava Krishna) as ‘Thataki’, because that was the only name that came to his mind that resembled my name! The rest of the guys surrounded me and asked him who I was, and he repeated my name. Thus I was introduced royally to everyone as ‘Thataki’, a name that more or less came to be my involuntary alias for the better part of the next 5 years( I tried explaining my name wasn’t that but nobody would listen, until the next day Sangeetha maam(our class teacher) called my name in class.

Soon, it was time for dinner, and we went down in a line. The moment I reached the serving counter, I took one look at the serving counter, glanced at all the items, and immediately ran from there. I was stopped at the door, by Prema maam who was on duty there and was assigned as a special case to Prassanna maam(misbehaving case rather). When she came to know I spoke Telugu, she asked me in Telugu why I wasn’t eating, and I told her that it was my first day in the school and I didn’t like any of the food and didn’t even know what they were serving. She was very understanding and took me to the elevated end of the hall where the teachers used to eat and made me sit, and asked me “ok what will you eat?”. Nothing flashed, and the only thing I remembered were the biscuits I ate on the way to the school. So I told her “biscuits, aunty”(I didn’t know what the teachers were called here, and I didn’t even know if she was a teacher there).

She smiled(maybe at the request, maybe at being called aunty, I will never know), and went to the table there and got me a big box of animal-shaped biscuits that used to be given out very rarely and filled a lot of them onto my plate(even now when I come to think of it, that was the only day in my life I ate the maximum number of animal-shaped biscuits, throughout the rest of my school life, biscuits meant by default “Marie Biscuits”).

The fact that I never told her or anybody else in my life was that, the reason I ran away from eating was because of the curry. That day happened to be ‘meal-maker’ or ‘nuggets’ curry as it was referred to. I saw the pieces and they starkly resemble pieces of mutton(I used to eat non-vegetarian then, and in my home my folks ate all kinds of stuff, although now I have turned completely vegetarian and am constantly taunted for it at home). I was told that non-veg was not only not served in the school, but also strictly forbidden, and if they(staff) came to know I was eating non-veg, I would be kicked out of the school(I still remember, everytime we came back after holidays, HM would ask everyone whether they watched movies, or whether they ate non-veg, but although she never used to ask me, my parents would always jump the gun and say “he hasn’t been eating any such thing”).

It was more of a confusion than dislike. I was stunned actually, that this was a school that forbade eating non-veg at home, and here I was, waiting in a queue for a large serving of what I was very much sure was mutton. So I ran away. Later, I asked IAK(more of him in the next and subsequent parts), who told me that it was vegetarian and nothing to worry.

I spent my first night, dreaming about being kicked out because THEY found out I had eaten ‘nuggets’ curry. Gives me the shivers every time I think of it. Maybe I should have just told Prassanna maam about it, but somehow I felt she would laugh right back at me in front of everyone and make me look foolish.

So much for dinner(and all my effort to get in, and my trust in the school to serve me non-veg).

– GUPTA GHOST

P.S.
Future Posts relating to Primary School will bear Class Numbers in the Title to help establish a time-frame for reference.