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