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