I was at my school in my dream on night of Aug 8 2014. My school, Gulmohar School is special for me. I associate my growing with it, the only school of my life. Most of my class mates were the same for the 11 years we were at school. No change in sections as well. I was in ‘Section A’ in Kindergarten and stayed same till class 10th. My teachers changed in each class but most contributing their working life to my school. By the time, I was in class 10th the Vice Principal had been promoted as Principal.
Gulmohar School has two campuses at Telco colony in Jamshedpur, some 3 km apart. The primary school had a flat building structure with only one wing of the school having first floor. Ms Sood use to be the principal in 1982 – my first year at school. I have faint memories of Ms Tomas who had to finally pinch my ears to make me master the concept of carry-overs in Addition. This happened in Class 1. The school bell was rung by hitting a brass circular plate with a wooden hammer. Mr Money Sir use to do this. We were instructed to stand still where ever we were during the interval. This was when the first bell rang. When the next bell rang after a 1-2 minute gap, we had to walk back to our classrooms disciplined and with no noise and talking. This was a great practice to train kids to master the transitioning from one activity to another.
Group punishment was experienced in Class III. Our class was punished for being noisy during class breaks, till the next teacher stepped in. I recall myself getting hurt playing ‘Touch-n-go’ called ‘Jhatpat’ in Hindi. My right palm had deep scars with a couple of pebbles puncturing my top skin. First aid at school was washing the hand and then applying anti-septic. Despite getting hurt during the break, I recall I stayed in school. A private auto-rickshaw owner was plying five of us from Tinplate Colony, 7 km from school. We had a sense of Seniority when in Primary school campus. Teachers told us, “You are the senior most in this campus and set good example for the juniors.”
We shifted to a much bigger campus in Class IV. I was finally getting some sense of the world but still not smart enough like most of my class mates. Lokesh was my bench partner who use to point to snake-shaped branch on a tree visible from Class and say that its controlled by him. I use to just listen but never utter my disbelief. I hesitated, letting out my reasoning for disbelieving him. Hence, the narration went on for long.
Poornima was my first female bench partner in Class II. A slim and underweight girl, if I recall and she use to pinch me hard on my thighs. With shorts as uniform, the blood clots could be seen at home. I do not know what problem she had but she did this several times, till I had a different bench-partner. This was my first harassment of life. I remember it till today and will not forget. I never dared to get up and inform teacher about this.
Being a Sikh, I use to cover my head with a cloth wrapped around my hair called ‘Patka’. May be she had some problem with my looks. Gurdas, Jaswinder and Gajraj were the sikh boys but not in one section. Gurdas was in my section, if I remember correctly.
Class V was first time when I secured 9 out of 25 marks in a mathematics class test. That day when I reached home, I wept and huddled in the corner of the bedroom, safe enough from the reach of my parents. My mother said, “Its ok. Work hard next time.” My father may have scolded me but given my sadness and realization of the issue, opted instead to encourage me and help me overcome the first failure of my life. I was sensing some troubles in comprehending and approaching mathematics the right way. I could not very well relate to the concept of ‘Practice when it comes to Mathematics’. I practiced hard but then while solving; I chose to follow a similar process without understanding the question. Then, I made silly mistakes in totaling etc. Painful days ahead with Mathematics were getting evident.
Class VI Krishnan Sir introduced us to symbols in Chemistry. Aluminum is ‘Al’ but Sodium is ‘Na’ – symbol used, Natrium being the latin name. I remember, he suggesting us to buy a thin book for all element symbols and nomenclature. His dedication to teach us the symbols and then ensuring we mastered it was remarkable. I remember them quite well till today and will for the rest of my life. He used to place a ‘chalk’ between fingers of his students’ fingers if they failed to learn the symbols despite repeated attempts. I am thankful to you Krishnan sir.
Class VII, I was getting a bit naughty but get defensive on being caught. If I remember correctly, Ms Shobha was our English teacher and Class teacher. She said, “You have scored badly in test. I wept when I walked back to my seat after collecting the answer sheet from her in the class.” Few days later, I was blamed for doing something that I never did. She said, “You are a devil. You do a mischief and then make an innocent face.” This comment pinches me till date since it was criticism of my innocence, my personality.
I was hit on my left eye with a stone that my classmate mistakenly aimed at me. He had no intentions to hurt me deliberately. The injury to my eye, luckily not visible externally, was permanent. I had to get it operated some 25 years later to have a lens fitted in.
Class VIII was the time when I picked up arguments with two female class mates. They both use to move and eat together. Both were Punjabi girls and later good friends. The arguments were around stupid issues like your long hair is on my table or have your chair pulled up further up to leave enough space for me behind. A good excuse to start talking may be. My early days of knowing females and being attracted to them.
One of those girls, while climbing stairs to our class on first floor said, “I like the fitting of your trouser.” I proudly said, “Is it so?, Wow !”. Later, I realized that the two Punjabi girls were family friends. I was quite surprised when we were together at Jubilee park for picnic. I was wearing skin-colored socks that my mother gave me. When sitting on the grass, the same were seen by Rupinder – one of the two females. She said, “Why are you wearing girl’s socks?” She teased me and I lost the limited confidence I had on myself and my mother on our choice of wardrobe. I told my Mom on returning home and she said, “Who said only girl’s wear skin-colored socks?” I never agreed to what she said. For me the comment of Rupinder is to stay with me for rest of my life.
Some of the jokes cracked by them were well understood but I choose to be ignorant. I was too shy to reveal to them that I knew what they meant. Despite our closeness we were not having any symptoms of first crush of our life. The girls in those times rarely liked Surds – Sardars with turban. Also with beard growing, the non-sikhs were a better and a more wise choice.
Class IX, I had typhoid when my parents left me with my Aunt to attend a family wedding in Punjab. They returned to find me admitted in hospital and still recovering from sever typhoid. I am grateful to Dr Tripathy. He has understood and cured me very well. Given my discomfort to swallow and large medicines, he stuck to two small tablets twice a day. When I rejoined, I felt I had lost a lot on studies and also the spectacles made me more conscious. I usually avoided them wearing. But my father went on to insist me to have them on my face always.
In Class IX, given my weakness from the illness, my father bought me a moped – Avanti Autogear to drive to school. First few days, when I drove my father followed me. Later I was free to use it to go to school and later for Physics and Maths tuition. My sister use to comment as a pillion rider, “You drive so slow on speed-breakers that anyone will walk past you.” Even today I can’t match upto the speed she expects.
Class X was when we were preparing for the board exams. Gajraj, my classmate sensitized me about the exams approaching. He shared some question papers of yesteryears with me. I returned them in 15 days post reviewing and practicing them. I wrote all my board exam papers using a Reynold pen. My first signature of life was on the Admit card for the I.C.S.E Board exams.
I am grateful to Ms Lal, Ms Vasudevan , Mr Gopi and Mr Saraangi. All of them are great teachers. I thank our sports teacher for helping me master march-past on Republic day functions. Today, my walking style is that of soldiers.
Through out my school life, my fascination to a person with same name as mine and of opposite gender could not be understood. What should I have thought about a girl named Jaspal Kaur in my class? Any guess?
I love my school – Gulmohar High School for everything I am today. I dream of being there one day addressing the students in morning assembly.