Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Visiting My School after Forty-three Years

Imagine visiting your school after forty-three years. Yes. I did exactly that last week. We had graduated from Adarsha Vidyalaya, Chembur, Bombay in 1973 and it’s now forty-three years. The occasion of the visit was my classmate Gangadharan’s book (Evergreen Leaves) launch, which he insisted should be in his alma mater. So we – Sanjeevan, Ajit, Geeta, Chandra, Ravi, Shashi, Sasikumar – reached our school at 10.30 a.m.

And what do we find? The school is not what it used to be. The entire structure has changed. What used to be a free space under the stair is now the school’s office. Our laboratory was changed into an auditorium. A new wing and a new floor has been added. Our eleventh standard class seemed so small we couldn’t fit into it. God alone knows how we sat in the class at that time. There was a sense of something gone missing, something having shrunk. Not us. Must be the school. I guess we were smaller then than we are now. Adolescence was an awkward time and we could see our concerns written on the walls of the class. Some of us have realised our dreams, some of us haven’t. Hm.

In our classroom at Adarsha Vidyalaya, Chembur, after a long time of 43 years. Beside me is Ravi Nair, behind me is Ajit Thampi and Chandrashekharan.
Melancholy thoughts aside. We had our teachers for company. Shankaranarayan-sir who taught us English was the person who inspired me to read poetry and prose. Reading led to writing, though I confess I have not proved my chops so far. I have a chip on my shoulders to perform you know, so many great writers in my family. I am somewhat ashamed that I didn’t live up to some people’s expectations. Sorry! He was also the one who inspired Ganga to write. His classes used to fun, full of anecdotes about how Keats was suffering from tuberculosis and how Shelly was his friend and champion. Keats died thinking of himself as a failure in Rome. After Keats’ death at age 25 Shelly wrote in his poem Adonais:

The loveliest and the last,
The bloom, whose petals nipped before they blew
Died on the promise of the fruit.

All this came to mind when I saw Shankaranarayan-sir. The shock of thick curly hair is gone, he is bald now. The revolutionary of those days is the owner of a profitable industry today. The transformation from proletariat to bourgeoisie happened slowly. However, he hasn’t forgotten or forsaken his writing talent and writes and directs plays these days.

Padmavati-teacher was our class teacher in the final year that was eleventh standard. Those days we had eleven standards, not ten like it is now. Padmavati-teacher taught us general science and she insisted that we carry the huge textbook to class every day. I was a bit of a rebel, rebelling against such strictures internally, and I didn’t bring it to class and got punished numerous times. To her surprise, when the board exam results were received I had scored the highest in general science in school. She gifted me a pen at that time, which I have lost, but, the gesture stayed with me. It was a pleasure meeting her.

It seemed our teachers had done very well and were in the best of health, and as someone remarked, had better health than her students. Padmavati-teacher is 75 years old and walks for one hour every day.

We took our pictures sitting in our old classroom, on shrunken little benches. Then we met the officiating principal now, and then we dispersed. I felt as if a lot of memories lay trapped inside those classes, which I had just visited.

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