Of happy times, of simple times……
The Kendriya Vidyalaya No. 1 which was managed by the Army had its rival in another Kendriya Vidyalaya No. 2 which was within the Airforce complex. And lo! We had our rivalry in place. Apart from that was the wonderful set of teachers we had and the immensely entertaining student crowd too. As I walked into Grade 11 Humanities group class, I found my new classmates to be fun in every way. The boys of the class had this immense sense of humour as they’d tease the teachers while being totally respectful and serious about lessons too. After a strict and different convent culture this environment was extremely refreshing for me, and I dug in my feet for a lovely few years.
The tall and towering Sirohi boy of Grade 12 was a terror, I was told. He wasn’t afraid of anyone but Sharma sir they disclosed further. Sreedhar sir only froths at the mouth and stays quiet when Sirohi tries to rag him and does not do anything apart from a few verbal innuendoes because of the former’s size. Day One was turning out to be hilariously entertaining. And Sreedhar sir was our Class teacher. A short break saw our group fish out something from under a class cupboard from behind some old project papers and a boy slid it under his school uniform shirt as all poured out into the vast field outside. I was charmed by the deftness and the absolute oneness of purpose of each and every member. We had a circle of boys and girls within seconds and out came flying a red Frisbee. The delightful sounds of squealing and lunging to catch it announced the game had begun. Swish came the Frisbee at me and instinctively I grabbed it. Claps from all my classmates meant I had been initiated into the clandestine game too. The younger crowd of students found this amusing and soon we had a cheering audience too. Gosh, this school was going to be Hella-of-a-fun trip, I thought to myself! And then the disc passed me, yet I did not hear it fall. “Toh aap bhi inn nalaykoon mien shamil hogayi hai, aapne first day of school mien”, the husky voice of Sharma sir behind me made me freeze. (“So, you have also joined these brats right on your first day of school?”).
Turning around I answered that it was just a modest game of frisbee. None of us was indulging in any vandalism and then “Sir,” I reasoned, “it is better than sitting around gossiping and passing innate comments on either girls or teachers.”
Sharma sir smiled his bemused smile and countered, “Hmm, toh leader bhi banne ka shuak hai aap ko.” (“Hmm, so you seem to love wanting to be leader too.”)
“Nahi sir, hum toh sirf reasoning ki taraf hain.” (No sir, I am only on the side of reasoning.”)
The gasp from the onlookers confused me. For I wasn’t sure whether it was because of my answer or because of who the answer had been given to. Either way I never came to know. But Sharma sir laughed his loudest laugh and since that moment I became and remained till my two years at that school, his favourite student and he my most staunch supporter and mentor par excellence.
I also gained the respect of not only my fellow eleventh graders, but my seniors as well and probably cemented my path for becoming School prefect in my final year. I realised none of this then except that I loved being in the school each day and loved being looked up to by friends and all fellow students to be someone who argued from their side, from a point of view of reason. It also made me recognise the fearless streak I had in me to take on anyone if I firmly believed it in something, myself.
From that moment onwards, I had all kinds of groups of students buttress me and ask me to put forward their idea to the Principal thru Sharma sir, who incidentally was also Vice-Principal of our school. It may be worth a mention as I share this memory that the students asked permissions for things like wanting an extra group dance of their group included in the Annual day list of events, or getting them the permission to make a school band, permission to sing karaoke songs of Hindi films at the next children day programme, or start a break away Science club from the official school one, or help them get an extra one-act play included in the list of performances for Teacher’s day celebrations.
In other words, simple, unpretentious, uncomplicated and down-to-earth requests in a school environment of the 80’s which already had everything going for us and we wanted more. Life in school was straightforward and unfussy. Our teachers loved us for our pranks and appreciated the intelligent ones which became part of staff room lore and other teachers who weren’t found to be interesting enough to be pranked, yearned to be in the books of students who cared enough to either mimic them or try a trick or two on them.
That’s clear-cut and plain.
A serious lesson on Macbeth. A bored class trying to stifle its yawns. A huge shadowy figure outside our classroom window signals and asks us, if we want some change. The naughty boys nod in unison. Sreedhar sir glares at them, “Pay attention, or then none of you will know what to write in the Unit Test next week”, he scolded. A murmur of assent. And then a blast. And all hell broke loose. A frothing Sreedhar sir scampered to the classroom door and pulled at the leg with the school shoe which had broken into the lower part of the door and was stuck half inside our classroom. The giggles and the gasp of amusement made Sir get angrier and wilder. It was hilarious to say the least and we all jumped up to tell him to let go otherwise we’d never know who was on the other side of that leg. He asked us girls to open the door and nab the culprit. We dutifully did as told and as he let go of the leg, he countered a smiling and towering Sirohi.
“Hi sir, kyon baachon ko rag kar rahe ho”, he grinned his patent couldn’t-care-less- grin. (“Why are you ragging the poor kids” – as in by taking a Macbeth lesson on a hot afternoon.)
“Why do you keep on behaving like this Sirohi beta?”, was all Sreedhar sir could muster. (“Why do you do keep on behaving like this (Sirohi) son?”)
“Aadat se laachar hoon Sir”, quipped the hulk. (“Habits die hard, sir”)
Someone had informed Sharma sir and he approached the verandah. Sirohi lined up with his two friends in attention. Sreedhar sir tried to mumble something. And then the sound of a slap.
“Next time you do this to a teacher, you are out finally. I have asked you father to meet me today afternoon. He is himself ashamed of you continuing your disgusting behaviour and has told me to use whatever means I have to discipline you”, hollered Sharma sir.
The rest of us scampered to our desks. Sirohi admitted it was his leg which came through our class door. Sreedhar sir tried to say something but a wave of hand from Sharma sir silenced him. Sirohi bent his head down while his cronies got a verbal dressing down too. The classroom door was repaired that same afternoon as we boarded our buses. The glee of the prank was contrasted with the disciplining too and we all got our vital lessons in schooling.
Cut to the present and I shudder to think of the repercussions of such a scenario in our present-day schools. I’d have wasted a good few hours rummaging through CCTV footage to get ‘evidence’, The act of the teacher would have been traced back or attributed to some filmy style grudge of a previous academic year. The student would have thought of a dozen excuses to explain his/her act. Juxtapose this with a parent who would come marching into school angry and wanting blood.
None of the kind of drama then. Our eyes and the teacher’s word were the CCTV camera evidence and none of us coloured the truth in Chinese whisper style. An unacceptable act was dealt by the teacher in a particular way which over time isn’t considered right and rightly so with newer scientific evidence – but disciplining was done with an assembly talk and an open discussion in a special debate for the senior classes. Matter resolved. We had our ‘For’ and ‘against’ groups then too but only in matters of the harshness of the disciplining act.
And I guess the lessons in respect and naughtiness balance were vital. Though popular belief at that time, suggested that maybe Sirohi would end up being a dacoit on the ravines or roads of Haryana, he ended up becoming a very successful and prosperous farmer till reports last came to me.
To be continued………..