Although I enjoy taking walks down memory lane every now and then, a serious sense of nostalgia hit me only recently.
It was the occasion of my school batch’s silver jubilee celebration. Each of us was asked to write our thoughts about school, and our journeys through the years. As I started writing, I felt that my pen and my mind were suddenly heavy with emotions. They were threatening to overwhelm me as I began to virtually tread the familiar corridors of my alma mater once again, after 25 long years.
Chills and thrills
The only memory I have, of my first day at school, was an uncontrollable urge to cry and pee, although I don’t remember succumbing to either urge. Separation anxiety soon gave way to falling in love with my school as soon as the principal announced that Saturdays and Sundays were off days!
I have some very striking memories of the school assembly. Rows after rows of students would be neatly clad in their school uniforms, all lined up as per the class they were in. I remember our principal, Kavoori Ma’am’s voice resonating in the large hall as she stood on the imposing stage. Her vision was clear; Maharaja Sawai Mansingh Vidyalaya was a school of high ideals and hard choices. It was designed to give each of its students a progressive and liberal growth perspective and opportunity.
I also remember the thrill of attending extra classes in the new building basement for my class 10 board examinations. At the time, the school was officially closed during reservation agitation. We had sneaked inside the school building from the rear gate, flaunted our home clothes, took the liberty to wear some lip gloss, and did away with the mandatory braids. With the hormones on a roller coaster and jitters of board exams looming over, this was more of an adventure than a focus on studies!
Most sought after events at school
Apart from academics, almost every day was action-packed with co-curricular activities. I clearly remember acing mediocrity at most of them, but that was no excuse not to participate. Of all the events in the school calendar, I have some vividly fragrant memories of the Annual Days and the Diwali melas.
Each Annual Day was special, but the dance drama ‘Kyon Bhai Kyon’ remains an all-time favourite. The frenzy was intoxicating and I can still feel it in my guts as I write about it. The Diwali melas were another star event of our school. I remember how I would greedily eye the hamper basket year after year until I had better alternatives to the eye.
As I grew older, it was the ‘Request Stall’ that caught all our undivided attention! From the start to the end of the Diwali mela, the stall had long serpentine queues of boys and girls clamouring to get to the front. It was, after all, the only evening in the entire year when we could ask the DJ to play a song dedicated to our hush-hush crush!
Falling in love with books
Of all the academic periods, I loved the library period the most and always looked forward to it. One of the main reasons was our librarian, Veena Ma’am’s, constant involvement. From snatching a copy of Femina out of boys’ hands to introducing Enid Blyton to us, she was the guiding force.
She was the one who initiated us to the world of classics. We copiously read books by authors like Daphne du Maurier, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, and Jane Austen, among others. Veena Ma’am did her job with absolute dedication, and it is thanks to her perseverance that I am a voracious reader till today.
The turning point
Our school would take us on field trips every year — an attempt no doubt to broaden our vision and make us independent. My fondest memories are that of our Mount Abu and Udaipur trip. I distinctly remember the fun we had during our bus rides and the bonding that we shared — one that stays true even today.
A memory that lingers is that of my failed efforts at shedding the ‘Ugly Betty’ image, my futile attempts at acting cool, and ending up as a wallflower that I used to be. I could only regret judging the girls who waxed their legs and plucked their eyebrows. Seeking attention was, and is, a natural human trait, right?
A guest lecture by the Swami Vivekananda Mission proved to be a turning point for a timid, introvert me. I’m glad it came when I still had two crucial years still left in school. I was petrified to take up any role that involved public speaking.
Because of this inhibition, I hadn’t taken up important school posts despite constant persuasion by my teachers. This lecture pumped me up with so much zest that I reached out to my house coordinator and scheduled my assembly speech for the very next day. I still have goosebumps when I remember the roaring applause I received that morning.
Farewell and reunion
The school farewell was more of an everlasting imprint on my soul than simply be called a memory. The pain of parting was sharp but definitely worthwhile.
The farewell by the juniors has stayed fresh on my mind for two reasons. First, we wore sarees and sashayed down the ramp with a swag that could put ‘Bhagyashree’ of ‘Maine Pyaar Kiya’ fame to shame. And second, I was awarded the title Saada Jeevan Uchch Vichar. It means ‘simple living, high thinking’. Isn’t it heart-breaking for a young lady to leave a co-educational school on such an unglamorous note?
On a serious note, it is euphoric to reunite with old buddies. Thanks to WhatsApp,we suddenly found ourselves reminiscing about the good old days and animatedly discussing the fun we had. The best part is we are closer to each other than we were in school, and we make we meet every once in a while. I am especially glad that after 25 years, both boys and the girls who were my contemporaries, think that I look better than I did while in school!