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Walking To The School

 

Many times, I have thought of writing about the Bazaar, I crossed every day on my way to school and while coming back from it in the evening. As up to the 3rd standard, I attended Lady Irwin School, which lay in the opposite direction to where D.A.V., the senior school that I attended from 6th standard to 11th was. I attended 4th standard in a school named Shree Prakash Ashram at Amritsar and Class V, I did from Shishu Niketan at Chandigarh because dad was posted out of Shimla on deputation for two years. The stories of those two years will need a separate chapter.

Coming back to my childhood at Shimla, I can’t say that I had no reason to take the Kalibari road to the school. The road would be teeming with the girls going to Lady Irwin and St. Thomas going up it and Tara Hall girls coming down towards their school, it used to be a scene like the mad salmon run. Though this simile lucidly describes the scene on the Kalibari road, it is rather an anomaly in essence because the girls being spoken about were of prepubescent age. Girls were not on my mind in those days but apparitions of the feminine kind were. What to speak of having voyeuristic desires, I was shy of the company of those, who wanted to befriend me, and as I was called “kudiyan varga munda” (an effeminate boy), I should have been wary of those pedophiles who are on the lookout to trap the young boys but I wasn’t aware that they existed either. I believed that the world consisted only of good people, I still do.

The constant lamenting of my buddy, of his fear of being rejected by the class conscious TH girls in grey skirts, because his being in St. Edwards was below their benchmark of eligibility set at BCS, pained me because it pained him but all the more it prevented me from entertaining such thoughts, because I was from further lower strata of society. I was not even aware if I was missing out on any fun. I was rather happy because in my lower middle-class neighborhood lived many beautiful girls who loved me. Without divulging more about them at this juncture I must say that unsullied by any of those pretentious coats of snobbish superiority they were sweet like the wild berries. I told him that he should try saying ‘BC’ BCs boys instead of just BCS boys anytime he spoke about them as this cool tautological tool might cool his regret for losing the Lorretto girls to them. Moreover, it would spice his narration up and the discerning readers would enjoy the intelligent mixing of the things said and unsaid, confusing even those who were taught the queen’s language by Abbots and Mother Superiors and obviously so because they couldn’t have taught them the art that was taught to this desi boy by his masterji. I said, that nascent tendrils of such complexes of superiority or inferiority do start taking grip of the emotions in the hearts of the children who are constantly tutored by their parents about their position in the stratified society, but such expressions don’t suit the narrative of the childhood revisited.

So, there was no reason for me to take the Kalibari road for going to Lady Irwin school which lay in the diagonally opposite direction, but as I said there were compulsions. There were stories abound of the clans of Bimla floating about freely to catch the little children for a good meal and these blood-sucking anthropophagous, celestial beings don’t care for the societal strata created by the class conscious human beings. For them, the kid is a kid, whether he/she is of BCS or Loretto Convent or a waif. The little children have their own fears. The stories about the ghosts and chudails and the haunted houses are passed on to them by their seniors and their truth is never questioned.

An unpaved steep path, a stretch of about a hundred meters ran from the Constance lodge where we lived to the point where it joined the short flat tarmac path. I do not know why this stretch leading to our home wasn’t macadamized. Maybe, the young boys would steal much of the coal tar issued to the contractor by PWD for laying the road. The coal tar which we used to call “luk” was a pretty useless thing. Except for rolling it into a ball and that too when it was warmed up, it couldn’t be put to any good use. It smelled awful and it used to stick to the clothes, causing much distress to the harassed mothers and inviting much trouble to us in the form of corporal punishment, but still, we couldn’t resist ourselves from stealing it from the barrels of it being heated on the roadside by the crew for paving the roads. In a way I think, we were doing a good service to the contractors, who could sell much of it in the grey market and show it as pilfered or stolen by the children. I can’t think of any other reason for the stretch of the road leading to the Constance Lodge left out from being coal tarred.

…to be continued.

 

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Navneet Bakshi

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Ushasurya
Ushasurya
10 months ago

Nice memories Navneet….School days are always something we miss when we grow old..
the heart remains young though.

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