June is always special. They always bring with them lots of memories, which lend a hand for the mind to time-travel to the superlative epoch that has passed by long back.
It was during this time of the year, twelve years back that I left my comfort zone of Sharjah and stepped into the unknown wilderness of life outside school. I still remember the day I landed in Calicut in the last week of June, travelling alone, a delayed flight by 8 hours, tired and jet lagged, stepping onto the tarmac in the midst of a very heavy downpour.
With this journey, had ended once of the most significant chapters of my life – my school life.
What had began on a cool, breezy winter morning in 1988, ended on a hot afternoon of April 2000. The journey from UKG-F to XII-C was a ride that was enjoyed like a passenger in a Volvo bus – not even a single hump or pothole in the path had an effect on the journey. Sharjah Indian School was the best thing that has happened in my life, and it is the edification that I have got here, both in and out of syllabi that has shaped my persona.
For almost 14 years, Sharjah Indian School was my home. It is a momentous accomplishment to study in a single school in one’s lifetime, and I am proud of this achievement. The day Dad took me to school for the admission process, my first day in the class, my class teachers – from Fathima Madam in Kindergarten to George Varghese Sir at Twelfth class – all these are etched deep in my memory. Coupled with this the opportunity to discover a wide assortment of languages – Arabic, Hindi, English, Tamil, and yes… a bit of French too.
The most distinct memory is my last day at school. Our board exam’s examination centre was at Our Own English High School near the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, and till we reached back to SIS after the last exam was done, the realisation that a wonderful journey was ending had not sunk into us.
Back to the assembly point, we all had a glance at each other. Suddenly the joy of the end of board exams gave way to a truckload of emotions. Most of us had been classmates for a very long time. The reality that all of us have reached a crossroads where our destinations are at different directions, and the chances of travelling through the same path again might never come again, gave all of us a lump in the throat. Maybe, quite a few of us dropped a tear or two from the eye.
But as the daredevils we were, we did not want the day to pass off as just another ordinary day. I still do not quite remember whose idea was it, but somebody came up with an awesome idea to keep the day frozen in memory forever.
All the pens and ink were out from our bags, and then it was a Holi that was played with red, black and blue ink bottles all over. Before most of them even knew what was happening, the entire science and commerce batches were raining the bottles of ink on the white and blue uniforms of each other. Once that was done, we found it was the turn of permanent markers to be out of the bags, we were signing autographs on whatever space was left out on the shirts of each others. As the end of a bewildered session of an all out war, all of us were like walking rainbows – the navy blue pants topped with white shirts that were an assortment of signatures, autographs, phone numbers and infinite amalgamation of ensigns in ink. The most unfortunate moment was that none of these events could be captured in frames, as mobile phone cameras, in fact, even digital cameras were not the order of the day.
I was particularly proud of my uniform like never before that day. All the fun and life of the entire 14 years of school life was captured on the shirt that was the canvas. It was something needed to be preserved forever. I hipped-hopped back home, proud of my achievements of the day, only to find my mother shell-shocked at the sight of my uniform. I got a particularly nasty reprimand on the importance of staying decent and clean in public, and was asked to proceed to the shower to wash off the colours off my face and body. Still, I did not mind, as I had with me my uniform shirt that I never need to wear again, which the mark of all my friends and mates had imprinted on it, as a treasure to keep for the rest of my life. I slowly tucked off the shirt to a corner of the cupboard, and ran off to the shower.
When I came back after the shower, the shock of my life was waiting me.
Amma tells me:
“Don’t worry about the shirt; it will be clean again J
It is in the washing machine, and I have put extra Surf Excel so that it is back as good as it was when you wore it in the morning”
“What!!!!Oh my Goddddddddddddd”
Shouting rather incongruously, with a combination of anger, despair and shock, I ran off to the washing machine, only to find the hard work of the day, and memories of a lifetime being washed down the drain. It was one moment of my life that I really hated washing machine and Surf Excel, quite like the brand of attitude and feelings that most of Europe had towards Hitler during WWII.
Once the shirt was back out of the machine, it was spanking new, and the brightness of the shirt was directly proportional to the gloom on my face. Nothing could be done now, and the good days were acquiescent to my memoirs without a memento.
Even to this day I regret losing the shirt. It had been like a long lost voyage and the rekindling of the memories started to happen only with the advent of social networks like orkut and facebook. All those good acquaintances were lost into oblivion except for the odd mention from someone or a chance meeting.
Nevertheless, it always feels good when you see or hear about your school friends. Like, when my ex-boss Harish Nair casually referred about Deepak Damodaran, who according to his is one of the best Doctors in AIIMS Delhi, without knowing that Deepu was my classmate till Xth standard. Or the totally unexpected I bumped into Ajay Vijay Kumar, another buddy from high school, whom, out of the blue I happened to meet early this month after a gap 12 years, at Thrissur City Centre. And yes, the gap of 12 years, and the considerable loss of hair on our heads, did not stop us starting the conversation and concluding it the same way it was long ago – with the same level of energy, passion and sparkle.
To borrow a quote from an anonymous author at the board of wisdom:
“Schooldays, I believe, are the happiest in the whole span of human existence. Most of us would agree that the days spent in school were certainly the best days of our lives. It’s in school that we make our first friend, have our first crush, compete to excel, hope for places in the sports teams, eating lunch boxes during classes, and learn our first lessons about life”
What was called School, was actually life.