Students like me who suffer with hearing impairment find it almost impossible to learn through verbal instruction for obvious reasons. Unfortunately for me, my teachers preferred to teach through lectures and by dictating explanations through oral means of communication which made it very difficult to comprehend all that they tried to impart. Being a visual learner I preferred to learn with the aid of diagrams, power point presentations, pictures and other forms of visual means, but as there was barely any chance of me learning through my preferred method I often used to visit the library, located on the second floor of the academic wing of the school.
One day, during a visit to the library during a free period I picked up a magazine because I noticed it had a picture of my idol on its cover. I felt a wave of excitement and anticipation overtake me when I began reading the article in which it was mentioned that Michael Jackson was to release a new music album entitled, Blood on the Dance Floor. “I hope it will be available in Nainital soon”, I said to myself, for I couldn’t wait to see the videos of him performing to the new numbers. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to be like him when I grew up. It also carried an interview between Michael and a journalist in which the interviewer asked him about his reactions to being branded weird or odd by a majority of the people and he calmly replied by saying that he was not affected at all by these peoples’ opinion at all. He justified his reason for saying so by asking the journalist a question, “If you never had a childhood like all normal people experience, wouldn’t you too behave differently?”
His questioned motivated me into believing that there was hope for me to achieve and fulfill my dream of becoming a dancer of repute. If he, despite him being deprived of a normal childhood could become one of the most popular persons alive, then so could I overcome my handicap! I was convinced there was a place for me too in this world. The thought crossed my mind that I had already been labeled a failure due to my deprivation of using my aural senses or organs and also due to the fact that I wasn’t as proficient in academics too. A tap on my back broke my thoughts causing me to turn my head almost as far as it could, only to find my buddy, Asjad smiling at me.
“What are you doing here buddy? I asked him, surprised to find him in the library.
“Why so pensive my friend?” he asked, avoiding answering my question.
“Nothing really, I was just reading this article and was wondering how I could get a copy of it for myself.
“You mean you want it?” he asked.
“Yeah, I want it to paste it in my scrap book”, I replied honestly.
After a brief pause he said, “Tell you what, go to the Librarian and ask him for a book, any book that you can think of”.
“Why?” I asked, not being able to comprehend his request.
“Please, just do as I say and I will get you the article. “Do you want it, or not?” he asked plainly.
“Shh! Shh! No talking in here guys,” a student sitting beside me said with a rather irritated expression on his face.
“Go on buddy, go on!” Asjad urged and almost pushed me off my seat. So reluctantly, I got up from my seat and proceeded towards the direction of the Librarian who was seated at his table. I was unsure of which book to ask him for, so I skimmed the various names of the books in the cabinets and ultimately came across one entitled, ‘How to Win Friends’ and I decided to ask the Librarian for it.
After I was given the information by him I skimmed through the books on the shelf for a few minutes and then I pretended to read its synopsis before putting it back, and went back to my place only to discover that my friend had vanished from the library. My effort of locating him ended in vain. His actions totally baffled me!
At lunch, a little later he came to me and put a piece of folder paper in my pocket and said, “Open it when you’re at home.”
“Ok, sure,” I said in an assuring manner.
“Right, see you later!” he said with a mischievous grin.
My natural inquisitive instincts of taking out the paper and seeing what was on it crept up on me and like a child who had received his birthday gift which was all wrapped in colorful wrapping paper and not knowing what the gift was. A whole lot of assumptions crept up in my head and soon consumed my mind for I hadn’t a clue what the paper contained. The paper had the same effect on me like the forbidden apple had on Eve. “I must not repeat the same mistake,” I said with firm resolution.
Since my home was quite a distance from the dining hall I found it more and more difficult to overcome these temptations and fulfill my resolution. Every step made the burden of my carrying out the promise that I had made to my friend and also that of not giving into my temptations extremely difficult for me to carry. I could easily drop one of them without anyone knowing it. There was this one moment of time when I was beyond the view of anyone and also the heavy mist provided me ample camouflage for me, from being noticed by anyone and so I could’ve easily pulled out the paper which was cold and smooth to touch, and to read. My human reaction of eating the forbidden fruit started to overpower my principles of character and righteousness which my parents had taken great pains to instill in me and my two brothers. “It takes a lot of time and effort to create a good impression on people in this world, but takes no time to destroy it. It’s similar to the action of constructing of a building and the demolishing it,” mother would often remind us; whenever we told her of things we did which she didn’t approve of. I fought the urge of unfolding the paper and instead pushed it back into the pocket of my trouser and walked briskly home.
The paper turned out to be the same page that possessed the article on Michael Jackson, which I had read in the library. I was feeling over the moon. I didn’t even once think that the paper in my pocket could be this. My thoughts on exiting the library were that I would never be able to procure the article, but to my good fortune and joy I discovered that I was wrong. It wasn’t difficult to know how he managed to procure it as it was as clear as daylight that he had torn it out of the magazine while I was asking the Librarian for the book. “Asjad, my friend, I owe you one,” I said without speaking. I pasted the article in a scrapbook I had made on, The King of Pop, since I had made at the time we came to this place.
It dawned on me as to why pages or portions of pages would be missing from many of my peers’ text books after the examinations and also why the washroom and the small area behind the classrooms which resembled a garbage yard was eternally littered with papers of pages from text books. The guys would use them to copy from when they got the opportunity during the examinations. “So, this is how even the hopeless cases, as the teachers would label them would come out with scores that even the brightest student couldn’t obtain,” I thought over it and felt both angry and sympathetic, at the same time. I felt angry because I had allowed these hypocrites who always spoke so condescendingly of me, to make fool of me by making me believe that they were so much superior to me since they always outscored me in the academic exams. Then quite unbelievably my anger changed to sympathy; sympathy for these fellows and their handicap of being unable to work hard and also the inability to accept being labeled, a Failure.
A week later whilst on my way to the library I saw a fresh Notice posted on the bulletin board on the wall facing the library door. It was on this bulletin board that one came to know of all the events and news of the school. This notice was to inform all those who were interested in trying out for the gymnastic team to report to Mr. Dinesh, in the gymnasium at four that evening. I looked at my watch and noticed that it was fifteen minutes to four and since I wanted to make it to the school team I decided to alter my course. I turned around and ran down the steps almost tripping in my haste and in my bid to get to the gymnasium which was located at the other end of the school.
I thanked my lucky stars when I reached the gym for had I not read the Notice I would have never made it in time.
I found all the regular gymnasts there, the same boys who had performed at the previous year’s event. The majority of them were doing some stretching exercise while a few were in deep conversation with Mr. Dinesh. Everyone sort of froze when I entered and I guess the silence made Mr. Dinesh look towards me. “Have you come to try out, Sherwin or is it something else?” he asked.
“Sir, I would like to try out,” I said confidently.
“Good! Go and do some of the exercises that the others are doing and also, welcome to the club,” he said with a genuine smile on his face.
“Boys let’s welcome Sherwin, our latest member in the manner we always welcome a new member,” he shouted, for all to hear.
“Welcome! Welcome! Welcome! Hai! Hai! Hai,” they all shouted in unison.
“Thank you,” I shouted with excitement and ran towards the group of boys who were limbering up and stretching their muscles and limbs. I was given a mentor, an experienced gymnast named Ankit who was one of Shannon’s classmates.
“Hello! You’re Shannon’s brother, the guy who is almost deaf?” he asked.
“Yes that’s correct but I’d rather not liked to become popular for being deaf,” I replied.
“Sorry, dude! I didn’t mean it that way,” he said and then with a rather disbelieving expression on his face he added, “Well, how did you give me a reply so fast?”
“I hear with my eyes I said,” with a mischievous smile on my face as I knew he’d get confused with my answer.
“What do you mean, I don’t really catch you?” he said, looking perplexed.
“Ever heard of lip reading?” I answered, with another question.
“I’ve seen it in movies. but thought it was all fiction. Dude, can you actually do that? Awesome! Truly amazing!” he said with such amazement in his eyes that I started to blush. “Dude, we’ve got to get to know each other,” he added.
“That would be nice, I could do with some genuine friendship,” I said, my cheeks turning pink, though I meant every word that came out of my mouth.
“Well we’d better get on with our exercises or we’ll both not be on the team. You look at what I do and try and keep up with me,” he said.
“I’ll try my best!” I assured him.
Ten days later I was feeling on top of the world for I had shot two birds with one stone. It was true! I had joined the gymnastics team in a bid to keep my body supple and learn to how to perform some stunts so that I could improve my dancing skills which was obviously happening for me, but to my great pleasure I had also made a true friend in Ankit. A friendship that grew with each passing day. For the first time in my life I had found someone outside of my family who cared so much for me. We were like two peas in a pod and were inseparable. He not only mentored me to the best of his ability, but also served as an umbrella, for being a senior student in the school nobody dared to intimidate me for fear of him spewing his wrath on them. I believed that there wasn’t any friendship as big as ours or any friend who cared for a friend as big as he did for me.
That evening the rolling of thunder must have been so loud that even the deaf like me could be shaken up by it. If that wasn’t enough to make me aware of the impending storm there was this huge splash of electric current that lit up the dark sky. Then there was this complete silence which was the lull before the storm. Ankit who had dropped me back home after practice was made to stay back by mom, who made a sumptuous meal of mutton chops and baked beans. It was the lull that made us decide to make a dash for the study hall where is where we were supposed to be in the first place, before the rains came pouring down on us. “Take the umbrellas and go,” mom said.
“No worry ma’am, we’ll run and reach there before the rain comes down,” he said confidently and with that being said we ran out onto the verandah and darted down the steps, skipping a few of them in our hurry and we were almost at the bottom when the rain began to fall and then to our misfortune the entire city was plunged into complete darkness as the power was cut off, as was the practice of the place. As the darkness was impenetrable I stopped and stood as still as a statue where I was. Ankit who was following behind me could not have been able to see where I was or known that I had stopped moving continued at the pace he was going. Suddenly I felt a hard push that sent me stumbling onto the graveled field and even though I possessed a light body the thud I got on the head when it crashed onto the hard ground caused me to feel an excruciating pain like nothing I had ever experienced before, and then I passed out.
I don’t know how long I lay there or what happened after that but when I came to my senses some time later my head ached so much and felt so heavy that I thought it was going to fall off my thin, weak neck. My legs felt numb and I felt it difficult to walk straight or erect. Somehow, only through my will and determination I managed to walk, but to my horror I couldn’t see beyond my nose and so, called out for help. “Ankit, where are you? Please help me I cannot walk and am in great pain,” I shouted hoping that he would hear me.
There was no reply but later he told me that he was calling back to me, but naturally I heard nothing.
I moved with all the strength I possessed and slowly started moving, but I knew not, where! Suddenly, I felt something cold touch cold my left leg and my blood ran cold, I screamed in fear. Then this hand like object caught hold of my ankle with a vice-like grip that made me scream even louder, so loud that I could hear my own voice faintly which I was not used to and that made me think that some evil spirit or thing was yelling back at me, and I just froze. At that moment the lights came back on and I saw that there was no spirit catching me, but Ankit who was lying on the cold, hard and wet ground of the playing field. He was in great agony and could not move. My heart almost burst out of my chest when I saw him in this condition. “What can I do to help you?” I asked him.
“Call one or two of the senior boys, I think I’ve broken some bones,” he said looking into my eyes so that I could read his lips.
Mysteriously all my pains disappeared as I disappeared into the darkness for a brief moment before I came back into the light which was provided by a large bulb outside the Study Hall. Dripping wet and bleeding all over I entered the hall and at once I found everyone staring at me. Kamran, the Sports’ Captain flew from his table at the head of the hall and said, “My God, what happened? You’re bleeding so badly, looks like you’ve come from a battle field.”
It’s only then that I noticed that my clothes were covered with blood and also my hands, too. “Don’t worry about me, I’ll be alright! Ankit is badly injured and cannot move, he needs your help,” I said, desperately.
“What! Where is he?” he spoke and I noticed his dark face become almost white.
“He’s on the other end of the field, near my house”, I informed him.
“Imran and Qadir, take Sherwin to the Infirmary, quickly,” he ordered.
“Shubham, Don and Farid, come with me to help Ankit,” he shouted, panicking, to the two guys.
All three of them ran as if their lives depended upon it and soon were swallowed up by the darkness. Imran stood on my left and Qadir on my right. “Put your arms around our necks,” Imran said while waving his hands in a way as if he were trying to tell me the same through sign language. I did as I was told and soon the two, strong boys had lifted me off the ground and had me in the Infirmary in no time, where I blacked out.
Once fully conscious, I saw that the room was filled with a number of people including my parents, the Principal and Vice Principal besides a host of staff members. They were all speaking animatedly, but I wasn’t able to understand what they were saying because I was still feeling groggy and also as they weren’t facing me, but I was sure it had to be about me and Ankit. I tried lifting my head but it felt as heavy as lead and the pain was too much for me to endure. My head just fell back onto the pillow. This movement was enough to draw mom’s attention and she uttered with great relief, “He’s awake,” and came running towards me. Soon the rest of the people in the room followed her like the rats of Hamelin. “How are you feeling, my darling”, she said with moisture filling her eyes.
“I’m paining all over my body, especially my head which feels like it’s been clobbered with a sledge hammer,” I replied, wincing in agony.
“Just try and relax now, I’ll give you a tablet to relieve the pain and which will also help you to sleep. Tomorrow we’ll take you to the City Hospital for a proper check up as I don’t seem to think it is anything too serious or cause for worry,” the nurse said with a comforting expression on her face. “You’ve had a nasty fall and that’s why your body is paining. Give it time and it will wear off,” she said to me, but I’m sure she meant it for everyone to hear, especially for mom in particular who appeared the most anxious of all the gathering.
I noticed that all the other beds were unoccupied which meant that I was the only patient there. “Why was that? Where was Ankit who should have been with me, here, on another bed? And, what was his condition?” These questions filled my heavy head and not knowing their answers only added to my pain. I needed to know how he was and in order to get the answers I needed to find out. While all these questions were filling my mind my mom had been stroking my head tenderly in a way that suggested that she was sharing my pain.
Despite my own agony I was anxious to know about my only friend, Ankit’s fate, and so I asked my mom about him, hoping that she had the answer and also hoping that he wasn’t hurt too gravely. I was sure that he too must be concerned of my condition and must be as worried about me as I was of him. Mom said, “He’ll be okay, don’t worry about him just now. You just try and relax; you’re in enough pain as I can notice and worrying about him will only add to your agony. We’ll talk about him later,” she replied.
“Ok, but just tell me is he fine?” I asked
“No he isn’t. The nurse feels that he’s suffered a fracture in one of his arms and so he has been sent to the hospital. We’ll only know exactly how badly he has been hurt when someone returns from there,” she said. Perhaps she was concerned of his fate too.
“You are a brave man, young fellow! Don’t you worry you’ll be fit as a fiddle very soon,”
said the Principal. “You’re very lucky too, luckier than your friend, perhaps you being so lightweight and wiry your impact wasn’t that bad. Get well soon; we need you to be a part of the gymnastic team.”
“Yes sir, I’m looking forward to that and……”
The next morning I opened my eyes and looked around. I realized that I was not in my own bedroom but in a bed in the Infirmary. On surveying the room filled with beds, all neatly made with green covers, a couple of oxygen cylinders in one corner and a weighing scale on the floor very near to them, cupboards filled with medicinal pills, sprays and ointments as well as another cupboard filled with dossiers which had names of the students along with their admission numbers on them. Then my eyes travelled towards the nurse’s table which was near the entrance to the room and I found my mom and her conversing together.
“Good morning mom, good morning nurse!” I said, to let them know I was awake. Immediately they stopped talking and came to my bedside. It was apparent that mom had not slept the entire night as she looked fatigued. “You look so tired; don’t tell me you were here the entire night?” I asked, with concern.
“No. I’ve been with you my darling, son. I did try to catch forty winks but I couldn’t, I was worried about you. So, how are you feeling now? That is what I want to know”.
“I’m feeling much better and my headache seems to have left me. I’m just feeling a little hungry and thirsty as well”, I said. “Can I go home now?” I asked both of them.
“Yes, you may go now, but later we will have to go to the hospital to get a scan done, just to make sure you haven’t lost your brains,” she said humorously, bringing laughter to all three of us that filled the room which was usually filled with sounds caused by aches and pains.
Two days later I lay on my bed at home licking my wounds. For the last two days I had been visited by almost every member of the school who had come to see me either out of genuine concern or out of curiosity. Everyone had come except Ankit, for he I was told by Mr. Dinesh had fractured his right arm and had been taken to his home in Delhi by his parents. He added that he was not sure when Ankit would return or if he would ever return. While I lay on the bed I thought, “Shocks often occur when you least expect them”.
I was lying in bed, recuperating from my injuries, when it suddenly occurred to me that my life had come full circle. It was barely a couple of years earlier that I was in the same condition. The last time I was in this position I ended up losing my school while this time I had lost my best friend and perhaps was in jeopardy of losing my position in the gymnastics team too. Was I was brought into this world only to endure difficulties? My current plight gave me food to think it was so. My handicap was certainly not doing me any favours of preventing me from getting injured, but conversely was the serving as a catalyst to them and my other problems too; the prima donna of them being studies. My life seemed to be at an all time low. I was being holed up at home as if I were a prisoner undergoing house arrest for some crime I had committed. On the positive side though my wounds were healing and the pains and aches had completely vanished. My worry was whether I would be fit enough and agile enough to rejoin the gymnastics team. I knew that I needed to find a way to battle my boredom and perhaps even find a something to lift my sagging spirit; perhaps watching a video could be a good option. It had then dawned upon me that I hadn’t watched a dance video ever since I met Ankit or maybe even before that. I could not recall for certain when I had, and did not want to start up another war in my brain by trying to stir my memories into another battle. Therefore, I went to the cabinet in which the video CDs were kept and picked out my favourite, ‘Blood on the Dance Floor’. I kept one eye on the video and the other on the field that was visible from the window as mom or dad would have to would cross over it while returning home and since I did not want them to find me watching videos instead of studying, as was mom’s instructions to me before she left for work. Honestly speaking, work for me was like digging for iron ore in a coal mine in which the result of all the labour would end up being futile.
After lunch mom came home and announced that I had a visitor. I wondered who it was for I hadn’t expected anyone at this part of the day and so I asked her who it was but she only said, “You’ll see and know for yourself.” Then she turned and went back to the door without another word. I could only assume that she had gone to welcome my unexpected visitor and so waited in anticipation to find out who it was. When she returned I found Mr. Dinesh following her with a cheerful grin on his face. “Well, I’ll leave you two to talk while I get make a cup of coffee for both of us,” mom said and then left the room. Mr. Dinesh sat at the foot of the bed as it was the only place available for him to place his bottom on. “How are you feeling, and how long do you think it will take for you can to rejoin the team?” he asked, looking directly at me. This I took as an indication that he had not forgotten to look at me while speaking to me.
“Does that mean I am still on the team, Sir?” I said the words rapidly, my excitement influencing the speed of my speech.
“Well you know, I’m the sole judge on who makes it to the team and who doesn’t and according to me, you are. You are one of the star performers and the team and I would be handicapped if you could not perform.” He paused for a brief moment perhaps the sparkle in my eyes and my cheeks which looked like some foundation cream was applied on them distracted him and caused him to forget what he wanted to say next for he looked at me with a look of amusement on his face and said, “I’ve put you down to replace Ankit as I feel that you’re best equipped with his routine and also Ankit would want no one else, but you to replace him”.
At that moment mom interjected by saying, “Sir had given me the news earlier this morning and I suggested to him that he break the news to you as it would be more meaningful to you”. She then handed a cup of hot coffee to Mr. Dinesh while she sipped some from her own cup. “You better get well soon for I don’t want you letting down so many of your team mates and your dear teacher too,” she exclaimed in all seriousness.
The unexpected good news followed by the unaccustomed compliments sent my adrenalin running like a speeding train in my veins which was new and overwhelming for my inactive body and served like a spark applied to a firecracker. I felt as though I was ready to leave my bed, which had been my closest companion for the last couple of days and meet my other companions in the gym. “Can I join, today?” I asked, excitedly.
“First you need to consult the doctor and ask him to give you a fitness certificate and if he does so then you can join immediately after that, and not before.” He then began to drink the coffee that mom had offered when he heard the school bell ring, which and so got up to leave, but before leaving turned to face me once again and said, “Hope to see you soon!”
It was the first day of June and not only did the school wear a colourful look but my home too. The entire morning was a witness to some frenzied activity in both arenas and it was evident that no stone went unturned and nothing was left to chance for them. The former would be a showcase for the students’ athletic prowess and also the faculty’s organizational skill as a little later it would be bubbling with activity and noisy cheering by excited and an overenthusiastic body of spectators who would be arriving from near and far to witness and share in this sporting extravaganza, the Annual Sports’ Meet. The latter was my own home where my elder sibling’s birthday celebrations were to be held. Everything seemed to be prepared for both the events and one was only left to pray to the Rain Gods did not to gatecrash the events and wash away everything, as it had done barely a few years back. The only certainty about the rains in Nainital was that no one could say with certainty as to when the rains would show up.
The stands which were vacant a short while ago were filling up faster than expected and the teachers who were appointed to assist the guests on their arrival were having a harrowing time. Whilst the activity there was going on the participants of the respective marching squads were busy taking up their positions, while busy officials were running here and there. It seemed that the most important element at the moment was ‘Time’. Suddenly the clock took centre stage and the minute hand seemed to be the entire fraternity’s’ villain for it was running too fast for their likes. It was comical to see the same teachers who would order us about to run errands for them as if we were their unpaid slaves now feel the pressure of laboring themselves. The irritation and anger on some of their faces brought me a sense of satisfaction for as long as the boot was on my foot it was great for them, but when they were made to wear it, the boot hurt.
Ultimately, the race against time became futile! No, not because of any inefficiency on anybody’s part but because it was a practice for the Chief Guest to show up late for any event. The rumour or buzz amongst all was that the later the person took to show up the more important his status became. Perhaps, they either never wore watches, lacked clocks in their homes and work places or it could be that they did not know how to read time. I often tried to fathom out the reason for their perpetual delay and could come up with only these reasons. “Chief Guests in India are like Christian brides, worldwide; always late,” I told Manoj, another member of the gymnastics team, who was standing beside me and we both started laughing.
I was not in the marching squad as I could not hear and therefore could not follow the commands that were shouted out and as a result I would either start late or stop after seeing the others do so, which caused me to stop after the others. Also I would always start late and as a result I often ended up hitting the hands of the boy in front of me and the one behind me, and sometimes I continued marching even when the command was given to stop, resulting in me banging into the poor fellow ahead of me. After a few practices all that I was able to achieve were bruised arms and shins and earn the wrath of those two boys. Wisely, I decided to throw in the towel rather than let things escalate into something major for which I would have to pay a higher price. So, while I sat in the shade of a tent the others were standing in the heat waiting for the Chief Guest to arrive, which incidentally was thirty minutes past the scheduled time of his arrival. Perhaps he must have thought that this much of delay was sufficient for him to increase his status rating.
Then, when he did make his appearance, it was like a king without a crown and was hilarious to see the royal welcome bestowed upon him. If it were left up to me to welcome him I probably would have welcomed him by ushering him back into the vehicle in which he came in and handed him my watch and taught him to read it, too.
No sooner had he been comfortably seated in a sofa meant for three when the banners were raised and the marchers in their starched and stiff uniforms began to move like a military garrison on parade. This was followed by the track events in which the athletes ran to outpace the others in a bid to secure one of the three medals that were to be won should they do so. Unfortunately, I could not be a part of the races as I was in bed nursing my wounds when the heats were taking place on the field.
The races and presentations went along like clockwork, to the delight of everyone, specially the Chief Guest, for obvious reasons as well as the Principal who would take, all the credit for the wonderful job done by every other member of the school. We all knew at the end that he would score brownie points with his superiors while we only got to score points for our respective Houses.
My event went off extremely well and all our hours of toil, sweat and endurance paid us great dividends as we were given a standing ovation and applause so loud and so long that it must have sounded like Diwali was being celebrated in the school, while the echoes that they generated shook the surrounding hills. It was like icing on the cake when the announcer requested us to stay on the field where we were as the Chief Guest wanted to come down to congratulate us personally as a sign of his admiration for what he termed later in his speech as a ‘flawless, spectacle of flexibility, fluidity and fancy, footwork’. Of course after making everyone wait for him at the start of the meet the Chief Guest always made rehearsed speech to suit the fancy of all even if they themselves hardly meant a word of what they said, but I guess they did what they were expected to do. They were apt at giving politically correct speeches, perhaps prepared by his secretary.
Soon after he had spoken there seemed to be a mass exodus by everyone, who had so had displayed so much patience initially. Suddenly, they were possessed with great urgency, leaving in a great hurry whilst the national anthem was being sung, and some leaft even before it had started. It was a miracle that the choir did not get disturbed with all the hullaballoo that the spectators were creating in their endeavor to race each other out of the gates.
Later that evening our home was filled with people, mostly staff members who lived on campus, their spouses and children. Altogether there must have been about forty persons in total and while the men basically grouped up together on the balcony some smoking, almost all drinking either beer, rum or whiskey. I couldn’t tell one from the other as we never would keep hard drinks at home since the family comprised of only teetotalers. Since this was a party dad had purchased the drinks for the guests. I along with the other children and their mothers were all seated in the Hall room where we played a number of party games and danced to all the latest numbers. It was only when the men had downed a few pegs that they got the fire in their bellies to come in and join us. It was hilarious to see some of them dance as they appeared to be doing everything else but dancing, one of them seemed as if he was sleep walking while another was shaking as if he’d received an electric shock.
As the night grew on, the tiredness started to set in. The cool breeze that blew from across the vacant field had a lulling effect on everyone and so when mom brought out the hot mutton biryani and the other side dishes the guests who were now half awake began stuffing their faces and filling their bellies. The only one who did not attend the party was the Principal of the school who though he was on campus and had been given a personal invitation was conspicuous by his absence. When dinner was over the guests all thanked us for the wonderful hospitality that we had bestowed on them and then left, we were all exhausted by the time the last guest took his leave and so mom said, “Don’t worry about cleaning up anything tonight, we’ll do it tomorrow”.
Lying in bed a little while later and recalling all the events of the day I felt a mood of contentment, but could not understand to why the Principal did not show up at the party. And then it struck me, he never went to any staff members’ homes, in fact not just him but even the Principal of my previous school never visited the homes of the school’s employees. Perhaps, Principals considered themselves to be of a higher class to the other members of the school.
I felt so tired that my limbs were numb and began to feel as if my brain had stopped functioning. I had nothing to worry about though for I had plenty of time to get back to normal since the school would be closed for ten days, as per the school custom, after the Annual Sports Meet.
I could feel soft, delicate taps on my head as if someone was patting me affectionately and I could also feel the presence of a body near me but in my semi conscious state I was not able to decipher whether it was for real or a part of my dream. After a brief pause I could feel it all over again and was wondering what was happening, but then the light and delicate pats suddenly turned painful with more power or force in them. That is when I opened my eyes and found that mom was shaking me in an almost violent manner. “What’s the matter?” I uttered, half asleep.
“You’ve got school and so you need to get up and get ready. Trying to wake you up is like trying to wake up the dead. Hurry up and get out of bed or you’ll be late for the first day of school,” she replied.
“Ok, I’m getting up,” I said. I was feeling so sleepy that I could not even sit up and so fell back onto the comfortable and warm bed. Mom jerked my head which was buried in the pillow and then with a stern look said, “Get up now!” Without another thought I did as I was told and made my way to the bathroom feeling like a zombie.
The splash of cold water stung my face and with wrung out the last remnants of sleep too. I was now aware that today I had to attend classes as school had reopened and that all the fun was over. It was now time to go back to my hell! In a short while I’d be standing with the rest of the students listening to one of the boring lectures about how we needed to study hard and about how important it was for to score highly in the forthcoming exam. If a boy did not score high marks in the exams he had no future in life since academics was the only path to a bright and beautiful career. This lecture was always delivered by the Principal after any long vacation and there was this belief in school that he must have certainly kept a copy of this speech in a folder and rehearsed it the over and over again, the previous night.
Mom came into the bathroom with a look of frustration said, “Hurry up! Even a woman spends less time in the bathroom than you do”.
“A typical school morning,” I said, to myself, after she had left.
After endless hours of studying I had completed all the examinations. I recall those endless hours of study before each examination vividly, in which mom’s frustration levels fluctuated like the mercury in the thermometers of the unpredictable weather. I not only exhausted her patience, but also all her innovative inventions of trying to make me learn answers and concepts. I knew that deep down she herself doubted that her efforts would ebb and eventually flow away like a river leaving nothing of value on the shore however, like the river she continued to flow. The result of all this was that like the river I continuously carried water in my eyes which at times caused mom to sympathize with me and on others raise a storm. It was her motherly love for me that at times gave her the strength to continue and not quit. I believe that she was genuinely concerned of what would become of me. I too, often wondered about how I would ever manage for eventually one day I would have to let go of her. She who protected me like a coat of armor and provided me the courage to face all my fears!
A week later when the report cards were handed out I did not have the courage to read mine and so put it away in my school bag. I handed it over to mom who looked at it and gave out an expression of shock and disbelief. “You’ve failed again! I think you should not go to school anymore.” Then tears filled her beautiful green eyes.
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