The day had finally arrived! The day my elder sibling was to leave for ‘The Land of the Rising Sun’, but it was this day that the sun decided to rise late in Dehradun and instead allowed the mist to envelop the city. The morning skies were a sea of blue before this even though it was winter. Why it had to choose to get up late just this day would forever remain a mystery.
Mom would be accompanying Shannon to the Youth for Understanding office in New Delhi. An official of the organization would then take him and some other students to the airport. Once Shannon’s luggage was packed in the car dad drove them to the railway station, located about fifteen kilometers away, where they boarded the Shatabdi Express. I decided at the last moment to go along with them to the railway station. My elder sibling though excited was also a little afraid and I could understand his feelings. Leaving the protection of parents and loved ones to live with total strangers in a strange environment, not being familiar with the language and their expectations of him, needed him to be lion hearted. He “kept biting hid finger nails and was very edgy throughout the journey and so I asked him out of concern, “Are you scared?” He immediately dropped his hands from his mouth and putting up a brave, macho expression replied, “No, I’m just excited. I knew he wasn’t telling the truth, but he being elder to me I did not broach the subject anymore.
After they had found their seats and had put the luggage in the steel rod-like shelf above the seats did he come to the compartment door, to talk to us. He stood where he was, till the train began to crawl at first and then pick up speed as it moved further and further away from the station. It was precisely at this moment that I felt a lump develop in my throat. With my eagle eyes I spotted him waving, though the train was quite a fair distance from where dad and I stood rooted like statues. With his last wave a haunting sadness engulfed me like the mist that had engulfed the entire northern parts of the country. He was my elder brother and though I’d never told him that I loved him I knew I certainly did so. Perhaps, he knew it in the same way that I knew that he loved me. Perhaps, showing or displaying of tender emotions is just not a part of the genital makeup of the masculine sex. It was sort of a universal and unwritten rule that boys don’t display this emotion, especially not in public.
I bore a greater emotional attachment to my younger sibling than to Shannon. There always existed a sibling rivalry between the two of us since it appeared that dad showed more fondness to him, perhaps since he was the first born and the heir to the family fortune. Blood being thicker than water however, no outsider was ever allowed to take advantage of this rivalry that existed between us. If they even attempted to then we both join hands in warding them off. There were moments when we felt we could not live together yet, could not live apart! The thought of us living apart for a month suddenly made me aware of how lonely and empty my life would be without him around. Our only mode of communication from now on would be over the internet, either through e mails or chat and that too only when he had the opportunity to do so, for he was not there on vacation and therefore would be busy for most part of the day.
He regularly posted pictures of himself in this foreign land and kept us updated of how he had been enchanted by the place, its people and its culture. He’d fallen in love! No, not with any girl, but with the country! He was heartbroken when he had to finally bid it goodbye. He wishes to someday and somehow to return to this beloved country and I too hope that his wish his does not remain a mere wish.
While he was away dad had sought employment in a foreign country, Indonesia to be precise. The cold war between him and the Vice Principal became even more intense than the cold weather which prevailed over the school. Dad felt that he had done enough for the school to survive without him and so decided to resign the day he got a letter of confirmation of employment from the school to which he had sought employment, in Jakarta.
Shortly after Shannon’s heartbreaking experience, came the letter which dad was waiting patiently for. We all didn’t know how to react for though we all wanted dad to be happier and looked forward to experiencing life abroad we were sad to leave this school which was our home, and all the people in it who had been like an extended family to us for almost three years. It was especially heartbreaking for me as I had at last found a place where I felt myself and which offered me a handicap-free world. I was worried over how I would be accepted in this new school and this new country. The fear caused a shiver to travel across my spine whenever I thought of being labeled ‘deaf guy’ or ‘handicapped’ or being stereotyped as being ‘useless’. I encountered sleepless nights because the thought of these words would haunt me, and for once I began to think I was a coward. I was too cowardly to face the truth and the challenges that I might have to encounter. What I feared most was the fear if I’d ever get to dance and perform on stage. I loved to dance and to perform for an audience and it was my ability to dance that made me courageous in the first place and gave me the emotion of feeling accepted as a normal or even at times, as a gifted child. If dance was taken away from me it would be like living in a world of pain and loss. Removing dance from my life would be like removing the life support on which a patient is kept to keep them alive. I simply had to have faith and to believe that these fears would be unfounded and make me feel foolish for believing in them.
I had heard that walls have ears, and they certainly have not only ears but lips to speak too, for dad’s decision of leaving which was known to only the Vice Principal who was serving as the Principal since the Principal had resigned earlier, soon became the topic of discussion all around the school. My home resembled a crowded public centre that very evening as almost all the students filled the house to such an extent that if a grain of rice was thrown it would not find place to land on the floor. The seniors were pleading with dad to reconsider his decision. I was able to read dad’s lips saying, “You know I’ve stayed as long as I could, I was there for you before and now I want you to be there for me.” Then one of the seniors said, “Yes Sir, we understand and though we’ll always miss you and your family we wish you the best for the future”. With that they slowly started leaving, walking as though they had lead in their shoes. They walked with their heads down staring at the ground as if mourning at a funeral.
That night not a leaf shook nor anyone was seen in the corridors and even the Common Rooms which were the hub of all activities after dinner were all locked, something unprecedented. The entire dorm area looked like a deserted area and the Dorm Parents were a happy lot since they had no work to do as they could relax in their quarters with their families or just have the evening off.
The following morning was one that I shall remember for a long time as it seemed that everyone I met had the same question for me to answer, “Which school are you joining?” I think that was about the only question anyone had to ask me, whether it be a subject teacher teaching something about the human anatomy which was somehow interesting for most of the class and therefore should have been asking questions related to the topic, but somehow she found it appropriate to ask me this particular question. How was the question related to the subject? I wondered as I found it not only irrelevant, but also humorous. We humans are more curious about the happenings of others than our own. “I don’t know, my parents haven’t told me”. The reply was prompt because I was a tape recorder that morning belting out same sentence over and over again. I wished someone would press the stop button so that something else could be heard. The question became less frequent by lunch time and I felt a sense of relief when I returned home. I told dad when I met him at home sitting on the large white sofa, which had changed to grayish cream with the passage of time, sitting with his favourite drink in his hands - tea. He seemed to look so relaxed that I thought that he suddenly looked at least five years younger and wondered if he had spent the morning in a massage parlor. I was taken aback to see him look so fresh and rejuvenated. “So what have you been doing all morning, didn’t you go to school?” I asked him. “No, I was there all morning. Why do you ask?” he seemed surprised at my question. “Well, it’s because you don’t seem to appear like you were there.” He sipped some tea from the cup and then looked at me curiously, “What is that supposed to mean?” I walked over to a vacant single seated sofa which faced him and said, “Because you look so cool and chilled out, unlike I have seen you in a very long time”, and then I added, “You look younger and so handsome!” “Really, well thank you, I wonder if your mom sees me that way too!” “So, what’s the secret, you’ve been trying out the “Forty Plus” tablets?” I spoke in jest. Just then his hand phone rang and I understood him say to the speaker on the other side, “I’m sorry I cannot come just now I have someone important to speak with, when I’m done I’ll let you know, and thank you for calling. This one sentenced convinced me that dad’s perspectives had changed. I was thrilled to see this change in him and I’m sure mom would feel like she was on cloud nine when she too found out that dad had at last changed. Perhaps, his marriage to the school was over and the divorce was the trigger for his complete change in attitude. “I’m sorry I’ve neglected you all so long, really I am and I’m sure going to make it up to you all. A wise man learns from his mistakes and I know what my mistake was. I was foolish to neglect the ones who care the most for me and I’m not going to have a repeat of it, henceforth.” He finished drinking the tea that was in the cup and said, “Let’s go up to your room and we’ll lie down and talk”.
A little later mom returned and was shocked to see us both lying stretched out on the bed with the Play Station consoles in our hands. Incidentally, I was trying to teach dad how to play. He opted to play the game, ‘Need for Speed’, but somehow he could not get the hang of it, honestly speaking, he was a disaster at it, but it was a great moment for me since I had not spent a wonderful moment like this with him for a long time, a moment of just bonding with him since he was always too busy, always too involved in developing the school and being engaged in some sort of school activity or the other. If I was surprised with dad’s transformation of perspectives, mom’s physical appearance was unbelievable! She looked like a Hollywood beauty! “What was going on?” I wondered as I looked at her transformation, in amazement! Was I dreaming? It all seemed so surreal to me to be true. “Mom you look amazing! What have you done to yourself? Did you meet a Fairy God mother?” She smiled obviously appreciating my compliment and explained what had happened. “No, it’s nothing like that, I merely went to the salon and asked them to do somethingto make me look pretty, and that’s all. I intend to maintain myself properly from now on. “Well, how come you’re home at this time?” she asked dad. “I’ve been relieved of all my administrative duties as of today. I guess the battle between, you know who and me is finally over, so I’ve no work to do. Good for me, now I have all the time to spend with you all!” “It’s her foolishness! Sorry to admit it but she’s the loser and we are the victors and nothing tastes better than success. I’m happy and sure that life will be so much more fun having you around.”
It was a few days later that I once again met Mrs. Sharmila who was sitting in a chair in the hall room whom I had noticed at first. I had walked into the house after having played a game of soccer with my friends, sweat trickling down my body, making me feel hot and sticky as it was very humid that evening, The rain clouds had promised rain but perhaps to show its dislike for the weatherman who had predicted it to do so, decided that it would not shower rain over Dehradun. I decided to shower and freshen up as I could not bear the odor that my body emanated. Since the bathing rooms of our home were attached to the bedrooms on the first floor I began climbing the stairs which were barely a few feet from the front door. I had barely climbed onto the first step when I suddenly felt the presence of others in the sitting room and so I instinctively turned my head in that direction. When I saw who was sitting in the very sofa that dad usually sits my heart leapt with excitement. Mrs. Sharmila was smiling as usual and stretched out her hands to embrace me. My initial reaction was to hug her, but then I remembered how sweaty and smelly I was and so said, “I’m all sweaty, I wouldn’t want you to become sweaty too.” She understood and just tapped me on my arms, fondly. Her soft skin touching my warm, sweaty hands made me feel good, more than good, I felt loved, appreciated and cared for.
“I got the terrible news that you guys are leaving us. I was very upset when I heard it and still can’t believe it!” she lamented.
“Yeah, I too still find it difficult to believe it myself, but it’s my parent’s decision. They know what’s best for me and them”.
“I’m going to miss you; we’re all going to miss you!”
“I’ll miss you too! You’ve done so much for me and shown me so much kindness. You’ve given me a skill that I can carry out with me for life. Perhaps, you’ve opened the door to my future and for that I’ll remain ever grateful to you.”
Mom and dad entered the room. They had just returned from the agent who was helping them to obtain the Passports for my younger brother and me. They immediatelystarted up a conversation with Mrs. Pramila. I requested to be excused so that I could freshen up and with the promise that I would join them later.
By the time I had bathed and dressed my brothers had come back from wherever they had been and were sitting with the rest of the family chatting with Mrs. Pramila. Time flew by so fast that evening such that we did not seem to notice that night had arrived and that time had moved on. It was only when we noticed the boarders trooping off in their little groups to fill their stomachs with the last meal of the day did we become aware of that time wanted us to say I ‘Good byes”.
We walked her to her car parked nearby and it was when she gave me a bone crushing hug that I could not hold back the tears. She too became teary-eyed. We both knew that this was the last time we would ever see each other. We were too choked and too filled with emotions to say anything. I stood with the rest of my family watching her drive away. As the car carrying her faded away and was swallowed up by the darkness I knew that the memorable and wonderful moments that I shared with her would fade away, with time, and distance.
In the ensuing weeks that rolled by it appeared that time was causing a hole in dad’s pocket and that he would have to learn how to become a good financial negotiator. He had made multiple trips to the Passport office in a bid to obtain our Passports, but he always came home empty handed and filled with disappointment since there was always some excuse or apology offered by the agent for not having our Passports ready. The agent had got wind that we were in urgent need of the same and so like a typical businessman he exploited the ‘supply and demand policy’, for he always demanded a little more payment saying that the police were creating problems. On the hand after it was public knowledge that we would be trading our two cars the buyers seemed not too keen on paying an acceptable amount for them. This was causing dad much anxiety since he did not have time to wait till he was able to find someone willing to agree to his demands.
There were other items too which we had paid a heavy price for when we purchased them, but now had no need for and getting rid of them transformed my beautiful and comfortable home into a virtual trading store as there would be an endless stream of visitors who’d come into the house to purchase whatever they fancied. My house was a woman devoid of make-up and accessories with the gradual sale of the televisions, refrigerator, washing machine, music system and electronic items. They were all gone. Even the frames that held within them portraits of us had been pulled off their steadfast pegs. The photographs being removed was like the butcher ripping the hide off the cow to revealing its dead and lifeless heart.
The time for us to decide on what to take and what to leave behind had crept up on the family; whatever was not sold had to be donated to the underprivileged. Dad and mom said that there was a total of a hundred kilograms that Malaysian airlines was permissible weight of baggage that the five members of the family was permitted to carry free of charge, and for any weight which exceeded the specified amount would be charged as excess baggage, and charged to our account. Therefore, it was decision making time on what to pack and what to leave out. There was no disputing that all the warm blankets, quilts and our warm clothes had to be given away as there was to be no winter season where we were going. I felt terrible parting with them as I recalled so vividly of how they had provided me with so much comfort and kept me warm during the intense winter and had also protected me from sicknesses and other ailments that the intense cold conditions which this season of hardship could distribute to us humans with such generosity. Letting go of these valuable possessions gave me bitter, sweet emotions. I was happy to think that that they would bring comfort and warmth to their new owners, the people who needed them and would cherish them. They had served me well and I just hoped that they would provide the same sort of service and the underprivileged that would use it henceforth would figure out and appreciate their true value. They were like good friends who understand and solve your problems. It really hurt me to see that most people use them like trash, not even caring to fold them and put them neatly in their closets, but on the contrary leave them like unwanted and invaluable items that lie crumpled in a heap on their beds or on the floor once they have finished using them. These people’s behavior besides being despicable is also what we call exploitation; so typical of an integral part of human behavior.
The process of packing made me recall the time we were packing for Shannon’s trip to Japan. There was not a worry about extra baggage then and at that time we made it a point to pack his suitcases with only warm clothes, which included even underwear and socks. He didn’t have to worry about carrying a host of accessories, perfumes, all different types of face make up and dozens pairs of shoes and an entire wardrobe of clothes as is ought to with the fairer sex. On this occasion however it was a complicated process which turned out to be like solving a jigsaw puzzle for the entire family, resulting more than often in an a variety of expressions of moods, tantrums and silence by us all which put into shame a glass prism. It seemed a Herculean effort to come up with a magical formula on this one. But like water always finds its level our problems seemed to find a level to make everyone happy, at least to an acceptable manner.
Dad was content on leaving without carrying without excessive luggage. He was to attend Farewell Party arranged by the Vice Principal and his other colleagues. He told us after the event that he was so happy to be able to bury the hatchet and make peace with the lady who had caused him so much bitterness that he was extremely happy to not have to carry that excess baggage with him even though the airlines would not have charged him for it. God for him! He was never a man to want to be unhappy and more so, to see others feeling the same.
Finally the evening for us to leave came and brought with it emotions of sadness. There were tears that evening that flowed down like dams causing a minor flood around the vehicle in which we were all seated, to take us to the railway station, the same station and same train that took Shannon and mom to New Delhi a few months earlier. From there we would board our flight to a hopefully new and wonderfully, different future.
It’s been almost ten months since I’ve been in the ninth grade classroom, located on the fourth floor of Gandhi Memorial International School in Jakarta. Maths class was in progress and the teacher was explaining something about how to calculate speed with relevance to time and distance. I tried to comprehend what he was trying to explain but every time he turned to write something on the board and communicate it verbally at the same time I’d find myself at a loss at what he was saying. He unfortunately did not understand my predicament and would continue to jabber to the rest of the class. “Do you understand?” he would ask expecting to hear just two words in reply, “Yes Sir”. My other twenty five peers, me included would please him by saying just that. I wanted to tell him, “How could I have understood anything when you were too busy explaining to the board?”
“Now let’s try and solve the next problem”, he said and proceeded to do so in the same manner as he did the earlier one. ‘Problem’, the word was almost etched itself some remote part of my brain. Perhaps, it was the first Bahasa Indonesia word that I had learnt. The word, ‘problem’ when translated into the local language meant ‘Masala’ which in Hindi means spices, and spices always reminded me of my motherland, India. This immediately triggered another part of my brain dedicated to distraction to start firing. I started to think of the difference between this school and my first school. Yes, both the schools were located in the capital cities of their countries. I recall how I used to climb those concrete steps to go to dad’s classroom and I realized that here too and there were steps that students could climb to reach the higher floors, but the school also had six elevators to carry them up or down, depending on which way they wanted to go. My dad works in the same school like it was in my previous school starting from my first school but unlike those times I don’t have to wait for him or my brothers to take me home since our home is barely a stone’s throw away from the school. I either go home myself or along with my friends. I almost never go back with my parents. There is no need to go with them as the streets here are very safe and the locals don’t make you feel like you are a foreigner, they accept you and do not treat you with any indifference.
Jakarta the city is like last school I am attanding since both are truly multinational and multicultural. Both are filled with people of different nationalities, colours, cultures and religious beliefs and all can be found living together in complete harmony and mutual respect. ‘If people of thirty six nationalities could live and work like friends then why is their need for armies and wars?’ I asked myself this question. There were the daughters of the Ambassadors of Iraq and Iran who studied in the same grade and whom many mistake to be real sisters, added to the fact that these girl’s parents shared a great rapport, it seemed ironical that their nations did not share these similar sentiments and relationships. Perhaps, Mahatma Gandhi whom the school was named after, was spreading his message of non-violence and international brotherhood in the school which would hopefully have a domino effect globally. I was sure that he was inspiring the diplomats of the various nations whose offspring’s arestudying here. With that thought I looked up at the board totally bored with the happenings taking place in the class but more interested in the happenings of the school and the international society.
“Why aren’t you writing anything?” the teacher who was almost standing over me and whose shadow cast the dark image on my note book asked me.
“Sir, I’m not feeling well, I have a headache”, I lied, not knowing what else to say.
“Well then you should go and see Dr. Hartini immediately”, he said looking concerned.
“Right Sir, can you kindly give me a slip please?”
He gave me the required slip to hand over to the doctor. I took the slip and then took the elevator to the ground floor where the infirmary is located. The doctor checked my temperature and asked me, “Have you eaten anything today?”
Even though I had already eaten I said, “No, I did not eat during the short break as I was busy”, I lied for obvious reasons.
“Then go and eat something and if you are still not feeling well then you can come back and rest”.
I left the infirmary and went to the Food Court and bought myself a burger and a cold drink. I sat alone and began to think of the school and how I fitted into it.
GMIS as it is popularly called has more than four thousand students and over three hundred staff members, which when I compare to my last school in India, it is like the entire population of a village back there. I remember how I felt when I first stepped into this impressive school. The coolness given off by the air conditioner plant was like diving into a swimming pool on a hot, humid day, which coincidentally it was that day and for most of the days, out here. I felt like a small fish floating with sharks as well as sea horses in the great China Sea that surrounds the island of Jawa. It wasn’t easy for me to acclimatize myself with these other fishes to which this was their home and their territory. The sheer mass of the population and finding my way to the gymnasium on the fourth floor, the auditorium on the first floor or the food court on the ground floor; the popular haunts of the students or one of the various offices in different ends of this five storied building which at first glance resembled a grand shopping mall in one of the major cities of India. What was most surprising and most appealing to me though was the discipline! Students did what they were expected to do without having to be forced to do so. The staff was not like the mafia of Sicily or the omnipotent teachers in India who imposed their ideas on you. Here it was like the ocean where you learnt to find out what was best to do and learn how best to do it. I was being introduced to paedocentric way of education and my best friends were Google and Calculator. Smart phones, i pads, laptops were the order of the day. All teachers and students email id’s were common knowledge so that they could communicate with each other whenever required. In addition there were e-classes where we, students could work from home. The Principal of the school, Mr. Ashok Pal Singh, a barrel of a man whom one might associate with being outdated since he is from the generation from where hand phones and computers was seen only in James Bond films, but he was anything but outdated. He astounded me with his understanding of technology and also the requirement of it in education. This use of technology was foreign to me as foreign as the country I was in where I was used to note books in which teachers back in my native land would dictate questions and answers from prescribed text books or guide books which they used as the Bible.
Getting used to the International Baccalaureate form of education and also to my classmates was extremely difficult, initially. The teachers expected me to know how to use technology and incorporate it into my academic education, but since I wasn’t accustomed to this method of learning it was like searching for an oyster in the Sea of Japan. My classmates too on the other hand had their own group of friends and so it was not easy being accepted into any them. I vividly recall with horror how this Korean guy who continually picked on me by calling me names, hiding my books or blaming me whenever something was amiss in class. To add to this he influenced his friends into harassing me. He was such a good actor that many teachers could believe he could do no wrong, and so it was not easy to convince them that he was the one who was the actual guilty one. To heap my misery I wasn’t blessed with proper hearing like others and so often found myself lacking the ability to answer questions which as a result convinced the teachers too, to believe that I was a bit of a wasted cause. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when unpleasant things were being pasted on my Facebook wall about me. ‘Sherwin is gay so guys stay away from him’ was one such message while another read. ‘Sherwin is not only gay but dumb as well’. Those were terrible messages and horrific ways of stereotyping me. I recall snorting like a dragon when I read it. I was so hurt and so angry I didn’t want to step into school ever again or in fact live stay here. Unaware of what to do, I decided to speak to my English teacher who was very kind and motherly. I thought that perhaps if I told her of my predicament she would advise me on what to do. At the most, that is what I expected, but what happened after that was unexpected and made my life a lot better off.
The teacher to whom I had spoken my heart’s problems out to, in her house, one evening, apparently became extremely concerned and worried, such that she narrated my conversation with her to my dad, as she happens to share a good rapport with him.
I awoke from my afternoon siesta the following day unaware of dad and mom’s knowledge of my conversation with the teacher, but I could make out that dad was upset. I felt obliged to ask him, “What’s happened, is something troubling you?” He remained silent, took a cigarette from the packet lying on the table and put it to his lips. “Yes, something is troubling me,” he replied and then lit the cigarette and started smoking it, but did not elaborate on his statement. He continued smoking in silence and every time he lifted the cigarette I noticed his fingers shaking almost like a rattle snake. When I saw this I knew he was nervous, something had said or done something to cause him to be in this condition. “Mom, you can tell me, have I done something wrong?”
“No, you’ve done nothing wrong. I did you wrong, admitting you here. I’m sorry my son!” dad’s lips were quivering as he spoke and he seemed to be speaking like an angry predator chasing its prey.
“Why, what happened?” I was shocked to hear him say that for he and everyone at home were very happy with the school, the Principal, teachers and all the wonderful facilities. I could not imagine these words being uttered by dad, mom or my brothers and so these words were mystifying.
“I know about your conversation which you had with your teacher. She did not want to break the confidence you shared with her, but out of concern for you and me she related everything to me. She said she was so upset with what you had said that she felt she was compelled to tell me lest you do something we all live to regret later. I’m really thankful to her for sharing what you feel and what she feels”.
“I hope you are not angry that I told her and not you or mom!” I was feeling that I had erred in my decision and guilty for not telling them. I stood there in the centre of the room with my chin resting on my chest.
“No, your mom and I are happy that you have teachers whom you feel confident enough to speak out your problems to. Not many schools have teachers with whom the students can trust. But, you are too precious to us and so your mom and I have decided to withdraw you from the school. I’ll speak to the Principal, myself tomorrow” and with dad lit another cigarette. In fact he finished almost an entire packet in less than two hours, something he’d never done before as he’s not a heavy smoker.
The next morning dad’s mood had not seemed to have changed at all since the previous evening and I knew for sure that he’d not change his mood till he’d spoken to the Principal. I was also as certain as the sun would shine in the day that he would not mince his words, and would insist on my removal. “How many times would I have to shift schools? Perhaps, I would join so many schools in the world that I would one day find my name in the Guiness Book of Records for having attended the maximum number of schools before completing High School. Perhaps I would make a mark in the world as per my lifelong desire, but unfortunately for one of the worst records known to mankind”. I spent the entire day in school with my head in the clouds unable to shake off the outcome of the result of dad’s conversation with the Principal.
It was the Physical Education period and so I was not in my classroom but in the washroom during which time the Senior Supervisor, Ms. Jabba, my class teacher Ms. Rachel, and Miss Nini the teacher who I had confided in were given an order to bring the boy, my tormentor and me to the Principal’s office, immediately. My poor teachers went on a wild goose chase searching for me. They had to stop whatever they were doing and suddenly at their ages were forced to play hide and seek. Poor, Ms, Jabba who was built like a power lifter and found walking a problem was suddenly forced to run a marathon in search of us, two students. It became apparently clear that day that when Mr. Singh gave an order it was obeyed immediately, without any questions asked or any complaints. His orders meant an emergency and he had disciplined everyone to follow instructions. He was a leader, a commander who could command his troops with authority and respect for he never hassled anyone unnecessarily.
The wild goose chase had gone on long enough to wear out everyone’s mentioned patience and poor Ms. Jabba must have lost at least a couple of pounds and resulted in her heart beat begin to beat at the speed of an A K 47 when one of my classmates who met me on the fourth floor corridor said, “Sherwin, A.P Sir wants to see you immediately in his office. Dude, everyone has been searching for you as if you are some superstar!” I at once knew what it was all about and I was rather reluctant to go, but in the end I had no option but to follow his commands. Thus, with a heavy heart and not knowing how bad things could turn out I took the elevator to the ground floor feeling like Marie Antoinette walking towards the guillotine. ,
The Principal’s secretary met me in front of the Principal’s office’s door which was closed. She asked me, “Are you Sherwin?”
“Yes, I am”.
She opened the door, gesturing me to enter. I saw him seated and another teacher, Mr. Vijay, the ESL teacher and Coordinator of Ujian nasional seated opposite him while my classmate who had made my life a living hell stood like Archangel Gabriel with his head bowed. He looked the picture of innocence and I thought to myself this fellow should not be here but in Hollywood as…. my thoughts were distracted when the Principal looked at me gesturing me to be seated in the vacant chair besides Mr. Vijay.
He pointed to the boy standing and asked me, “Is this the fellow that has been troubling you?” I looked at the guy and gave him such a look, that if looks could kill he’d be dead! “Yes Sir, he and another of his friends”.
“Well, I’ve already spoken to him and he denies it all, but I know you and your brothers and know how well you have been brought up. I learn people very fast and I know how innocent you three are!”
“Thank you, Sir!”
“I promise you that no one will ever bully you. I’m sorry for what you’ve been put through, but can you believe me when I say it will not happen again? Can you have faith in me?”
“Absolutely Sir, I have full faith in you”.
He then looked at the other boy and said, “Here we do not allow any bullying to happen, and I’m very angry and disappointed to know that you fellows indulge in picking on a new student to do so. I will make sure that I get updated from your teachers and others so, don’t try any of this in future. Have you understood?”
“Yes Sir, I understand and assure you that no one will bully him,” he replied as if he were my personal guardian angel.
“Go on now, and be friends, henceforth,” he instructed us. I got up from the seat and followed the other fellow out of the office, and returned back to class. Everyone in class was as curious as cats as they wanting to know why we had been summoned to the Principal’s office, but both of us did not say anything.
At assembly the next morning the Principal announced in his morning lecture and announcements about how disturbed he was with our grade students for picking on a new student and said that that GMIS does not allow bullying and that if he heard any more complaints or even got a whiff of anything like it the persons responsible would be in big trouble and could even be suspended. His words set the cats among the pigeons as all those who troubled me flew far from me.
Once in class my other mates told me that I should not have complained to the Principal and treated me like I was the accused rather than the victim. It was only when they learnt that I had not complained but that it was my dad who had done so, that everyone began to empathize with me. As the day progressed slowly but surely they began talking to me and befriending me. By the end of the day I was less lonely and much happier, in fact I gained many friends from that day, but the day for my life in GMIS to take a complete turn was yet to come.
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