Who can forget those days? The red frock and matching bag and shoes which I wore on my first day in kindergarten, those tears running down and tiny fingers latched on to my mother’s hand so she would not be able to leave me and go. Then the teacher, a Mrs. K, a benevolent lady with a mellifluous voice gently loosening my grip on my mother’s hand and taking me inside with the promise of lots of new friends, fun and chocolates. I watched sadly as my mom waved to me, calling out to enjoy myself and not to worry about anything. It is true that I do not vividly remember the happenings of that day but I remember till date that it had been a very fun filled day and that was when I met my first friend. I went back home happily with lots of stories to tell my folks at home about my new friends and how I was looking forward to going back the next day. My parents were obviously relieved at my having gotten adjusted quite nicely to my new environment. Kindergarten for the rest of the time passed quite eventfully, learning as well as having fun. My only tension was what I would get to carry for lunch the next day. Life was so carefree.
Then came the next step, the school interview which is etched in my memory because it was such a special day and I met one of the kindest yet firm and dynamic visionary teachers I have ever met. My headmistress Mrs. J, the typical stern looking face that looked down at kids through scary (I though so then!) glasses. But when she smiled, she was a different lady altogether. Soon, we came to know she was a woman who coddled us as much as she expected discipline from us. In fact she was the one who discovered my penchant for creative writing and inspired me to win several competitions. Soon, I became her pet student because (I am not boasting here!!!) I was pretty good at academics, music, creative writing and karate even. Although school was also fun, life changed quite a bit. All of a sudden we were saddled with something called “homework” failing which, every single day the consequences were bound to be quite ugly. Nails had to be snipped perfectly, every hair in place and we were never to forget our badges. (Psst…there has been many an occasion when I forgot my badge). Even that passed rapidly owing to some really memorable teachers who made learning a fun thing.
I was now in middle school. Environmental Studies (EVS) was now divided into three chunks- Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Social Studies was divided into History & Civics and Geography.
Middle school and high school too passed fairly uneventfully what with homework and record- writing being my primary concern, leaving me with almost nil time for play and enjoyment. As a result, with a heavy heart I dropped music classes but continued to sing for the school music team anyway. Here I must thank Mr. S for not only giving me unofficial musical training but also teaching me lessons in humility and simplicity. His simple way of dressing and living despite his numerous achievements was something I strived to emulate and still hold close to my heart.
All I remember about ninth and tenth is the immense pressure from teachers, parents, relatives to compete with my peers and “beat” them at every exam. The only thing that comes to my mind is studying, studying and more studying. Pulling off all-nighters before the geography and physics exams. Plodding my way through a labyrinth of multiple theorems, formulae, incomprehensible archaic Kannada poetry, geographical statistics and practicing diagrams for biology, night after night. High School passed in a blur and soon, I came to college.
College! That wonderful place I had been wanting to attend ever since I was in school and had seen my cousin doing so. The freedom from the ole’ white-and-blue, no more ties and black ribbons, neither badges nor restrictions. I was simply thrilled at the prospect of attending the same college which my old school gang had joined. We would not be separated. My happiness knew no bounds.
College was one place where I learnt much more than just accountancy, mathematics, statistics and business studies. My equation with some of my old friends changed as I found new ones who despite not fitting into the old mould became very close to me. Despite being allowed to wear the dress of our choice, I realized that there were restrictions, even if they were practically invisible. Freedom brought with it responsibilities too.
I have always believed firmly that it is not age that matures people but difficulties and disillusionments. All through my life, I had been this happy go lucky child who got everything she wished for and maybe even more. This illusion broke fairly quickly when I became an adult. An adult, at least by the legal requirements of my country. My irrepressible self sobered down when the bubble popped, just when I had believed that my life was absolutely perfect. Just when I thought that I was so utterly lovable that nobody could possibly walk out on me, someone I had considered very close to my heart just turned his back on me and walked out of my life…just like that…forever. Although I have spent many sleepless nights wondering about the reason behind such a rash decision and also how to get my friend back, I must now actually thank him for teaching me the greatest lesson I had yet to learn. A dose of realism into my life and that life was never perfect. Not for long, at least.
This incident and a few more disillusionments led me to appreciate my true friendships and also the value of those things which I had, but had never quite understood the significance of, until I almost lost them. These trying times strengthened me as a person and changed me a lot. Earlier I might have offered perfunctory prayers but since then, my faith and belief have gotten stronger.
These are not the only transformations that adulthood has brought with it. The rosy glasses shattered, now I can view the world more objectively. I scoff now at the awe and admiration that I held for a teacher in my high school who with her fiery speeches was very provocative. I recognize it now for what it was, misdirecting zeal and aggression, twisting of facts to make things appear more romantic to our adolescent minds; something which my adolescent mind could not figure out then. Adolescent minds are quite pliable and impressionable. The lessons taught then and those occurrences, we carry throughout life. I have not been too impacted by her fiery speeches although thanks to her, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose will always remain my favourite freedom fighter. Now, I realize that the docile petite teacher whom we believed to be quite tame and therefore too sweet to be interesting, could be just the one to effectively tackle any crisis competently with her unique blend of gentleness and assertiveness. Mrs. G, your commentary on Shakespeare and the words of wisdom you told to me when you caught me reading a Perry Mason novel in your class, I will never forget. I can never get over my surprise when you spoke at length to me about that book and suggested few other novels, but adding with a smile “However not in my class”. It was also to this very same teacher, that I remember telling that I wanted to do law after tenth standard. Law, then was a very unconventional career choice to follow. She looked at me for the longest time and just when I feared she might comment and embarrass me, she asked me why I wanted to pursue law. To be honest, I had no other answer with me apart from the fact that I felt like Law was my calling. She simply nodded understandingly and smiled that all knowing smile of hers. She was something of a female Dumbledore in my eyes, just as powerfully impacting her students’ lives. I know one thing for sure, wherever she is, we, the ones who were fortunate to be taught by her will never forget her knowledge of the subject, her kindness, quirky sense of humour, soothing manner of speech and the impish manner in which she would trick us into debates opposite each other such as the Lady or the tiger one, the answer to which I still ponder sometimes.
Having thus stepped into adulthood, I hope I will be able to blend the lessons from my adolescence with the carefree optimism of my childhood and forge a satisfying life for myself.