“Main kabhi batlata nahin, par andhere se darta hoon main maa”
Darsheel Safary was giving a heart breaking act. I kept gazing at the TV without even blinking; the song had wakened the reminiscences which I dumped deep inside my soul years before. It gave me a vague dolour, a feeling of being isolated; being taken away from the things which I thought would be with me forever. That pain never left me even after all these years though the source of it conveyed all the contentment and fame I enjoyed today. My eyes were still stuck on the TV meanwhile I found my thoughts leading me to an older time, where my life changed without any sign.
The first and most challenging moment in a student’s life in India is the period of his 10th grade board exams. The kid would feel like, the responsibility of whole nation is on his shoulders. From one side, the pressure from the parents and from the other side the force from school and teachers. World War I and II from history text book are perceived with contempt as if they were broke out to torture the 10th grade students.
Eventually the horrible board exams passed through my life too and I didn’t mess it up much.
Then came the long vacation; the most waited period. I didn’t waste any day of it as if I was out on a parole from jail. We friends played the whole day in bear field, under the hot sun, only stopping when the sun left declaring his defeat to stop us and the mosquitoes from raw grass appeared for their evening feast.
Soon after a month of vacation, emerged the judgement day, the day of 10th grade board exam results. I prayed for good marks, not because I really craved for it. A good result was a matter of my pride and prestige. Being younger to two brothers and a sister who all attained high marks in 10th, striking a good score was vital for me.
When the results are out, against my fear of becoming the odd one in family, I conquered the 10th grade exam with an overall aggregate of 94% acquiring the position of top scorer in my family and 3rd rank holder in the school.
The vacation after the result was more fruitful than the one before. I had become a small celebrity in my neighbourhood. Every father and mother told their children to symbolize me as their role model. To say, honey on the sugar, my picture was published in the daily along with the other students in school who got above 90% in overall. In addition to that, the school management erected a huge well wishing flux board in the centre of our town with my picture among the pictures of other winners. I exploited this golden opportunity by asking more pocket money from Papa which he couldn’t deny me since I made him so proud. I was having a good time under this lime light until one day Papa told me over the dinner.
“Varun, Mom will be coming with me this time when I go back to Qatar after my off days. I have arranged everything.” Papa said impassively.
This was the only thing I hated in Papa the most, his presumptuousness.
“But Papa my classes will start from next month onwards. If Mom is coming with you, where will I stay? I don’t want to stay alone here in this house.” I said with contempt to Papa, much because of disclosing all this at the last moment.
“That’s what I am coming to say. I have found out an excellent school for you in Cochin. It’s a residential school. So you don’t have to stay here.” He said
So that’s it. He was putting me in a boarding school. I looked at Mom for help and found her gazing at me in vain. I knew she could do nothing, for Papa was stubborn in his decisions. I wished my brothers and sister were not away from home else I could have stayed with them and go to a nearby school.
I nodded politely at Papa, in front of whom I always acted like a matured and grown up boy. But deep inside, I was crying like a kindergarten kid on his first day at school.
“I have contacted the Principal of your school over phone. He was flattered by hearing your marks and told us to come on next Monday to take the admission.” Papa said contented.
The days before the Monday seemed like the last days of my life. I missed everything I placed my eyes on at home. The silly things like my blanket, pillow and even the bathroom carpet I used appeared very close to me. I missed my school friends, my bicycle, play ground, favourite TV shows, my cricket bat and many other endless things.
Above all I am going to miss my Mom, her warm presence. Realizing that those days, when I run home after school to see Mom waiting for me at the veranda, wouldn’t come back made me heart breaking. I missed those morning bustles Mom and me created at home on school days, her small fight with me for not finishing my break fast in the hurry to go to school.
On Sunday night I found myself hysteric in anguish. I didn’t want to sleep because I anticipated that if I didn’t sleep the dawn wouldn’t occur the next day. I rolled this side and that side in bed, thinking of any possibility to avert myself from going tomorrow. Many ideas went through my mind. I thought about puncturing the tyres of Papa’s car but was dubious that he would hire a taxi to take us to school. I wished I were ill the next day. Suddenly an idea struck me.
I heard my friends saying once that a slice of onion could make you sick if you sleep at night holding it under your arm pits. You would wake up the next day with high body temperature and illness. They said they did it sometimes to skip the class tests.
I didn’t give another thought regarding it. At midnight I peeped into the kitchen and managed to get a slice of onion. I was not sure to how extent would it be success. But that was my last attempt to get away.
Next morning I woke up long before Mom and Papa to gladly find myself down with sickness. That was the first time in life I felt pleased to get sick. I threw away the onion slice and waited for Mom to come and wake me up.
I lay in bed resting my head on Mom’s lap. She had put a wet cloth on my forehead and fondled my hair. I was giving an astonishing performance such that even Hitler’s heart would have melt of compassion. Papa looked at me in disbelief. He was annoyed of my sudden illness without beacon. He went out of the room without uttering a word. I blew a sigh of relief.
I was about to fall asleep when Papa came to room; liveliness on his face. Liveliness on his face made mine gloomy, for I knew something was wrong.
“I talked to your Principal about your fever. He said it will be ok if you can’t make it to school today. He’s a good man; told me to come and take the admission.” Papa said cheerfully.
No he’s not. I cursed the Principal in mind. It seemed like he was determined to trap me in his school.
Papa went to school right after. And I was house arrested and told to take complete rest. The gimmick I played had swirled like a boomerang and got me down. I had to take the medicines and was bedridden in vain. I spent the whole day watching TV. Adding hurt to the wound, it showed the movie Tare Zameen Par. I saw myself in the movie; I smiled with Ishaan (Darsheel Safary) and wept with him. Though it was strange that poor marks lead Ishaan to boarding school, and excellent marks made my way to same place.
Later that evening, Papa came back from school arranging everything. He told me that school was scheduled to reopen on next week and I had to leave then.
At night Mom came to my room. She held my hand and placed something in my palm. My face turned white seeing it. It was the slice of onion I threw away early in the morning. I leaned down my head of guiltiness.
“Why did you do this Varun?” She asked worried.
I couldn’t take it anymore. I broke in front of her, wailing like a kid.
“I don’t want to go Mom; I don’t want to be alone. I want to be with you. Tell Papa, please” I mumbled desperately.
Mom’s eyes filled with tears. She embraced me and kissed me on the cheek.
“You won’t be alone son. It’s a nice school and you will have a lot of friends. You know what; I will send you a lot of chocolates and gifts from Qatar. You can also come to Qatar on summer vacations. I will call you everyday I swear.” Mom said consoling me, her voice faltered.
I was not listening to her. I whimpered in her tight hug, feeling the warmth. Within her arms, I felt safe from all the miseries haunting me outside.
Next week, early in the morning, I carried my baggage to the trunk of car. My eyes puffed with enormous strain on tear gland. I didn’t fear of crying in front of Papa, for my eyes drained fully last night and didn’t spare a drop. I got into the front seat impassively. I looked at my home, the place I had been living for 15 years. In its yard I toddled holding Mom’s hand and played with my brothers and sister. Realizing the fact that it would be locked and secluded; when Papa and Mom left to Qatar; made my heart quiver sadly.
Mom didn’t come near the car. She sat at the veranda looking at me with a made up smile. Mom didn’t want to come with us to school for I knew it would be difficult for both of us to part, later it went. I waved at Mom when Papa drove the car to the gate, feeling dragged away from her, from every happiness.
Katrina Kaif danced for “Sheela Ki Jawaani” song. The change of song brought my thoughts back to TV room. I grumbled at the weird song combination taste of Mtv.
Though it was tough for me in the beginning, the school was never hard to me. It uphold me into the world of photography, lent a hand in finding my passion towards it. Now, working as a Director Trainee in ‘Art India’ magazine and beginning to make my name in film field, I recollect the confidence and encouragement that old school bestowed on me on my way up.
After all these years, sitting in my flat, I smiled faintly on the vague pain that still lingered unhealed deep inside me.