Life at school is made up of myriad small incidents, some happy and others not so. I can recollect the times that we shook with unbridled laughter. I can also remember the events that numbed us into silence.
Once when we were pretty young and naïve, we were taken on a trip to Shimla. We were travelling in the non-a/c 3-tier compartment of a train. The rattling of the train as it sped along was loudly reverberating. A classmate had brought a tape recorder. But we could not hear anything above the noise.
One of the boys said: “We can only hear the music well, if the windows are all closed.”
It was too early in the day to put all the shutters down. One of the boys had a brainwave. He said that the toilet at the end of the compartment was a noiseless place. So slowly and stealthily we took turns, five or six boys at a time and went to the toilet to ‘listen to music.’ We locked ourselves in the toilet and listened to our favourite songs, trying to stifle our giggles and maintain our balance in the speeding train
Can you imagine what a sensation we caused when a passenger waiting his turn to use the closet, heard music and giggling coming from behind the closed doors. What a bigger sensation, when we opened the doors and the passenger saw six boys pouring out en masse from a tiny little Indian Type closet! I don’t think I have ever laughed so much as I laughed that day.
Four teachers had accompanied us on that trip. One of the masters was a new teacher who had just joined that year. He was the youngest of the teachers accompanying us and we longed to bond with him in an informal way. Initially he was a little quiet and aloof and did not mingle with us easily. But in a day or two, he loosened up and became friendly and by the end of the trip he was almost like ‘one of the boys.’
He played cricket with us. He sang songs, asked riddles, told jokes and even danced the disco with us. In fact he was the ‘life of the party.’
When it was time to leave we were all very impressed with him.
We told him, “Sir you must always be like this, even in class”
He laughed at this and said, “The moment we land in Chennai, I will be a different person.”
The train chugged into Chennai Central station. Many parents had come to pick up their wards. Among the crowd we saw our head master and a few other teachers. We wondered why there was such a large reception committee.
Then we were told why.
The young master’s father had died suddenly that morning. There were no mobile phones then. So the teachers from our school had come to break the news to him at the station itself and accompany him to his house.
We boys became numb with shock. The words that he had uttered in Shimla had had a prophetic ring to it.
The moment we landed in Chennai, he became a different person.
Just like he had said.
PS: Some years later, when we had completed our +2 and were ready to step out of school , we invited him to spend a day with us. He readily agreed and accompanied a few of us to lunch and later to the bowling alley in a mall. We ended the day in an ice cream parlor, chatting and joking.
It was like we were back in Shimla without restrictions.
And this day ended on a happy note.
As told by : Bharath Shimhan. Chennai… Written by : Gulsum Basheer @ talkalittledo