This is a very entertaining story by Sohom Mukherjee (Urgi of class 11, 2019) where he talks about a non-school day in our old school building, the Karidhya Campus, reminiscing the sweet memories of those times.
The bus was rumbling down the road, carrying inside it energetic children who were all too busy chattering among themselves. I was one of them.
The day was warm and we were heading towards school. There was Bhau and Koka sitting two seats ahead of me and laughing, presumably because of a joke that Bhau had cracked. I was sitting in the back seat with Vulture and Motu. Motu, always excited about fast cars, was telling me about a car and how it reached from 0 to 60 in three seconds. I was not really very interested in this, especially right in the morning, but I was listening to him anyway.
The bus started slowing down and when I looked out of the window I saw the yellow school building. Today was Saturday and we were primarily going to the school to play. The bus came to a stop in front of the massive black gates and people in the front seats started getting down. Me, Motu and Vulture got down last.
Immediately after getting down I started running towards the main building. Then I remembered suddenly that Sir might catch me running and make me hold my ears. I stopped in my tracks and looked around to see if Sir was anywhere nearby. After confirming that he hadn’t seen me, I sighed with relief.
I and all the others then walked into a room in the corner and kept our bags. By this time a lot of non-school transport people had also arrived, including Sampad, Soumi and Nikhil.
Our school building was unlike other schools. It had a courtyard in the middle and surrounding this courtyard were classrooms and few other rooms. These other rooms included a games room, a library, a computer lab and also Sir’s offices. It was in this courtyard that we all gathered, awaiting Sir’s instructions on what to do. In reality, however, we didn’t really want much instructions, all we wanted was for him to pronounce the magic words, ‘You can play now’.
After some time Sir came out of his office and Bhau bravely asked him what we would do, knowing fully well that Sir knew that all we wanted to do was play the whole time. Sir announced that we would read for the first one and a half hours and then we could play for the remaining two and a half.
I could see some disappointed faces, and one such face belonged to Nikhil. To be honest I was both disappointed and relieved. I was relieved because I would feel a bit guilty if I played the whole time from morning to noon. But at the same time I was disappointed because I did want to play the whole time and was not really in a mood for much else.
Everybody headed towards the library to collect a book and I followed them. But instead of reading in the library Sir told us to read out in the open, sitting in the corridors which ran in front of classrooms. This was so that he could catch us if we started talking in the reading time.
I went into the library and picked a big looking book called, ‘India after Gandhi’. This was so that others would get impressed looking at me attempting to read a big book. I was about to sit down and start reading the book when Sir called out to me.
‘Urgi, go keep that book and choose a simpler one, you’re too small to read that now’.
‘Yes Sir’, I replied.
Instead of impressing others I had made a fool of myself. I went to the library and kept the book back. This time I chose a very thin looking book, it was an abridged version of Martin Luther King’s biography.
When I went out Sir was still there and when he saw the book I had chosen he said, ‘That book is appropriate for you’.
I sat down and started reading the book. But reading it wasn’t my top priority though, I wanted to read it fast so that I could put a tick on the box called ‘have read’ for this book. I then wanted to move on to the next book and do the same. So I read the book very fast, but in reality it was more like flipping pages. I was done within twenty minutes. But I couldn’t change the book without Sir’s permission and so I waited for him to come out of his office and he did after some time.
‘Sir, I’ve finished this book, can I take another ?’, I asked him. But instead of answering me he came over and took the book from me.
‘You’ve finished this book ?’, he asked and I answered yes.
‘Then tell me what was the most famous thing Martin Luther King said’.
I had no clue about what the answer was but I had some vague memory about something about an elevator.
‘He said that blacks and whites weren’t allowed in the same elevator’, I answered. Then I immediately heard a few chuckles and knew I had said something wrong and so I quickly corrected myself.
‘Oh sorry, that’s not what he said, he said that blacks and whites weren’t allowed to sit in the same seats in a bus’.
‘You’ve read nothing, go read this book again’, Sir said.
So I started to read it again and this time I had the intention to read it properly. The story got extremely interesting as I read it and I got completely immersed in it. This time it took me about fifty-five minutes but I had read it properly and remembered everything.
Sir was talking with Riku uncle when I finished reading. After he finished talking I called out to him telling him that I had finished reading. He again came over.
‘So what was the most famous thing Martin Luther King said ?’, he asked me again.
‘He said in a speech the famous line “I have a dream”’, I said confidently this time.
‘Good’, he said, ‘seems like you have read it this time’.
By this time the reading time was over and Bhau came and asked Sir if we could start playing. He said yes. We then quickly gathered and decided that we would play cricket today. The teams were decided. I was with Koka, Vulture, Sampad and a few others. The other team consisted of Bhau, Motu, Nikhil and some others.
It was decided our team would bowl first. Motu went to bat first for their team. He started of very well and it looked like that if he kept on playing like the way he was we would lose the match. Koka even reorganized the fielders but it was to no effect.
Then it happened; disaster struck for the first time. The door to Sir’s office was open and Motu hit the ball directly inside. I could hear a few things getting knocked over.
Everybody fell silent for a long moment. But then Koka went to get the ball. We felt sorry for him for we knew some scolding was awaiting; he knew that as well. He walked to Sir’s office as slowly as he could get away with and then poked his head inside and asked Sir for the ball. What surprised us most was that he got no scolding at all and came back in one piece.
We resumed playing, but it was only after we all agreed that Motu couldn’t bat anymore. Bhau came to bat after this but he got caught out after two overs. After that the rest of his team got out quickly, scoring only few more runs.
It was now our team’s chance to bat and there was real chance that we could win the match. From our team Vulture went to bat first. But he didn’t perform very well and was out in an over.
By this time we were all tired from playing under the sun and it was decided that we would take a break and then continue. During the break, however, all we did was horse around, shouting and running here and there. Koka tried to drink some water from a wide mouthed bottle and spilled half of it on his shirt.
After the break we resumed the game and Koka went to bat for our team. He was much more promising than Vulture. By the end of Koka’s second over he had hit a string of fours and sixes and we were well on our way to victory. But then it happened again; Koka hit the ball hard and it went straight inside Sir’s office. Then followed the ominous silence again and this time it was much longer than last time’s. Nobody wanted to go ask Sir for the ball this time for they knew that the consequences wouldn’t be a miracle like last time. We all knew miracles were rare.
Bhau then took a step forward and everybody was relieved that somebody else was taking the risk. He slowly went up to Sir’s office and asked for the ball. After seeing that he was standing in front of Sir’s office for a moment too long we thought that he was getting it. But surprising us yet again, he came back unscathed, smiling even. We gathered around him and asked him what had happened. He said that Sir was a bit angry but had given him the ball back and told him that it should not happen again.
We again resumed playing but now we were all extremely wary of hitting hard. It was decided Koka, like Motu, would stop batting.
I was the only one left who had some chances of making us win the match and so I went to bat. The start was bad and pressure was mounting up. Koka quickly came over and told me to keep my nerve.
The last over arrived, I scored a four and immediately there were lots of claps from my team. But then I couldn’t hit again and the pressure went up a notch. Koka called me and told me to focus on the ball but at this point it wasn’t much of a help.
The game was very close to the end and if I scored a few more runs I would be able to bring victory home. But I had another hidden agenda up my sleeve: I didn’t just want to win the match but wanted to win in a heroic way by scoring the few final runs by hitting a six. Nothing less than a six would suffice, I told myself. So when the next ball was bowled I focused and hit with all my might and then the next thing I remember is running into the games room and closing the door shut. The ball had gone inside Sir’s office again!
In the game’s room we started talking about what we’d do next and who would go and bring the ball, if at all. It was decided I would have to go and I resigned myself to my fate.
I slowly walked towards Sir’s office dreading what was to come next. When I reached his office I poked my head inside and asked, ‘Sir can I have the ball back?’.
I saw that he had the ball in his hand and instead of scolding me or giving the ball back to me he got up from his chair and walked towards me. I thought at this point that I was going to get some serious scolding and we were all going to get some punishment.
But instead he just walked out into the courtyard.
‘Ah, none of you seem to know how to play any cricket’, he said, ‘all you seem to do is hit the ball in random directions. Come I will show you how to play some cricket’.
I didn’t say anything because I was still a bit scared but by now I was also confused, where was the scolding?
‘Where are all the others?’, he asked me and I answered truthfully that after hitting the ball we had all run into the games room in fear of getting scolding.
‘Oh, get them out and I will show you all to play some cricket like I used to in my childhood’.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, he was going to play cricket with us instead of scolding us for repeatedly hitting the ball inside his office. I was so relieved that I wanted to dance.
I then went inside the games room and called the others and they seemed not to be able to comprehend the situation, but I couldn’t blame them for it.
We all started playing cricket and Sir showed us how to bowl and bat properly. But the situation had turned so unreal, not because he was playing with us for he did that often but because we had gotten no scolding at all for acts we thought were criminal, that we were all a bit ecstatic and none of us could really focus on the game.
After some time our playing for the day ended and we boarded the bus home, but the memory of this day has stuck with me ever since.
This story was a mix of reality and imagination of a time long in the past, times often referred to as the Great Game Days. These were the times we fondly look back to, remembering the intimate nature of the school back then and all the fun we had in it. We’d just come to the school, have fun classroom discussions, play, watch movies and go back. It was nothing like the present with days filled with exams and textbook based learning. All we did back then was lead a purposeless hunter-gatherer life.
But those days are gone now, no matter how much we want it back.
Oh, how much I miss the old fun filled school.