Our beloved Common Meeting

This is Ma’am’s writing about our Common Meeting reminiscing some of the great enriching and fun-filled moments that we have shared together.

We stayed in the Karidhya Campus for not very long but we were perfectly at home there. The intimate structure of the building, the two small fields — where we played football and badminton, the middle courtyard — which was our cricket pitch, along with the forest outside was a very well-loved campus. The middle courtyard was particularly memorable for various other reasons.

The common tiffin time was great fun. We remember how the whole school used to have food together sitting along the corridors. The food would be over soon, but fun and frivolity will continue for a long time. There would be imaginary games where students will play perfectly synchronized cricket matches at the absence of any cricket bat or ball!

The 4 o’clock time was also very memorable. Again, the entire school will be congregating, chattering and bantering away; saying the last few things of the day to us and to their friends, the last few smiles and waving of goodbyes until we met again the next day. Through the lunchtime and 4 o’clock time, we all became close, and the whole school, irrespective of class boundaries, became a single group of friends.

Our shift to the current campus in Husnabad was exciting. This campus was a huge upgrade from our earlier school buildings. It was far bigger compared to both of our earlier campuses — in Dangalpara and in Karidhya. Our new campus had a large field in the middle of the compound bordered by the cottage-styled classrooms on two sides and the big L-shaped two storied building at the far end. We moved from a four-roomed school building in Dangalpara to finally a 20+ roomed campus with a lot of open spaces.

But as the space increased, the intimacy reduced. After the initial excitement of shifting to the new campus was over, we realised that students were becoming strangers to each other gradually. All the classes had separate tiffin time, inside particular tiffin rooms. Even at 4 o’clock, when the school will get over, students would be scattered all over the large campus — making it impossible to have some common fun or talk before we call it a day.

The idea of common meeting was borne out of this dissatisfaction of the students gradually becoming distant from each other. We decided the bring back the familiarity, to have some common time with the whole school (or most of it) — even if it is through some artificial structure of a daily meeting at a particular time slot. Hence started our Common Meeting.

We were not very sure what would be the topic of discussion in this new Common Meeting. What we were sure of was that we wanted to meet and talk to all of you together every day. We decided that if on certain days we run out of our usual banter, then our Plan B would be to discuss some EVS slides with you. Somehow in all these months and years, Plan B never had to be used. And now that we look back on all our common meetings we understand that between us we never needed a Plan B, the Plan A always worked and that is half an hour a day of talking to all of you together without any agenda, without any plan. The topics of discussions just appeared every day as we met you. We had to tell you so much about the world, about our country, about our town, our neighbourhood, about the school, about you. We never ran out of conversations.

The Common Meeting had a humble start — the sole objective of which was to keep in touch, was to keep the conversations going. But it became much, much bigger than that over the course of time. What did we not discuss in these meetings! Topics varying from why a student has hygiene issues to why poor countries have more corruption; from topics of economics to topics of relationship; from analysing the news of Suri to analysing the behaviour of global politicians. No discussion was off-limit and nothing was beyond questioning. Out of many memorable common meetings that we had a few that would always be close to my heart:

There was one where Sir read out and explained you the meaning of one of Wilfred Owen’s poem — Disabled. The poem was a very traumatic and moving account of an ex-soldier, crippled by the war. The common class, which is normally always full of laughter fell absolutely silent during this discussion. The usual chatter while leaving the room was also not there. We are not sure if you understood all the words and sentences of the poem but we understood that you felt something much deeper that day, that you grew up a bit that day. They say certain emotions cannot be seen or touched. But you did touch empathy that day, you did touch the sense of futility of war that day, you did touch a very pure side of yourself, which I hope have made all of you a little wiser and a little better people.

There was another very memorable and quite different incident that comes to my mind — when we had bought chairs for the Common Room. The Meeting which used to be held with you sitting on the floor was to change — from then on you would be sitting on chairs. I remember a fiery debate ensued between ‘floorists’ and ‘chairists’ about this. Strong arguments were made in favour of and against the new move of putting chairs in the room. Nothing has ever been so serious and so funny at the same time!

Then there was the ‘Clueless Contest’ — towards the very beginning. At that point we realised that most of you didn’t even know each others’ names. So a contest was organised to figure out who knew the least number of their fellow students. I remember Mars calling everyone Adrija, like choosing all Bs in a multiple choice question paper! We have come very far from those days, not only you know everyone’s names now, you also know their traits intimately.

One other day we wanted to show you the absurdity of Bollywood movies; and we showed you selected clips from certain blockbusters. By looking at Bacchan’s and Mithun’s heroics, and Shahrukh’s absurdly romantic expressions, the whole room burst into laughter. But there was a bigger point: that those movies feed us myths about justice and romanticism that’s harmful to us as a society. If the reality is grim, we need to see it in our movies, so that people are moved to do something about it.

In the common meeting we invented the ‘Mollie Disease’ (name given to the habit of endlessly wasting time), ‘Rajarshi Disease’ (when you talk more than you listen), — and often through these clear diagnoses, these diseases got cured. At least, you became more aware of your flaws and imperfections. You are not always able to change yourself or control your impulses, but due to the common meeting, there is better self-awareness in every one of you. As you got to know yourselves, you got to understand others and your surroundings better, resulting in many memorable tweets from you which were wise beyond your years.

There are so many more events that cloud my memory as I am writing this that entire volumes can be written about our discussions on these meetings.

We say to outsiders that the Common Meeting is our take on the traditional Assembly of standard schools. But that’s slightly untrue. The Common Meeting has no comparison, no equivalent anywhere in the world. Perhaps in a few years’ time, when some of you have already ventured out into the world, settling down in your new life, making new friends, trying to make them acquainted with your past life, with your roots, you might want to talk about this very exciting thing that happened every day in your school, the most enjoyable and memorable part of your school life — the Common Meeting; you might be able to tell them various anecdotes, various funny incidents, you might be able to sew various pieces of your memory about the Meeting and present to them the best that you can. Your friends will nod, show interest, be curious, they might say that they understand what you are talking about and they can understand it must be been a great experience to be part of something like this, but trust me, they will never know. The moments that we shared together in the Common Meeting has become a part of you, has made you but even then most articulate of you will probably not be able to put words to the magic that we have together been part of.