Friday, February 12, 2010

The Last Class

By Gaurav Parab

Last week I attended my last class of formal education.  Sure, when I rejoin the workforce there would be a year of training, including class room hours but I know that life as a student is truly over.

How important is this milestone? My obvious cluelessness with maths apart, the classroom has been a major part of my life. If you think about it more than 70 % of my life has revolved around classrooms. For some of the younger readers of this blog, the number could be as high as 118 %. So it was no surprise that my throat had a little gulp when the professor declared the class over and said goodbye. That's it? I wondered. 

As I sit in my hostel room, memories lash across the campus of my mind. The winds whisper and draw images of places and faces from different times.  

I have been to 10 different schools (including a girl’s school on account of what can be best called an etymological error) and this is what I remember from the classrooms I have been to. I have tried to restrict this blog to only one entry per place but rest assured there were millions. I am sure, dear drifter, you too have similar memories. I guess only the names and places change for each one of us.

Class 1 and Class 2, KV Port Blair, The Andaman Islands

Let me share a very distinct memory which involved a walk to my sister’s classroom. Moments ago, I had been dispatched under protest by my teacher to fetch my sister. This was in Class 1. The teacher had doubts about the genuineness of the signature on my Maths homework. In a moment of panic, developed out of the fact that I was late by 3 days in submitting my homework, I had told her that my elder sister had signed it.
Of course she had not.  I signed it quickly on the way to the teacher’s desk. I believed that scribbling NP (my sister’s initials) should pass off in a court of law without censure. It really did not matter who signed it as long as it was there.

One forged signature, and a hurried explanation to my sister later, there we stood. My sister and I.
In front of the teacher.

“Did you sign the homework?”

I smiled and looked at my sister. I had told her. She had signed it. Simple. We could both go home and I will not go to prison.

“No mam. He must have done it himself.”

I lost my trust in women.  They make the biggest sacrifices for you, including their life, but they derive strange pleasure from seeing you with an open mouth in front of your Maths teacher.

Today, when  I hear talk about no homework for kids up till class tenth I can't help but shake my head in disappointment. So many criminal careers that will never see the light of day.

Class 3, Solan, Himachal Pradesh

I remember one afternoon when our cute little school, cutely called Sunny Days, had to close early in the afternoon. There were some protests going on just above the slope where our classroom was and we were asked to leave. As we boarded the waiting Army School Bus, popularly called a One Ton amongst Fauji kids, I glanced back and saw hundreds of youth looking very angry and disappointed about something. I asked the Bhaiya, who I noticed had a Rifle in the hand, about why they were angry and he said you would not understand. The country has changed today.

It was only later in time that I read about the word Mandal Commission and how a country was split wide open.

Class 4 and Class 5, St Thomas, Shimla

We had a Nun as the School Principal. Like all Nuns, she was always angry about something. She was strict , and she had been watching my movements for some months from her control room up in the castle on the hill. 

One fine day, the axe fell. I was called to her office and I knew I was in trouble as soon as I saw that most of the teaching staff was inside the office. Now, I have never witnessed an execution, but I reckon the crowd inside that office that day could easily be transported into a prison and substituted for the passerby’s in a Executioner’s cell.

“Look. They are bringing in the rope!”

 “You have been a naughty boy son.” The Principal said.

Did she find out about the Nuclear bomb I was trying to design?

“You know how we treat naughty boys?”

“No Sister.”

“We make them the School Head Boy.”

And everyone laughed. I beamed back at them. I was finally a somebody. My Management career had started. My original fears were unfounded.

My fears were not unfounded. The next morning, bearing the weight of the Head Boy Batch pinned to my sweater, I realized the scam that they had pulled. As I struggled to control the rowdy junior classes, I realized that I could no longer have fun during the assembly hour. With one stroke, they had brought down the school crime rate by 80 %. Conniving women.  They got me again.

Class 6, St Lukes, Solan

Back in Solan for another year, I joined St Lukes.  There is one memory I would like to share about a quiz that I took part in. I think it was a History Quiz, and as I sat on the stage I saw our history teacher in the audience. I am not sure, but  I think her name was Mrs Rawat or something.

The Quiz Master asked a question about the Harappan civilization and I said, “The Great Bath”. My teacher had taught me well. I stole one glance at her in the audience and she was positively glowing.

I went up to her after the quiz to thank her for attending, and she said, “You know. You would be very famous one day.”  That was one of the best things I have ever heard.

Whether I make it as someone or not, I know I am going to say the same thing to all eleven year olds that I meet. It is so much more valuable and effective than class room lessons.

Class 7, Vidya Bhavan, Pune

I remember Kwality ice-cream became Kwality Walls when I was in Pune. We used to have a weekly NIE ( Newspaper in Education ) class where the good people from the Times of India would distribute free Times newspaper to all the students to read in the class. So they grow up to become informed students and buy Times of India to stay informed.  

The Times ran a full page advertisement on Kwality Walls that day. A class of 12 years old saw that lip smacking advertisement, and waited for the bell to ring. We all wanted to run to the neighborhood ice-cream wallah, and you guessed it – Start an anti-globalization campaign to prevent the same thing happening to Uncle Chips.

But that is not the memory I carry from my class VII. The memory involves a PT lecture where a skilled Sports Trainer, probably appointed by the Government to breed Olympic Champions for Sydney 2000 – asked us to warm up using his patented training method.

“Run around the ground 4 times”

So far so good. Only problem was I had high fever. But he did not believe me. Probably because I used to have high fever whenever I heard the word ‘Run’, but this time I was really not well. But he still made me run.
As my mother almost carried me back home, I was angry. I could get the cancer for running with high fever. I also realized that male teachers are as bad as women. Evil is sometimes an occupation hazard.

Class X, Belgaum Military School, Belgaum

These were the best three years of my life. I made friends for a lifetime, learned how character is built ( by getting your butt kicked by Senior Bhaiyas), and realized that if someone were to ask me which school I was from years from now, I would without hesitation say, “Belgaum Military School”

I made  a million memories at King Georges ( As all military schools are known) but one of the most memorable was in my first day itself. It involved a guy called Romel, who was in class XII. Now, I knew this chap from my badminton days before I joined BMS. We were friends. But I did not know that in BMS a class VIII Georgian could not possible look into the eyes of a Class XII Georgian. Let alone think of him as a friend. 
As I saw Romel that day, I said – “Hi Romel. How are you doing.”

Dear Reader, If you are a Georgian, you know what happened next.

Dear Reader, If you are not a Georgian, you do not want to know what happened next. Lets just say a lot of character was built that day.

Class XII, KV Fort William Kolkata

I remember making the most of my time in Kolkata. A clear memory was bunking the class to watch Deep Blue Sea.

As we made our way to the Grilled Doors on the school ground floor - we found them to be locked. The only way out was to jump from the first floor. So we went to the first floor. Make no mistake about it, everyone was terrified of jumping. But the boys were more terrified of not jumping and being made fun of than jumping to their death.

So each one jumped. One by one. So far so good. I was the last one. I swore a silent prayer, swung my legs over the railing and sailed through the air gracefully. I landed on a rock.

I had to drag my twisted leg to the theater in tremendous pain. Laughing and pretending with the rest of the boys as I could not possible tell them about my clumsy jump. At the hall, the hero whose leg was broken, winced as the Super Smart Shark (Which still reminds me of a Bengali friend of mine) closed in. I have never identified with a movie so much.

I still have nightmares involving me in my school dress, being chased by Bengali speaking sharks.

As a parting word, don’t you think that even unremarkable lives are full of remarkable memories?
Drifters, do share yours with me.

A toast to teachers and classrooms!

PS- Do drop into for some quality quizzing.  


My Name is Not Khan said...

This is brilliant. You are the best story teller around I say.

I wish you were in my class!

Shreya said...

You are the best story teller! A lot of so-called unremarkable memories become remarkable by virtue of the way they are told :)

HymShoe said...

You know i once got a memorable thrashing for my teacher and a bigger one from my father for complaining about it.
If something like it had happened in todays time I would be all over the television as Himanshu - Ek Mazoom Bache ke kahani

Kids these days are pampered.

Tanmay said...

:) Well said indeed!

BeautifulLife said...

Very well written.. Your article took me back to my own school days :)

tambourine girl said...

I love this post! :) Wht I love more are the devious conclusions you make at the end of each one, 'cept your history teacher one, which is outright awesome. Never had a teacher tell me that!

I had my younger bro all thru school (AFS and KV). And I've been hauled up for beating up boys who bullied him.

In an alternate univ, if we study together, I'll fight you for the mischief-maker-hence-head-boy/girl post.

Gaurav Parab said...

@ Shreya: Thanks. You are right. There is a story in every moment.

@ HymShoe: I would not change a thing. I think we were all born at the right time.

@ Tanmay: Hey! Great to hear from you.

@ Beautiful Life: Thank you so much! Keep drifting in.

@ Tambourine Girl: Great to hear from you after all this time.

But I still get to be headboy, ok?

Kalyan Shekhawat said...

It was too good... I felt nostalgic... Romel bhaiya wala incident was awesome..
Even I cherish deep blue sea of Kolkata. I did MBA from there..
I wish ur history teacher's words come true..



Juhi said...


Shaz L said...

Your story may not have the accomplishments like founding Pixar, but I do see the dots connecting backwards. No wonder you are an amazing story-teller!!!

Scattered Thoughts... said...

nostalgic memories :) I finished my college around 10 years back and a lot of happened since then but know what I still get haunted dreams about those I have my physics paper in the morning 8 and I haven't read a word of it.. sometimes I see myself freaking around to get the textbook of the exam in the morning and no one is willing to lend me one.. it just goes on and on.. then suddenly I wake up.. and pfff life is not that bad after all :)

Farina said...

Awesome post Gaurav!
You had me in splits with ur "Georgian memory" in class tenth.

Never ever STOP writing,,,u r a born Writer!


Devinder said...

All your articles, and esp. this one on school make for such a lovely read... I wish I could write like that.. I went for a quiz yesterday and remembered you..
School is where I have my best memories.. But unlike you, I was this good guy :) ...
It was nice to have met u at SCMHRD..
hope your History teacher's words come true and hope something similar happens to me....

Gaurav Parab said...

@ Kalyan, Juhi,and Shaz: Thanks.

@ Scattered Thoughts: You are old man! Just like me.

You are right. Life is good.

@ Farina: I was in splits when this happened as well. Literally.

The Neverknown said...

i cannot disagree with that history teacher everytime i read thru this blog. congrats on the graduation, Manager GUP.