Missing school

On one fine day during my tenth standard, way back in 1990, Mr. Bhor came to the classroom to give us some “tips” in life! He was a middle-aged to elderly chap and mind you, he was a PT (Physical Training) teacher! Due to his great English skills, he was a common character in all the jokes on English. Anyhoo, Bhor sir, as he was addressed back then, continued to encourage us about studying, putting in efforts, etc, with phrases such as “all can learn”, “some take longer to understand”, “one can understand in one reading, someone else might take 3-4 readings”, etc. He also went on to say something to the effect that “you are going to miss school. Till now, you have people taking care of you, telling you what to do. Out of school, you'll have no guidance in terms of what to do or not to do. You'll even miss such restrictions.”

Well, the old man was right, even though not for the reasons that he mentioned. I particularly miss school for reasons that I don't think anyone else does... at least not from my point of view. Most of us miss school because of the innocence, the pranks that we at times had no control over but playing them as a necessity, the joy of new friends; but isn't it all about childhood itself than school? Of course, it may seem school now, because most of what we may remember learning in life or childhood life in totality are school days. Hmm, I'm going off-topic on this once again... well, I miss school because I'd have liked to learn!!! Hah! Didn't I get you with that one? But its true! Really.

I don't quite remember any subject that interested me. In all languages- English, Hindi, Marathi and Sanskrit- I left grammar as optional! In fact, I picked up Marathi+Sanskrit as my third language paper because grammar is difficult and I could ease my way out of school by skipping grammar in both! Now I know without grammar there is no language. How dumb could I've been back then? :) Its not that I did not know grammatically correct English, Marathi or Hindi. I sure did. (Ah, but Sanskrit was different: no one spoke it and you know the rest, how it may have been). Not only could I speak and read decently well, but write too. The issue was remembering vocabulary, classification of things into categories such as nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives and sentences and clauses and past participles and a bunch of all sounding too-much-to-remember stuff. Only some of the stories in English Prose such as “Burning the candle at both ends” or “The never never nest” and quotes such as “Muft ka chandan ghis mere nandan” from Hindi Prose stuck on with me. There was another- “Travel not with a fool”- which I now forget whether was prose or poetic. Rapid Reading a Tale of Two Cities or William Wordsworth's worthy poems may have kept me wondering on wonders of school learning. Science was okay, Physics sure was somewhat interesting for a while; Chemistry had me all over the place with formulae dealing with K, Na, H2O and what not; I'd no clue why we were studying frogs, butterflies and caterpillars in Biology; Maths was a total zero since I hated it for simple reasons: what in the world is any formula? Who made it? Why am I concerned with it without knowing where he started from to reach that conclusion? What practical use is it for me? Chucking Algebra aside, I did pick up a decent amount of Geometry for a bit though, trigonometry mostly, which made some sense practically. Moving on, History/ Civics also known as Social Science was the most boring subject ever. The only thing I learnt in the whole rotten subject is that “Rights and duties are the two sides of the same coin”. Oh, are they? Here in India? How so? (Note, the school History textbook lots are filled with lies and more lies.) Geography was interesting in bits and pieces, but I'd trouble with it too... just too much unwanted information of plateaus and valleys or so I thought! Now National Geographic channel catches me once in a while or BBC's Planet Earth series seems to be something to watch over and over again! :)

Was I good in sports then? Nah. A big, bold, 72-size, italic, uppercase NO. I'd a very funny metabolism for a long time: eating lots but the body remaining thin, if not frail. I did some running, but mostly from home to bus stop and bus stop to school, starting late and reaching on time. I was fast, but I think only with that intention of making it on time. :) That was all the exercise I got through the day. There were not many outdoor games that I played, except for some badminton and, er, kite flying. Chess and some card games were my indoor sports. Cards were a vacation time fun game, but yes, chess sure was, I remember how Prashant (my elder brother) and I turned chess game into physical fights! :) Interestingly, I dared once to appear for a NCC cadet entrance test! You may have guessed the result: they sent me home in the first round. I don't know for what reason I thought I had any chance at all! :)

Wasn't there anything that I was comfortable with? There used to be some Drawing I did and for a while I did think that thats where my career would be. Of course, that was till I failed Elementary Drawing exam. I was pathetic with memory drawing and my dad, an artist by the way, wanted me to stop copying R.K.Laxman cartoons and draw real people and scenes from memory instead. I think even back then I'd no memory. :) He really must have thought I was good in drawing since he encouraged me to no end. He actually sent me out to an expensive tuition for drawing aspiring me to be a Commercial Artist (CA). The drawing school said that if I'd flunked Elementary Drawing, there's hardly a chance that I can go on to become a CA, since even class A passouts have trouble getting through at JJ School of Arts. In any case, my dad had his hopes high and enrolled me to the drawing school, I appeared for Intermediate Drawing directly through it and passed with a grade C. Not bad, er, but not good either! :)

During one History-Civics final exam (maybe 8th std), I still vividly remember, I finished the paper and knew that I would fall short of some 2-4 marks to pass through. There was a girl sitting in front of me. I was tempted to ask her for maybe just one answer... but then, neither did I believe in copying nor did I've the guts to do so. Moreover, asking for an answer would mean “talking to a girl”, which I didn't think I was capable of! :) But I was in deep misery at the moment and I'd lot of time on hands, since I'd finished the paper having not much to write. I was shuttling between that thought and another: a request straight to the examiner to give me passing marks. Back then, I didn't know if there were grace marks and based on what criterion they were given. But I knew for sure that I'd qualify for it if I put in a line “Please give me passing marks”. I didn't. Out of shyness and shame, I could neither copy nor beg for marks. Instead, I walked out of the classroom teary eyed and with a heavy heart. I didn't go to collect my results, my dad did. We'd guests over at home the same day and this aunt was a school teacher! The report read pass with decent first class in other subjects with a red pen marking under history-civics, meaning passed with grace... I recall them to be 2 marks. Gladly, that red mark was history after that.

I passed out my tenth with around 71%, and that was good (really!) considering that almost everyone else went for all kinds of tuitions while I studied at home. But it was all a marks-oriented study pattern for me back in school. My uncle had told me prior to exams that I need to get 70%, I did. I committed to it, and somehow did it. Its not that I studied a lot or anything. It was a normal amount of study for me that I'd have done even without committing. But what is important is that I didn't learn much in school since I didn't do it with interest. I didn't appreciate the value of learning, value of studying with interest. We didn't have a practical learning approach. I don't know if it exists even now at many places. Its just that you study things by heart (what terminology! not to mean *with your heart*) and somehow figure out all those pieces of information from memory, put them in the right order when needed and *make sense* of them. I'm not sure if thats how it really worked for others. For me, I know I learned things on need-to-know basis, at the time I needed. Sometimes, it was too late, but at most, God was kind. I learned. Today, when I look back, I think I'd have liked to have learned as much as possible back then in school with the keen interest that I developed later in various, totally unrelated, fields. I still do. But the enthusiasm of childhood isn't there any more. Its a wavering interest in many things, sometimes all at once, at other times, none!

PS: You may also be wondering, that is, if you've reached thus far in the weblog: what kind of school did I go to? :) Don't wonder. It was one of the best schools in Mumbai during the time: IES (Indian Education Society), aka, King George's school. My parents I know for sure took pains to get me into it, that too when I was one year younger than others getting in. No, it wasn't a convent... thank God for small mercies. :D
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