I guess no one can avoid studies, at least a majority of us. It is strange, but I do recall being taken to a school by my mother. My father was then posted in Mysore and I must have been about four or five. No one told me what school was like, though my sister had already begun her schooling. I used to observe her preparing for school and coming back, and as an astute observer, I could see the difference in her emotions.
My mother had great trouble waking her up early in the morning, and greater trouble to get her into the school uniform. My sister would fiercely resist my mother’s efforts to get her ready for school. In the afternoon, when she returned, she seemed to be the happiest person on earth to be back. Of course, my brain was not yet developed enough to deduce the reasons for the change.
Well, I grew up sufficiently for my parents to decide that it was my turn to go to school. Frankly, I did not know what to make of this development. They decided to put me in the same school as my sister. I am proud that I still remember the name of the school, Nirmala Convent. One day I was taken there by my mother and I was quite impressed with the school. It was housed in a big building (seemed big at that time) and I could see children of various ages playing around. This was going to be fun, I said to myself.
There was an interview, and I was asked by a stern-looking old lady (the principal) to identify colors, which I couldn’t. Then I was asked the alphabets, which I did not recollect correctly, though my mother had trained me at home. Finally, I was sent out and my mother had a long talk with the principal. She came out smiling at me and told me that I have to join from tomorrow. My sister shouted at us from somewhere and waved at me. My mother gestured to her, indicating that I had got the admission.
We then went to a shop nearby where my mother bought me a sky blue knicker and a white shirt, with a striped belt which had the name and symbol of the school on the buckle. A red tie was added.
We then went to a stationery shop where we bought books and pencils and colors. We also went to a shoe shop to buy white shoes and socks. I was thrilled. I could not wait to get back home and start reading.
My first day at school was disappointing. We were herded into a classroom and the teacher gave a long lecture on how we should behave. She was speaking in English which I could barely understand. We had classes in reading, writing, and poetry. All in English. We were then taken to the playground and taught some games. I was tired and hungry and thankfully the lunch bell rang. My mother had packed me some delicious lunch which I gratefully devoured.
At some stage, we were told that it was time to go home. We scrambled out of the classroom and headed for the gate. My mother was there and I rushed to her. She asked me where my bag was and it was then I remembered that I had left it in the class, thinking that it was not to be taken home. My mother scolded me and went in to retrieve the bag. She counted the books, checked the pencils and the colors and finally told me that I was lucky that it was not stolen. I must be careful to check my stuff and bring my bag, she said.
I was not used to sitting in one place for long, and it took me days to discipline myself at school. Also, I had this fight with my schoolmate which led to one of the turning points in my life. It was his mistake that he took my poetry book and claimed it to be his. I tried to snatch it from him saying it was not his but mine.
This triggered a scuffle which resulted in the cover of the book getting torn. I was enraged and threw myself at him with a ferocity I had never experienced before. Our teacher entered and saw us fighting and slapped both of us. Upon investigation, it was proved that the book was mine and the teacher asked the boy to apologize to me. It should have ended there.
The same day, in the evening, I was playing outside my house and I saw my neighbor uncle parking his motorcycle. I had wanted to ride a motorcycle but my father only had a cycle. Seizing my opportunity, I approached the motorcycle and tried to mount it. I slipped and my foot hit against the exhaust pipe. It was hot and it burnt my leg.
At home, my mother saw the burn and asked me how it happened. I thought for a split second whether I should tell her about the motorcycle accident. My mother will beat me if I told her that I had tried to climb on to our neighbor’s motorcycle without his knowledge. I had already been slapped by my teacher at school for no fault of mine, and I did not want to be slapped again for my silly mistake.
I needed a good reason for my injury, a convincing story. It was then that I told my first lie. I told her about the fight in school and how the boy, in anger, had burnt my leg with a match. My mother asked me how was it possible for the boy to be in possession of a matchbox at school? I did not know.
I thought the incident was over as my mother lovingly put burnol on my wound and asked me to rest. The next morning, I was shocked when my mother told me that she will meet the principal to complain against the boy who had hurt me. She wanted to know his name and I had no choice but to tell her.
My mother marched me straight to the principal and told her what had happened. She showed how badly my leg was injured. The principal summoned the teacher and enquired. While a major part of my story about the fight was confirmed, she could not explain the burn injury.
The boy was summoned and asked to explain. He summarily refused to accept that he was responsible for the burn and said that he did not have anything to burn me with. The principal and the teacher were convinced that a boy who could steal someone’s book and beat him, could perhaps have caused the burn injury too.
The next day, the parents of the guilty boy were summoned and asked for an explanation. They too were at a loss to explain how he could possess a matchbox! Anyway, the parents were warned and the boy let off.
I remember this incident because I still feel guilty about lying about it. The poor boy would have received a sound thrashing from his parents and maybe made to starve for a few days. All because of me. I need not have lied, but I did. And I feel bad about that too.