Once upon a time in Ramakrishna Vidyashala

SUNAAD RAGHURAM writes: Like everybody’s life, mine too had its eventful days when I was a school boy.

In the Ramakrishna Vidyashala in Mysore.

A school with the reputation of being one of the best in the country. The discipline, the emphasis on values, on spirituality, on the rounding of one’s personality; the multifarious games, physical exercise, swimming, the debates; the bonhomie, lip-smacking food and the very joy of living together with friends on a 120-acre campus that looked like one large, beautifully crafted carpet of green!

Those were days when we were still growing up. The body and mind was slowly taking shape. We had our boyish impishness, our youthful foibles. When the sight of someone’s sister at the school’s lobby suddenly made us conscious of how we walked! Of how we talked! And how we modulated our voice!

How I remember the little fantasies we nourished in our hearts. Of a walk with her in the park. Of just wanting to hold hands with her. Of building a friendship with her. And then we would be ‘woken’ out of our reverie by the long, shrill sounding bell for prayer! And everything around us would fall into a hush!

The chanting of prayers. In a hall that evoked such divine piety. To the throb of the tabla and the mellow melody of the harmonium. Some of us, once in a while, drifting into a bit of a slumber. Back arched and the body falling forwards. Completely out of our control. And then the sudden jolting of the conscience resulting in the regaining of the conscious!

Those night study sessions. Done in the kind of silence fit only for the ICU! Night study supervisors who walked around like sentinels guarding a fort. ‘Goonda’ and ‘Muscles’ we named a couple of them. Their slow, steady, deliberate walk a reminder of their omniscience in the stillness of the night. ‘Eeeh, stand up on the bench, I say’!

Those giggles and winks. About some suddenly remembered hilarity. Those occasions when some of us stood up and said we were feeling a little drowsy, just a few minutes into the study hour. The splashing of water on the face. The serious look on the faces of the studious through the window. For having been disturbed by the sound of the water! All this was great fun.

A flash of ochre in the midst of the study. A faint glimpse of the Swamiji walking along the corridor with the briskness and purposefulness of a man in command. The immediate straightening of our bent backs. The repositioning of the books to portray sincerity of intent. And then the reverting to the slightly more relaxed posture after the passage of the ochre-clad apparition.

Sometimes a shrill scream emanating from some distance away from our class. A sure indicator of the Swamiji’s outburst against some sloppy boy’s behaviour during that precious hour.

And then we wrote our diaries. For five minutes. From 8 to 8.05 pm. Notes from the heart, jottings of the personal variety. Mostly of how the day had gone. I always tried to embellish the day’s happenings just to feel a prolonged sense of elation.

# “Prakash Padukone wins the All England Badminton Championships. Bopanna lost a bet today. He owes me a Five Star bar.”

# “Poonam, Shatrughan Sinha’s wife gives birth to twins.”

# “Syed Mujtaba Hussain Kirmani saves India from defeat!”

We had our insecurities. That we couldn’t really describe. We missed home. And perhaps our childhood mates with whom we grew up before joining boarding school. And then, we reminded ourselves that we had to get on in life. Make new friends. Seek more experiences. Become better equipped to handle the world. As our teachers always told us in class.

We had our worries. Of wanting to do well in class. Of winning the volleyball game the next day. Of writing home and telling ‘amma’ that we loved her. A life of myriad thoughts. Sometimes all jumbled up. Sometimes having a pattern.

Life in a boarding school. Wish it ended soon. Wish it didn’t!

Also see: CONFESSION: How I passed my maths exam