As winters arrive, inherently, whenever anyone says it’s getting cold, my first reactionary statement is, “we have grown up in the hills, we don’t feel cold!” And then, we quietly walk away and wear multiple layers of light clothing so that we don’t look wearing too much. We get warmly and heavily covered. Growing up at a place where temperatures would fall below 10 degrees in the evenings of early October and would hover around 5 degrees early March, boys had a cotton vest, over which there was a thermal, over which was a sleeveless jersey, over which came the white shirt, then the full-sleeved maroon pullover and finally the navy-blue overcoat. The final round off was the spiralling muffler around the neck. Some showoffs had a woollen cap and gloves too! A tiny minority initially.
Over a period of time, with dilapidating discipline due to stagnating quality of teaching staff as well as influx of boisterous boys, the heritage of the place it used to be, was getting diluted, gradually. In the next few years, though maroon pullovers and grey woollen trousers stayed intact, one would see flashes of different shades of dark blue in overcoats, mufflers would range from navy blue, black, maroon, chocolate brown to *yours truly* once experimenting with a very trouser-y shade of grey for a muffler. In fact, it was cut out from the leftover terrywool cloth piece from the original cloth piece for my trousers and crafted by the tailor. Noor Tailors in Hazratganj, Lucknow on the crossroads of Novelty Cinema was a delightful old man. Sadly, most tailors are having a tough time with readymade in vogue. But naturally, in later years techni-coloured caps and gloves made Ibiza Town party scenes on some late evenings! In contrast, it was never a surprise to see few boys always going about their usual business of fun and frolic in just one maroon pullover. No overcoat, no muffler, no extra covers, making us realise early in life, why and how multiple inner layering helps in making cocky statements about winters!
The climate of Jharipani hadn’t shifted much over the years. There was always a good possibility of rain any-time-any-day round the year. It was anyone’s guess if it was fog or clouds gushing towards us from the valley. Late April sudden icy winds confirmed snowfall in the upper hills. However, there was a sure shot movement in the weather that we experienced during our years on campus. It was a vast 250+acre campus. There were spots which would remain soft and warm all through the year.
One such cozy place in Junior School is the stairs of the flag post. Not only is there sun till the fag end of the winter evening, if you get a spot and chance to sit on those steps, the entire view of the JS flat would be what has now come to known as a “panoramic view” in photography! Right from the time someone walked up the stairs of JS from BS and strolled through the bajree stepping down cautiously on the slops to the hospital, to the lone boy talking to himself at the sharpest vertex end of a playground one can ever witness on earth just after the science lab to the butlers walking from the pantry to the kitchen and then to dining hall at the other end. The vertex end had a very sweet sneak-peek into Big Ma’am’s garden. But you dare not peek! Many a times, standing near the flag post you would feel warmer, especially around your cheeks. The MOD may have slapped you and punished you for the day!
The cosiest place in BS is B-Shed. You could play alone or in a group, sit idle hanging your feet down the pushta, stand in a group and poke the group walking on the road or just hide from a senior. Mostly, all of this was happening simultaneously with different boy groups from different classes doing it with ease in perfect synchrony.
The valley’s vastness is a miracle. It became the most tender place during Fancy Fair, the fieriest of places during athletics events and a cold stare if one was trying to sneak out to Jharipani on any evening. One could not hide off the valley. But in its entirety, it is one big warm spot. As you walked down the slope from the school side, valley’s warmth takes over your nostrils, eyes, arms, feet and soul. I didn’t spell it wrong. I mean soul.
And then, there are places around campus that prick and sting like sharp ice-knifes. I may be in multiple layers of warm clothing or may be extra cautious of stepping into a puddle, but this place would never disappoint to disappoint, every bloody time. In JS, it is that abrupt dead-end enclosure stuck between the science lab/store and the service hall. Neither the sun has ever touched that corner nor has anyone felt safe in a group. No one hid there while playing hide and seek even! The other cold spot was just outside Big Ma’am’s office. You would freeze in your bones while crossing her office door, even if it was for a genuine cause. In BS, one junior boy would get a similar shivering feeling while crossing the HM Office arch. But for a different basis altogether. A boy from Cl VI to VIII had no reason, whatsoever, to come over to the senior section. Most juniors would first get a smack at the back of their head and then asked the need to have crossed over. Mostly, it was a genuine reason. But a friendly slap hurt no one! The other bitter cold moment was to hear after a meal, “Stand! Join your hands, say your grace…… Class VII, Move in!” And you are in Class VII!
By far in my experience, the coldest place in the entire campus was the hospital. Each corner of it smelt dead cold. Right from the first step, whichever side you entered the hospital compound was sad. In early years, the mention of Mr. Usmani would make us shit bricks. The tunnel path from OPD into the admission ward area was a dim, dark and damp walk even if you were crossing hospital for some paperwork at Principal’s Office. If you were admitted, patient wards were soothingly pleasant during the few summer days but depressingly cold during the other 11 ½ months of the year. The only two exceptions to this rule were once in Class V (1988) when there was widespread food poisoning and almost the entire JS was admitted. The other time was in Class VIII (1991) when chicken pox spread, and boys had a gala time for almost a month at the hospital. During that time, few boys wanted to go on a hunger strike since meals were getting short for their hunger! Mrs. Kichlu had strolled in one of those evening, rounded up the boys and put an end to the mockery by simply saying, “one tight smack across your face will wipe that smile off”. Most boys requested to get discharged in the next few days. And she wasn’t even a teacher! I happened to be a permanent visitor to the hospital with long-terms stays of over 80+ days, more than once. The only temporary cool place inside the hospital was the garden area which would come to life between 1000 hrs to 1400 hrs. As dusk set in, the place turned into a chilly, barren, nightmare stone building for the walking dead. All you would wait for is a hug, even if it was a cold one.
– Kanishka Mallick (1996)
This piece was shared by Kanishka Mallick on December 29, 2020 via a personal message.