The best and the worst part of boarding school are ‘seniors’. This is the set of people who mostly knowingly and sometimes unknowingly make life better or worse for juniors, just like that. We were one of the many boarding schools in Mussoorie. Just like most people who went to a boarding school, we believed that we were a different tribe. However, I am certain most school stories would be highly relatable. Another thought we were absolutely sure of was that we were better than most schools in sports/athletics. We were prouder of this fact because we would beat other teams many a times, with less or no proper sporting gear, coaching facility or appropriate guidance. All that the boys and girls had, was our basic knack to pick nuances of a new sport, trials and misses, some help from the young non-teaching staff and observing ‘seniors’. The only facility that was abundant were playing fields in different shapes, sizes and playing conditions, depending on the season and weather.
Like the poor child, taking care of the only proud possession given by poor parents by walking extra carefully avoiding to step on crap, not kicking anything that comes in the path and slyly picking the Achilles heels at every given opportunity to clean and swipe the shoes on the calf muscle area of trousers, seniors would make all juniors clean these playing grounds. There was a ritual around it. Different junior classes would be assigned different playgrounds to swipe, clean, scrub and keep the grounds sanitised. On days this ritual was to be performed, after prayers and grace after lunch, the prefect of the day would announce the class and the field to be ornamented! All seniors had to do was stand at an elevated distance so that they could watch every activity of every boy. Most would shout out orders like Shetty or Sudhir, shouting at poor villagers picking poppy seeds on poppy fields owned by Prem Nath. They would curse as smoothly as apple custard’s skin and dish out the most entertaining and enlightening slang bylines. The skinniest, shortest and cruelest senior boy, standing beside the tallest, strongest, docile and most easy going batchmate would spot the weakest link in the chain. This junior would be the laziest, sluggish and most non-athletic boy in the junior class, trying to pick some pebbles worth picking, unsuccessfully trying to hide from the preying eyes of seniors in a vast open playing field. Ultimately, he is caught bare handed with no pebbles, punished and asked to take 10 rounds of the field. Within the first 50 strides comes the best byline, “Bastard, run faster. If I catch you, I will have you.” We experienced this all through junior years. We made our juniors go through the same experience when we ourselves stood at a distance, yelling random expletives, ending it with the same magic sentence. Till date, not one senior ran behind a junior. We are really not sure if a lousy senior could ever catch an even lousier junior. We also will never know what does ‘have you’ mean?
In life, there may have been situations where ‘seniors’ have told us to do something, else something worse will happen. We have abided by the norm and followed advise. Once it was over, we realised what finally transpired was not exactly how we were cautioned. But we let it go. Alternatively, some ‘seniors’ in our lives may have warned us not do something, lest something worse should happen. Mostly, we would have complied to such unwarranted advice. However, under exceptional and magical circumstances, some ‘seniors’ have made that sudden sprint at us to make us run for our lives, so that ultimately we ‘have’ what we want. Under even rare chances, few ‘juniors’ have reached out to these ‘seniors’ confessing, “thank you for having me.” This is for all my seniors, juniors and the batchmate, standing next to me on that elevated pushta. Thank you for the pebbles.
– Kanishka Mallick (1996)
This piece was shared by Kanishka Mallick on October 02, 2020 via a personal message.