It is naturally not very easy to adjust to any kind of lockdown. However, once you get used to a certain kind of lockdown, it gets in to your head and many a times, the heart. In fact, as per research, in most of the cases, the captive falls in love with the captor. It no longer remains a visual or physical constraint. It is part of you. You are part of it.
Junior School (JS) has its optical limits. You are instructed on Day 1 and you clearly know what is out of bounds. But why? I mean, the fence is enough. It is omnipresent. You could just tell the new child who has arrived, stay 3 steps behind that fence, wherever you see it. You are not even allowed to touch it! Actually, I think, Mrs. Parthi did say that sometimes, when she was really angry and did not want the kid to lean on the fence pushta. My guess is many young black-arse langoors of JS probably did not step out of JS flats fearing Big Ma’am, until their blacker-arse moms explained that the blackest-arse human rules don’t apply to them! Girls School (GS) was pretty much like JS, visually. The border fence was mostly visible, from any point of the campus, vantage or otherwise. Since my visits were restricted to the outer limits till the point where brothers could step to meet their sisters. Well, that’s not entirely true. In addition to the boys who took Arts & visited GS for their classes, I was perhaps one of the luckier ones who was allowed to walk into GS mess for School Song practice sessions, for which I played the “Casio”/ synthesizer. (We practiced for 45 days straight, without fail, only to have a flop show on the Final Day! Probably, storyline for a fresh write up later).
Compared to JS & GS, Boys School (BS) bounds were unfairly open, spaced out and flexible. BS has 2 large and 1 medium sized play fields. It has the auditorium to be utilised, a squash court, the music room & the famous Doon Valley alongside, the PHG behind Teachers Mess, Science Lab & beyond till the swimming pool, a covered shed, a B-shed and the most beautifully mundane walks from the back pitch to the front pitch. The road wasn’t going anywhere. Neither were we. Everyday was the same road. Everyday, it were the same boys. It would be long, it would be slow but it would never be the same walk. It changed depending which break are you taking the walk. If it was after breakfast, or the 1010 break, or was it the lunch break or loitering in the play time. The pace of your steps, discussion topic and mood would vary depending on the company you had for this particular walk. It would also depend on your current class. Classes VI & VII better not be seen on the roads, else some odd senior will hand over some odd task just for the heck of it. Then, there were days, when seeing a lone junior, a senior would check on him and on getting to know his sob story, would give him some random story just to make him feel good again and then walk away. The junior is never sure if he should share this with anyone since not many would believe it till it happens to them. On many days, one wanted to walk alone. And if you were, you will be asked just once by someone, “all OK”? And the way you nod, would decide the other boy’s walk. Either he will leave you alone or will not leave you alone, till you are OK. Then, there were these rowdy walks of an entire batch (mostly XI or XII) bringing the road alive with their insane jokes and loud curses. On other days, the same 5-6 rowdies would be walking in a straight line, hands in their pockets, silently, gazing into the horizon towards the Principal’s Office end. Which brings back the prison in the mind. Yes, few boys would FO to the hospital or Jhits and some really brave and needy ones, to Muss and Doon. But on any given day, unless there is a dire need to do something foolish, every boy, from Cl VI upto Cl XII knew the walk started from the back-pitch and ended just below the steps leading upto Big Maam’s garden, where the road would fork out straight towards the Princi’s office and one path slopes down towards the PWD Office & Princi’s residence. No one ever thought of crossing these unwritten, passed-on-through-time strict limits. There are few exceptional days/weeks just before Sports Day or Founders Day, when boys would walk up and down to the Valley. There were two detours, one to the Covered Shed to the corridor and then to the back pitch through the classes and common room. The other was the riskier turn towards HM’s Office. Not because of anything, but for the fact that whatever was the discussion of the day, would be over heard by the HM/some teacher around the office. And hence, this path was largely taken to go out from the class, passing the Teachers Mess, checking with Phulluji about the climate inside the mess and then take the route from outside the class windows, passing through HM Office and rolling down towards the front-pitch, just before getting into the full flow of display of emotions while walking. Hence, I am pretty much sure, we boys, enjoyed these invisible-fenced walks from the back pitch to the front pitch and back more than the walks that were out of bounds. The walk from Jhits to Muss on second Saturdays is another beautiful walk up and down the memory lane, for another day!
– Kanishka Mallick (1996)
1990s Kanishka Mallick