This chapter may be skipped by the young, the squeamish and by the morality brigade, but this chapter portrays something that is important in any boarder at a residential school, which his lily-white innocence comes face to face with the truth of the world. For some, it happens early, and for some, late. In my case it was early; in fact very early by any normal standard.
A boarding school is the worst place for any contagious disease. As I have mentioned, just about six months back, the chicken pox had run amok in the school, and hardly anyone was left untouched. In September 1995, it was mumps-the malady of swollen necks and boiled food. What was worse that it guaranteed a month long siesta in the hospital, hardly the reason for any celebration. So everybody tried to avert it, but how long could one run from one’s own breath. Once more, half the school was hospitalised, and familiar faces were disappearing quickly. To my ultimate horror, I awoke one morning feeling a little funny in the neck. Off I ran to the mirror, where further shock awaited me.
My chin had disappeared and my neck was almost twice the normal size. I came back to bed and shut my eyes tight, trying to sleep. I hoped this was some nightmare and will go off the next morning. It wasn’t, and it was soon brought to the notice of the authority. I remember trying to get off it by making lame excuses that I had been punched by some class V boy at night, the swelling resulted from that. I don’t know how I ever thought of such a dumb excuse, but it maybe that desperation makes morons out of the brightest. So once more I was packed off to the hospi , and found bed in C ward.
Two more from my class were admitted- S K and V K, both from A section. I had met both of them before actually joining the school, and hence we were a bit friendly despite being on opposite sides of a bitter strife. So three of the beds in the ward were accounted for. The left bed was occupied by somebody, because some bedclothes were strewn over it. We did not meet our ‘ward-mate’ till later that evening.
A M looked like the guy next door, and did not strike as somebody to be taken seriously. Still , God had destined him to mark out one great landmark of our life- the end of innocence. Soon after our first meeting, we were assigned our nicknames for our stay in the ward. S K became Kaalu, V K became Chinky, and I became Golu.
Then the conversation veered towards the usual tales and jokes. When we were a long way into jokes, M suddenly asked us, “Do you know what non-veg jokes are?” We replied in negative. He then asked us, “ Do you want me to narrate one?” This time we replied affirmative. His joke was not so funny by our present day standards. (For those who are itching to know the joke, it was the common joke about two frogs, one lady, a spitting serpent and a raincoat)
However, the concepts that joke formed into our minds had profound implications. Till that point of time, we three (or rather whole of the class) had a rather childish and innocent explanation for the question most parents were terrified of- “How are babies made?” The most hopeless duffers and babies of the class said- “The good God makes the babies in high heaven and sends them hurtling downwards for birth.” We, the knowledgeable and scientific elite of the class said- “Rubbish… Babies grow in their mothers’ bellies after marriage, just like the mangoes fructify in summers.”
The guys our age in the west must have been believing in the stories of the stork and the bees. That was quite natural for our age. But M decided it was not, and set forward to tell us the truth, in the most abject manner. He had noticed that we did not really get the punch line of his “non veg” joke. So he went for it directly. “What are you supposed to do with that thing?”, he asked, pointing towards our crotches. We replied quite innocently- “We pee with it.” “And…”,he asked. We were silent. We knew of no ‘and’s.
From that moment he began educating us to the smallest details the fundamentals of human reproduction. We listened like good students, with eyes and mouths gaping wide. We went into all the dirty details, each and every one of them. We were astonished- “How does this guy know so much?” Some refused to believe him. They were too horrified by the thought- “Was I too……?” However most of other guys believed in the ‘new knowledge’. (We were now about 10-12 strong group, as the class IV boys from other wards too were now regular students in Professor M’s lectures.)
Armed with the new knowledge, we began to see the world in a totally new light we began understanding what the guys in the movies were making so much fuss about. We started understanding the reason behind marriages and honeymoons (though in a very skewed manner-for about 5 years from then, I thought of marriage as nothing but a legal screwing permit!!!) We started understanding the double-edged jokes common in movies and soaps. In other words, a whole new world view had dawned upon us, and for that everybody felt grateful to M. Even though he was an ultimate duffer and a scoundrel of his class (as we came to know later), we used to regard him as a sage.
When there were rumours that Lord Ganesha’s idols were sipping milk, (some of the readers may be remembering that, September 1995), we all gave him all our mess milk, so that he may offer it to the Lord. Such was the extent of our belief in his sagacity!! When we were discharged, we brought the ‘new knowledge’ to the JS. We started observing our teachers’ rooms, and if any of them had their husbands staying overnight, we listened for any suggestive sounds at night. We even tried to spread the ‘new knowledge’ amongst the ignorant masses but very few of them were ready for that. So we gave up after a few of the pioneers, who were hell bent upon sharing the facts, were promptly reported to the authorities. We did not want ourselves to be labeled as heretics!!
– Raveesh Gupta.
1990s Hospital Mumps Raveesh Gupta