I joined boarding school in 1987. In class IV. Initial few months were as expected, not very smooth. Interesting for sure. In the dormitory, I learnt to wake up early morning, , on my own, without being pushed & pulled by a family member, or cajoled and sometimes, threatened. Well, the morning rising bell was threatening, in a way. But, it was interesting learning – to start following instructions from staff members, some simply copying the neighbour tactics and small revolting but finally giving up work outs. The most interesting learnings came from observing the other boys, though. How they would wake up from one side of the day, everyday. How they would pick dressing gowns from the peg and wear them, most would sleep walk to the cupboard to fetch their mugs which would contain their soap dish, tongue cleaner & tooth brush. Then, sleep walking in a queue for Ramkali aayaji & Santo aayaji to press out exactly the same amount of tooth paste every day for the entire year! Finishing bowel clearances, brushing, cleaning tongues, bath & then queuing up again for one the best 1 minute of the day, when again Ramkali aayaji & Santo aayaji would apply Brahmi Amla Kesh Oil on our hair. It was one of those rare moments of getting reminded of my mother, every morning. Aayajis were god sent to eight, nine and ten year olds in junior school. Even after 30 years of passing out, their smiles first thing in the morning, their cuddles and their rough but love filled palms, remain strong over my, now balding head. Aayajis were specially wonderful to new kids. They just knew what we wanted. And as kids, every kid wanted something different. They would know exactly what, when and how much of it was needed. They were not just god sent, they were almost like Goddesses, pouring their unlimited love and affection, without an eight year old uttering a word. There were Bearerji also. The older ones would become our advisors & protectors, while the younger lot would become our confidantes and friends in senior school. Senior school stories will have to wait for a new title.
One time in junior school, I got into a medical situation, due to which I had to hospitalized for over 2 months. The school doctor would come for a round twice a day. The Nurse/sister on duty would take rounds at will. It was Ramkali (namesake of the dorm one) and Santosh aayaji who were my saviours again. Especially, Santosh aayaji, who would hide & bring her home food for me since I could not eat the patient’s meals and was not allowed to be fed anything else. After a month’s trials in the school hospital, I was referred to Moradabad Railway Hospital, for X-Ray. I think I was staring at it for too long since Santosh aayaji just went and bought poori-choley for me. And I was supposed to be suffering from stomach infection. I didn’t say anything to anyone. But, Santosh aayaji came back and confessed her deed to Sister Francis. I still remember, Sister Francis, while twisting my ears, telling Santosh aayaji, “her mother would do the same. So would I. Doctor shouldn’t know of it, ever.”
– Kanishka Mallick (1996 Batch)