In boarding school, we had all the time in the world available to us but, sometimes, limited to zero resources at hand. I mean, not that we were living in a juvenile home. In fact, I believe, we are one of the few schools in the country which has a Squash Court (what we did inside the covered courts is a whole different storyline). But, starting from the moment we opened our eyes to watch one of the lankiest man on earth swaying and raising decibels of this most bizarre ringing bell, being pulled out of our warm beds in the cold of the hills, pushed & kicked to the grounds for morning physical exercises, lazing through those drills, coming back to the dormitory to have a quick wash (bath was a luxury) and waiting for breakfast, we still had time. Ticking through the day-hours in classes waiting for lunch and then evening tea, a grand 2 hours evening play time and again waiting for dinner, there was still much time left to do so much more in between. Like take solo or group walks, or sit on the pushta and plan on how to irritate teachers, or sit easily, smile at seniors passing by, cursing them under the breath and giggle away to glory. A stroll to the edge of the world and stare down at the Doon valley for hours was always a delight. Without a word, just counting the number of Ambassadors or Maruti Vans snaking up and down the hilly roads, or trying to guess the song coming intermittently, cutting the winds, from these moving vehicles on the hilly roads.

If we were in a more destructive mood, we would keep tearing pages from new notebooks, make paper planes and conduct an air race! Not sure who invented it, but apparently, if you twisted the corner of the wings pointing the sky, your plane would carry the farthest into the valley. The twist though had to be perfect like the perfect pout of a sexy selfie. Few adventurous ones, would plan to ‘FO’ to Doon for a movie, but never actually stepping out of campus. We had all the time. Some of us could be seen, sitting in twos or threes, picking ‘bajree’ from the ground and aiming at some random object, for hours. That aiming session was a game, a stress buster, a conversation, a monologue and sometimes just a tree which had the imaginary face of a senior or a teacher or a competitor in some sport during inter house events. We had all the time. In the name of cricket, football or hockey gears/kit, it was just enough to safeguard half of the selected team, excluding reserves. For NCC, we had a home grown Instructor. During dramatics, there were times when we have borrowed unmentionable garments from teachers, lady teachers included.

There was strict adherence to the count of uniform, toiletry items, undergarments, night dresses, pillow covers & bedsheets & handkerchief. In junior school the count was non-negotiable. But once you were in senior school, the kind of count that was made to house masters and the actual count peeping out from our trunks and hold-all was like SRK and SRK in Zero! But here too, we would ensure everything is tip-top, with a little help from classmates and a known ignorance from the house master. And the counting happened in a single day packed with medical checkup, vacation gupshup with friends, buggering up juniors, being buggered by seniors, rushing back to the hospital because there was news that ‘someone special’ one has just arrived and the most important meals in between all these.

In the name of coaches, we had none. All our teachers were mentors though. They gave us the wisdom that if you see a daily wager/rickshaw puller wearing a Tommy Hilfiger or a USPA T-shirt, do not assume it to be fake. Who knows, it actually is the real deal, donated by a good soul after squeezing full value off it for a couple of years. But could s/he to do it fully? Or is it this poor man twisting his wings to that perfect angle to take flight, every day?

– Kanishka Mallick (1996)


This piece was shared by Kanishka Mallick on  Oct 01, 2019 over WhatsApp.

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