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Memories from school days!

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Desh Bir
I vividly remember the first day I was sent to school. I was admitted at an unusually early age of 4 years to a Girls’ Primary School. My father who was the Headmaster of the local High School sent his peon to take me to school and by way of a happy festive sweet, he was told to carry batashas (white sugar nuggets) for one rupee for distributing among children. That day I sat on a jute mat and was persuaded to make some friends… all girls.
In two years, I was made to gallop through the syllabus of four early classes and in the third year I found myself negotiating with ease the course material for Fifth Standard. I didn’t know how it could benefit me, but my parents were keen on it.
The results were going to shock me after some years. When I was to sit in my Eighth Standard exams held by the Education Department, I was told just one day earlier by my father that my admission form had not been sent because I was too young for that. I felt half baffled and half relieved.
More was to follow. After the Higher Secondary exams, I was not admitted to a college till the following year, because if I passed the Intermediate exams at 16, no professional college would grant me admission below 17 years of age.
I was made to ascend the cultural stage quite early. At the age of six my teachers made me sing a poem “Phoole phalle hamara desh …” from a public stage. That was a good beginning which drew me to the stage in a big way. In the rural background where I was growing in present day Himachal Pradesh, the pageantful performance of Ramlila in an open ground in the evenings and the staging of historical and religious plays at night was a big attraction.
Consequently at the age of seven I was sucked in by the opportunity to act and was able to act as the central character in two plays—Dhruv Bhakt and Bhakt Prahlad on two nights.
The parts were easily memorized and rehearsed during the fortnight- long night rehearsals where a Director used to brief us on our roles and delivery of dialogue. I felt important, but more than that was the attraction of being served a cup of tea during the rehearsals, because at home a child like me never got to sip a single draught of tea.
Later when I was in my 10th standard, (on account of father’s transfers) we were stationed in a small town atop a hill from where the river Beas could be seen every hour of the day. I , as a child , had always been warned to stay away from deep waters.. I was confounded when I discovered that my fifteen year old classmate Shankaru (a fisherman by birth) could swim across the calm waters of Beas with the ease of a fish. I still remember how I envied this boy who was my hero for that reason!
When our Eleventh class was being group- photographed with a box camera at the valedictory party, most of us were in pyjamas. None of us had a watch except one boy who had been acronymed ‘Megha’ because he wore an ‘Omega’ watch brought by his elder brother from the army canteen. He , of course , flaunted his watch by folding his arms to expose the watch prominently! Innocent impulses and pleasant memories! That is childhood!
(The author is a Retired Principal, Govt. College, Hoshiarpur-Punjab. He is a regular contributor to Kashmir Vision)


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