Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Adventures of Little Babu: School

Little Babu wasn't dumb but constant hammering of such an idea and relentless comparison with his elder sibling convinced him he was one. The self doubt percolated deep into his psyche so much so that he lost the art of making effort to understand anything cerebral. As a result he found one easy escapist solution to his dilemma in the classroom. He would answer only the questions that had obvious answers. Anything complicated, he would burst in to crying releasing copious amount of tears. That would rattle his teachers and discourage them to ask questions off him because a crying child was always considered handful. This arrangement worked well for him even though fellow mates occasionally jeered at him made fun of him but he would not respond; in fact sink further into his shell. After a while it made no difference. The habit of crying in the classroom became an addiction with him and when he got tired of the game he couldn't find an easy escape route without shattering the myth that his cry in class was plain sham. This game lasted all through his stay in Kanpur only when his family moved to Secunderabad on transfer he was able to shed this burden.

Little Babu walked to school. It was some distance from home. He has no memory of how far it was but there is no memory either of tired walks to and back from school so the walk to school must have leisurely and fun. They lived in an enclosed campus of the army bang in the middle of civilian population. Army men had low opinion of civilians primarily due their own sanitized and organized living conditions. The campus was kept neat and trimmed and there was always some sort of activity that kept the men in uniform busy. One recurring theme little Babu remembers that kept the folks on their toes was impending Inspection. Some hotshot officer would descend at the campus go round the place make speeches, point out anomalies amid the chorus of 'saabji' 'saabji'. That sounded funny to him akin to calling him 'sabzi' (vegetables). Out the front gate of campus was a road they called GT road. Back then it wasn’t all that busy, some heavy trucks would pass occasionally but mostly ‘tongas’, rickshaws and people on bikes. The way to school was across this road past a stretch of empty land then a railway line ….. Just past the GT road was first obstacle little Babu couldn’t quite overcome. It was a small ‘nullah’  possibly half a meter across. There was always some flow in it and the bottom had turned blackish with darkish green algae making it look slippery. While his brothers had no difficulty jumping over it he couldn’t muster enough courage to jump over it so ran about thirty meters along it to a culvert passed over it then ran back to the join them. When he did succeed in jump over it the exhilaration he felt was so much that he jumped back and forth over the nullah several times. Going to school was a chore he disliked but he felt quite unhappy that Sunday because he was denied the opportunity of jumping over the nullah and exalt.

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