Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Return to my ‘Neverland’

“My other hand moves up to the ruby heart. Closing my fingers around it, I shut my eyes and return to Neverland. Even if only in a dream” – From the book 'Peter Pan' (1953)

Thump, Thump, Thump, Thump… My heart was thumping so loudly in my chest that I feared it might burst. As I saw the white building, my throat felt dry and my legs felt wobbly. Why was I feeling like this? I crossed the giant gates nervously and took a step inside the corridor. I had walked these same corridors for 15 years of my life, then why did I feel so anxious and nervous now? As I walked, I noticed a shelf:  the book shelf. Thump, Thump, Thump, Thump… I had seen this shelf in my dreams from the last 10 years and now here it was! I felt the metallic shelf with my hands. It felt cold and my palm shivered as I placed it on the cool surface. I could now see the books inside the glass case. Panchatantra, Enid Blyton, Hardy Boys, Amar Chitra Katha; they were all there; just the way I had last seen them about 15 years back! Right in front of me. Thump, Thump, Thump, Thump…  I suddenly noticed my own reflection in the glass of the shelf. The 28 year old man staring back at me from the glass had grown quite a bit in height; but he had the same wide-eyed expressions every time he used to see this shelf as an 8 year old boy. The child in me had awoken again.                          
Without me even realizing it, a small teardrop escaped my eye…

There is something about the word ‘school’ that brings out myriad emotions in all of us. Every person, who has passed through this stage, would have an assortment of memories related to their school days. As we grow up, we get entangled in the web of life’s struggles. However, reminiscing about our school life is something that all of us do. The more complicated our lives become, the more we look back at those precious moments of our school to find some relief. Doing that gives us a unique soothing. It is kind of like that balm which heals you instantly.

I passed out from my school exactly 10 years back. From the past several months, for some unknown reasons, I had been desperately yearning to revisit my school. And for some even more bizarre reason, I reminisced about my junior high school days the most. It is true that I got wings to fly when I entered my senior year. I had a lot of fun throughout those many years there; made several friends, had crushes, bunked classes among other things. But strangely, I was missing my time from my junior school days the most.

In the last many years, I had flashes of my school life at various stages of my life. I dreamt of my school days, saw some long, forgotten friend, and relived the fear of giving my exams; all in my dreams multiple times. It was thus natural that I badly wished to see it once again. Thankfully, I got the chance last week when an old friend of mine, who now lives in another state, had returned to the city, and asked me to go to school with her. I gladly accompanied her and on account of that had one of the most special days of my life in a very long time.

Through those 2-3 hours, I scoured almost every nook and corner of my school. At the end of it, I was completely overwhelmed. And hence comes the reason for this blog post. It would have been impossible for me to bottle up every emotion inside me after that day and hence I want to share ‘some’ of the experience here; primarily of visiting my junior section. It is extremely difficult to keep all the  insurmountable emotions I felt in one single post. However, I will try and do my best.


This is where it all started. The genesis of my education began right from this spot. You might find it rather strange, but somehow I still remember my first day ever at school. I remember my father having dropped me here, in this Montessori hall; riding me to school in his bike and wearing his blue sports jacket. I felt quite nervous as I entered this hall holding his hands. There were several kids around me who were bawling at the top of their lungs; their parents trying their best to control them. I though, was quiet and shyly sat at a corner. As my father waved me goodbye, a lump formed in my throat. I fought back tears and managed to raise my hands somehow. At the lunch break, I remember opening my Tiffin-box and finding two pieces of ‘sandesh’ there along with some biscuits. I found it difficult to eat alone; being habituated to be fed from my mother’s hands. However, a kind teacher then had placed her hand on my shoulders and asked me, “Why don’t eat that son? You will feel better.” She then sat with me and we ate our lunch together. I don’t remember the face or the name of that teacher, but will always be thankful to her for her gesture. I gradually got used to this place and began loving it. I even came 1st in one of the years here. That probably was one of my shining moments among many others I spent here.

When I visited this place last week, it had changed a bit. But most of it remained the same. The tiny book shelves, a small TV, a big mirror, a bed, several toys, boards filled with drawings of children; they were all there. The most surprising part was that the maid, who worked there when I was here as a child, was still there and was able to recognize me easily; and by my name! That one really made my day.

The Classrooms:

Oh yes, who would forget their classrooms? These are the small benches where I would study, give exams, quietly take a nap in boring classes and eat lunch and gossip with my friends in hushed whispers. The classrooms seemed too small for me now, but the memories contained in them are simply ginormous.

The Book-Shelves:  

I have always maintained that the ‘Library’ periods, apart from the English classes, were the best ones I had in my school days. However, long before the concept of the ‘library class’ became a reality; I was always fascinated with this particular area of the school which had about three book-shelves. As you may have understood by reading the beginning of this post; I have massive emotional connect with them. As a child, I remember strolling through the corridors and looking on greedily at the various titles these shelves had.

God has his own strange way of connecting you to your passion. Perhaps, this was His way of helping me develop mine. If it weren’t for these books, I probably would have been a nobody today.

The Teachers:  

What would school have been without teachers? In my junior high days, I had some of the most interesting and lovely teachers.  Each one of them had distinctly vivid characters and I thoroughly relished my time under them (well under most of them anyway). Teachers have weird ways of motivating you without even realizing it. There was this Hindi teacher of mine when I was in the third standard who was very fond of me. At that time, I had a small dip in my studies and the marks reflected those. When I got my Hindi class Test paper once, she had written a remark there for me: “Aye Bhavesh, dhyan kaha hai? Itne kam number kyu? I expect better from you.” That remark stung and embarrassed me. She was a teacher I really looked up to and I could not face this ‘humiliation’. Determined, I pulled up my socks and worked over the next few weeks. My efforts paid off and there were immediate results for my toil. The next Test paper I got, I had the following remarks: “Padai me sudhar hai…!

What was pleasing when I visited my school last week was that all of my teachers instantly recognized me. They treated me lovingly and were apparently very proud of the work that I was doing now. Nothing could have made me feel better.

The Auditorium:  

This was another extremely memorable place for all of us. As children, we simply loved going to the school auditorium for any special events. This gave us a chance to escape from our studies and have some fun. This was the place where I had my first play. This was the place where I saw my first crush. We had Saraswati Puja celebrations here as well as Annual Day functions. This place has innumerable memories to be able to be recounted in a blog.

I still remember the distinct smell that the auditorium had and it gave me a strange soothing sense of relaxation. I just wish sometimes that I could simply go inside there today and sit  for a couple of hours. Just soak in the darkness, the silence, the peace…

Most of you must be familiar with the story of Peter Pan and his home in ‘Neverland’. It was that place where children had all the fun and yet remained the same age throughout their lives. School, was perhaps that ‘Neverland’ for us (minus the studies part mind you). When I was a child; I often dreamt of growing up and leaving school; away from the hoopla of studies and homework and lead a free life. How wrong I was!

Like the opening quote I have used here, I too think on the exact same lines. Even if it is only a dream, I do get a chance to visit my Neverland often times. Even if it is just a dream… Perhaps someday, I will wake up and find that the dream is for real. And that day, I will never wish to grow up again. If only I could turn the clock back now, I would love to return to ‘my’ Neverland and just stay there... forever.