Those were the best days of my life…
Of late, I seem to be often going down memory lane and meandering along the nostalgia road. Something recently triggered it and I started thinking about the several schools I had the opportunity to attend. Being an Army child, I moved from place to place, wherever my father was posted. Small stations (some which we needed to mark on the atlas after receiving posting orders-those days there were no Google maps!); overgrown villages and occasionally a metropolis as well. Consequently, one went to whichever school was available at the cantonment or somewhere close to it. I had the “pleasure” of attending nine schools in twelve schooling years.
There was at most times, no choice really and the selection of the school was dictated by the fact that the school existed at that particular location. I have had my share of Public Schools , Convent schools and for the largest part of my academic career Government aided Central Schools- the entire spectrum and what a roller –coaster ride it was. Schooling, in retrospect was a great experience and helped me cope in later life with all kinds of situations.
While in an obscure station in Punjab, the closest decent school was some 20 kilometers away. There were just four school -going kids and a school bus was not available. Consequently the four of us would catch a Punjab Roadways bus on the highway. The bus used to be packed like a tin of sardines and we would be told to haul ourselves on top of the bus. We had, for company, milk sellers and vegetable sellers with fresh produce heading from the villages to the slightly bigger town where we were headed as well. They became friends and very often in the bitter winter, they would throw a blanket across us. We would reach school nearly half frozen and with blue noses but what an exhilarating ride it was. The rest of the day at school was a damp squib compared to the excitement of the journey to and fro.
I must tell you about a school I studied in another corner of Punjab during a subsequent tenure. A school bus existed; there were quite a few of us who went together singing songs en route the fifteen odd kilometers to school. The school principal was a farmer at heart and each of the classes had a patch of ground allocated. I was in the fifth grade and we had a carrot patch allotted to us. Different classes grew cabbage, potatoes, and tomatoes and so on. Immediately after assembly, we would head to our patches and work as farmers. We became proficient cultivators-our notebooks would often be smudged with mud; our curriculum progressed slowly but what an education it was. It is a different matter, the Principal was subsequently sacked and farming was stopped but the bond formed between fellow –farmers of the fifth grade still hold strong today!!
Yet another of my schools in the North –East was usually conducted in the open air because the construction was kind of make- shift and the roof would just blow off with the heavy winds in the valley where it was located. But I honestly think we learnt just as much as anywhere else but we enjoyed the fresh air and the sunshine far more than any stuffy air conditioned class!
I studied briefly in an elite convent and some well known Public schools as well. The number of schools I saw, the myriad personalities I encountered, the vastly different kinds of teachers I studied under , the huge numbers of friends I made in all these schools , the treasure trove of memories I have and the experiences that I enjoyed and sometimes did not make me the person I am today. I would not recommend it as an ideal way of education but I must definitely say I enjoyed every bit of the roller –coaster ride!!