Strength of a Woman

The gates...gone through these for 14 years...bustle of people around...saw my last class teacher walk by...what to speak?
Many familiar faces...waited for a friend to come...No sign of him.
Saw a good friend after a long time...
"Left Hyderabad. Looking for a job here. After this have to go to the Hindu job fair", he said to me.

How we have changed! Seems like it was yesterday, when we were inside this compound wall, aspiring to become pilots, police and what not!
Now...our lives are governed and dictated by the whims of people who sit thousands of miles away...

As we entered the gates, Kichu said to me, or rather to himself, "How many times have we walked here?"

Countless...the surroundings have changed..the buildings have changed...grounds have gone...trees cut down...
But the path hasn't changed...concentrating only on the path, I can see myself...

Me as a kid in LKG, with my Father, on the long walk to my small classroom...

Me as a small kid, coming in a line only to melt into the chaos near the gates in the evening...

Me as an adolescent, too shy to look but cannot stop myself from glancing at the (then) lovely girls...

Me as a proud volunteer corps leader, regulating the students and dealing with the 'big' issues (the "he pushed me...i didn't"...ones)

Me as a very scared student going for the exams...

Me as a totally disillusioned 16 year old, thinking how pathetic he is and the easiest ways to end a misery called life...

Me as a relieved boy, finally out of school and in college....

Recently, me as a young man, going to join his first job...

And, now...Me walking to pay the last regards to a woman, who was the embodiment of strength...

Our Principal was scary...scary in the sense that if you are a wrongdoer, you could sense the primal fear in you rise when you were near her...

She did not carry a cane...nor in my memory she has beaten anybody...but the aura surrounding her demanded respect...and fear, for the wrongdoers...

No one could stand against her...she carried the school literally on her back, and made it the school you want your kid to be in Trivandrum...she was merciless with the ill disciplined and tolerated no nonsense.

When other private schools in the city charged a premium for education, she was steadfast on taking only a mediocre amount as the fees. In fact, it used to be very low when I started of here...my term fees for K.G classes were Rs 75...an years education at Rs 325 including special fees...that too in a K.G which was just too good...
Even the hikes were very affordable...we didn't have rich brats who came to school to show their stuff and not to study...we had a healthy mix of kids from all backgrounds...thanks to our Principal's policy of having an affordable fee.

Granted, there were some glaring issues...literally no sports (except for basketball and now even that is non existent), not much of performance arts (read western music and dance) and shitty form of co-education in my final years there...and the awful white lab coats as uniform for teachers...Those were bad...really bad...

Still...when it was good...it was really good...

We entered her home. Its next to our school and there is a gate.
Saw my friend Shyam.

Shyam: "First time in here and I studied here for 12 years."

Me: "Nah! I've been here. To pick up the ball when we hit it here"

Saw our other friends. A big crowd had already gathered. Me and Kichu squeezed through went inside the house, only to find the banana leaf ready for the body.

Her mother, very senile now, was sitting there. To lose her only child...would be a massive pain...how young or how old she may be...

Her husband was there...Visibly shattered...

The daughters...grieved by the loss and probably weighed down by the responsibility handed over to them...permanently.

We went back outside. It was a mini reunion for us students. But a reunion where there would be no leg pulling and laughter.

Saw our teacher...went to her...

"Impossible to believe, isn't it?" she asked us.

We could say nothing but nod.

Then, her body came, for the people to see...for the last time...

I was surprised by the ease with which she was carried...She was a big lady...no offense, but very big.

We went into see her and pay our respect...

She lay their shriveled on the floor...one fourth of what she was...but the face...still serene...still demanded that respect...

My memories of her are plentiful...

When I joined the school in LKG, me and my parents went in to see her...Honestly, I have no memory of this...but she reportedly said, "Ayyo...he is just a darling baby...is he old enough?"
I cannot imagine this statement coming from her! (For the record, I was short of 4 years by some 20 days when I joined school and was perfectly capable, though I still drank Mommy's milk! :-D)

Then...during the annual Arya Cup basket ball tournament, Principal sent a warning notice to all...no shouting, no slogans...only clapping when people score...:P
We were in 4th std then and everyone was cheering and hooting...Suddenly a teacher came and told me that Principal was calling me...

My throat went dry...my friends turned pale like ghosts (who's next???) and I floated to her room... My legs were literally shaking...and I couldn't stop them!

She: Narayan?
Me: YYYes, madam....
She: You draw pictures?
Me: YYess (I'll do anything! Please don't kill me!!!)
She: There's a competition in KV this monday...we want you to go.
Me: Okk..
She: Fine. You can go now.
Me: TTThank you, madam.

I walked to the door. Then ran like a hare!

Many many countless small interactions...even more interesting was her treatment of parents who come in as haughty and arrogant.

One celebrity in TVM wanted his second son to be in Arya. His first son was already here and was quite a star. She told him, the kid had to appear for the test and then enter. (Not to LKG or 1st Std, it was 5th) The demand for the 1-2 vacant seats were very fierce. The kid flunked. The Dad threatened to move his elder son too if she didn't admit the kid. She didn't say Fuck off...but she did, in her own stern but respectful manner.

My biggest interaction with her was when I flunked the Maths exam in 11th.
11th and 12th were the darkest period of my life and I got a notion in my head that I was a worthless wanker.

I flunked and Principal called my parents. She started to spit fire at them for no fault of theirs...she sided with me saying it was my parent's fault for not taking care of me and all...
Then I had enough of being the "oh so innocent kid" and when she asked me about my PC usage...I told 5 hours a day...
Mistake...Big Mistake... :-D

Then on...what I heard was probably the biggest insult and biggest humiliation I ever suffered. I felt the ground beneath my feet had gone and I was in hell and Lucifer was poking me with his heated trident...

But...I survived and adapted quite well! :-D

The last time, I spoke to her...was when I got admission to college...
During the blitzkrieg firing mode, she had asked me what I wanted to be...I had said about being a computer engineer.
She remembered this clearly and was genuinely happy for me and appreciated me more than other guys, who did extremely well in the entrance exams...
That was the last time...

When I went to school after getting my job, we asked whether we could see her. The answer was negative. A teacher close to me said, even staff were not allowed to see her.

The last time she saw her, she said, "I'll be back. I'll be back to see you all and my school."

Well...she went back on that...

As I walk down the path...I glanced to the old Principal's office. The exclusive entrance for her and the steps leading there. She proudly stood at the top of the stairs...monitoring everything that was happening...her overpowering aura surrounded the entire school when she stood there...

I could still see her there. Wrapped in her pretty silk saree (later on with a white lab coat!), wearing her shaded spectacles...keeping tab of everything going on in the school...

Thank you Madam...Thank You for showing the world what a determined woman could do in our society...Thank You personally for instilling the discipline I cherish to this day...

3 comments:

Praveen said...

nice post man...though i have never seen ur great principal, reading this i felt as if i was standing in front of the iron lady whom u respect a lot...my 2 drops of tears for the departed soul....

naveen said...

I never had a strict principal in school. But I had a wonderful principal in Prem C nair sir. Our dear old princi was what first came to my mind when I read ur post. Anyways, howz life gng man?? The usual stuff,I guess...

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