Transience- Tales from school

Apartheid; I read it again and it reads ‘Apartheid’. I don’t know what it means. I remember reading it in my social science textbook in class 10. I remember the word being thrown in a number of answers in school. I remember a teacher repeatedly explaining what it means and I remember thinking that given the frequency with which the word is brought up in this class it will take some hard work unlearning this. However, here I am, having completely forgotten the meaning of Apartheid.

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I remember having participated in an inter school competition in class 11th. I was sitting in the waiting area with my team when a girl walked over and beamed- yes, literally beamed- at me. She was a friend from my science tuition in 10th. She hugged me and said, ‘Milna nahi hota kya’. I remember feeling warm in that cold foyer. I remember feeling welcome. I remember making a mental assertion that welcomes ought to be this affable, not any less. However, here I am having lost her and  her warmheartedness over the years.

In that very competition, there was a quiz round where in my desperation to win home a few points, I had given two extremely foolish answers. I remember growing red in embarrassment at the sheer stupidity of the words that had escaped my mouth. I had a ‘Sita’ moment, that is, all I wanted was for the earth to break upon so that I could rest inside its folds. However, here I am having forgotten that quiz, those answers and the desire to disappear over the years.

Once in class 7, I had stained my skirt on the second day of my period. The teacher who noticed it behaved as if she had never witnessed anything close to a period. Everyone in my class looked at me with an other worldly expression. I felt stung that day. However, here I am , having completely moved over that emotion.

I had moved to a different school in class 4. I was a quiet kid and I still am, meaning which seldom did I take initiative to participate in class discussions or in interacting with my classmates or a teacher. Often, my teachers would show surprise on how someone with such little zeal in class could score so well. My science teacher in class 5- who taught me Chemistry through the next six years- took special interest in me. She would constantly nudge me to answer in the class or pick a conversation with me or ask me for my notebook which no other teacher has done in my life. I always believed that I shall remain in touch with her. Maybe, I am too lousy at sustaining long term contacts or maybe I am incompetent in conveying my emotions – both the quantum and the content- to others, so here I am, not having talked to this teacher for for a good five years now.

I used to have a best friend in school. I called it quits with her in class 11. It felt how adults feel when they walk out of relationships. It happened because she never meant well or she never meant as well as she tried portraying. At that point in time, I had come to believe that I will never be able to trust another person, their words and their intentions. However, here I am, having set aside those beliefs and having fostered deeper connections in the aftermath.

In English, we were once taught a chapter called ‘The Address’, where a World War II survivor visits her former neighbor- who her mother had trusted with their belongings. However on coming across the artifacts , the cutlery in that cramped, strange environment she finds them alien. So she leaves the house abruptly and resolves to never see them again. I had written a short note on the story, trying to rationalize the myriad of emotions that take hold of the protagonist in that house. That answer was dear to me at that time. However, here I am, reading it again and again, but it just doesn’t appeal to me now. I stand as disassociated with the answer as Marga was in ‘The Address’.

You may wonder, why am I writing of all these long forgotten instances from school; only to bring home the point- that everything passes, whether good or bad, whether dear or heart wrenching, everything in our lives fades, first out of sight and then out of memory. As we make space for newer experiences and newer beliefs (and newer words) in life everything from our past grows smaller and smaller. Things in life have a shelf life and come to think of it, howsoever despondent my present seems to me presently, this too shall pass, soon.

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These days, I am trying to be solicit hope, be it in positive experiences or in an odd trail of thoughts, like this one.

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