The richness of Western Ghats is better experienced than explained. Inside the womb of this nature’s beauty lies the sleeping city of Chikmagalur. Like an embryo inside, the city doesn’t hustle & bustle. All you experience is its tiny movements. The sound of breezy winds, a sticky rain that doesn’t get detached easily once it embraces the earth, chirp of creepy creatures, rustle of few vehicles & rarely seen people, nothing more.
Here, in one of the remote villages stood like an old fortress, my institution, Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya. Like other similar schools in each district all around India, it was the brainchild of Rajiv Gandhi, the erstwhile Prime Minister of India. It is where I spent most of my educational years and is where I have space in my mind for its strongest memories.
I was just 11 when I voluntarily and proudly entered, for, I was the only one to be selected from my school! It wasn’t the best of the beginnings. I felt similar to a calf being driven away from its mother. I missed everything, my small village school, my friends who would treat me nothing less than to a king & most importantly, the pampering of my parents. Every night I covered my blanket till my head and cried. In every pause between my sobbing I heard cries from different directions! Only then I knew that I wasn’t the only one who was crying! It wasn’t easy to jump into a world of unknown faces, strange rules.
But as days passed when jumping out looked difficult- thanks to the broken glass pieces that was spread on the compound wall- it was necessary to make friends, wash your own clothes, and wash rooms & toilets on periodical basis. Human life is so amazing that it can get accustomed to anything, otherwise who expected us to do all this and get up at 5:30 in the morning & run for miles together in that shivering winter?
As new friends emerged, cries subsided. As I got older, I saw my friends grow. As my uniform changed from shorts to pants I saw the feeling of superiority grow. As I saw hairs grow above my upper lips, I felt the feelings of adolescence root in me. As subjects changed 8 times in a day, from history to science and from art to music, without much of a realization I was intellectually growing, I was slowly sliding into the beauty of art & music.
I think and I strongly believe that one of the most valuable assets of the school is its teachers. Where else can you find such a bunch of dedicated souls who can oblige to throw away their personal time to come during the ‘silent’ reading hours and take pain to watch around and clear the doubts. I feel so proud of all the teachers. Same time I pity them. Pity is for, at that age we neither understood the importance of those study hours, nor the sacrifice of the teachers. We found ways to tease girls, we found time to discuss Gandhi to Hitler to saturday night’s puliyoagare and we made all plans, teams for the Sunday cricket match.
Such was the life at that wonderful institution. I can write hundred more pages and still think that a hundred more can go. As I repeat, it was with pride I entered. The next 7 years, we called it a jail; we cursed our P E teacher Kurugund Sir every morning for the sin of disturbing our lazy sleep. We fought with our teachers to gain access to little more freedom and got sincerely punished at every instant. We broke rules whenever we had chance to. Finally when it was time to leave, tears rolled, I cried again. I didn’t want to go! I didn’t want to miss a bit of what I had for seven long years!
Now when I sit back and think what exactly I gained from those seven long years of struggle, I end up with this. It has taught me an independent life. It has helped me to develop a creative mind. It has given me a body fit and fine; thanks to Kurugund Sir (your belt treatments have really worked sir!). It has taught me punctuality, it has taught me sincerity. It has taught me art & music and now I know how to find peace for my soul. It has given me great friends. Moreover, it has given me a foundation on which I realize the dreams I dreamt. It has given me everything to carve out a beautiful life where there is no space for mediocrity. Now, with all that I have borrowed from this institution, I try to excel every day, scale new heights and dream for the highest.
(The article was written for school magazine, on the eve of Golden Jubilee Celebrations in 2012. Republishing here with little editing!)