I was just perusing through the memories of 3 years that I spent in a boarding school in Chennai. What an awesome time I had. I remember my mom and bro dropping me off at the hostel for the very first time. I was to stay in a dormitory along with 20 other students. The boarding school had three big dorms each housing roughly 20 students and the students were grouped on an age basis. I was roughly 12 at that time and the oldest in our dorm was around 14. So, there wasn't that much of an age difference and the students came from different backgrounds. We had a couple of Biharis, 1 Nepali, 2 Mallus, couple of Telegus and the rest, Tamils like me.
It was a fun mix and it just took me a couple of days to feel right at home. We had bunk beds and I opted for the upper bunk for the simple reason that, the lower bunk was easily accessible and I didn't like my bunk to be disturbed once neatly made in the morning. We were also provided with open shelves built into the walls. There was no concept of privacy and it was a free for all situation. One thing that I realised pretty early was that there is no age restriction when it comes to ragging. A 12 year old bullies a 10 year old who in turn bullies an 8 year old and so it continues. During the 3 years that I was there, I was at the receiving end quite a few times and also had the chance to give it back in equal measure.
We had a rigid schedule. We were made to get up at 6 in the morning and had an exercise session for 30 minutes. For those who failed to get up when the first bell rang, they were made to run around the school ground before joining the rest of the group. After the workout session, we were left to ourselves to get ready for the school that started at 8.30. We had our breakfast around 8 AM. The hostel had a nice cafeteria and served only vegetarian food. The hostel was right next to the school building and hence there not much of a commute. Everything was available within the school campus which left us with few excuses to give to venture out. There were a couple of shops nearby and our favourite was 'Iyengar bakery'. We used to stay right next to the gate and yell out to the shopkeeper who would come around and take our orders. They made delicious puffs and cakes which we used to devour like crazy.
The school had a decent sized ground and we used to play cricket almost all day during the weekend. Football was pretty popular too and so was kabaddi and kho kho. We had a dhobi who used to visit us once a week and collect our clothes for washing and ironing. We had all our clothes marked with a special pen to make it easy to identify our clothes in the huge pile. We used to freely use others clothes without any hesitation. Even if you weren't inclined in sharing, you did share for the fear of being branded unsociable if such a word does exist.
Life was hard at times and the bullying could get really bad but when you do manage to see that all through, you emerge as a stronger individual. Very soon, I realised that running to the warden to complain about every minor thing isn't going to help in the longer run. Nor would it help me in integrating myself with the rest of the group. The more you complain, less likely you are to stop being the target. There was a always a bully and a group around him cheering him on until he is displaced by another.
We had a TV in each dorm but were allowed to switch it on only during Fridays and weekends. Our favourite program used to be chitrahaar and superhit muqabla. Both the programmes aired cinema songs and was a bit hit. We occasionally got to watch cricket matches as well.
Those 3 years did teach me a lot and made me as independent as I can get for a 15 year old. It also prepared me for some tough times ahead. I do regret the fact that I don't have a single photograph from my hostel life. Its all locked up in my memory. I hope it stays as fresh for ever in my memory as it is right now.