Thursday, July 07, 2011

Growing Up in a Boarding School - The Beginning

My interview at Pratt Memorial School consisted of a spelling test. I had to
spell three words given to me by the principal. I had spelled one of them
wrong and was sad that I would not get admitted. The word was 'face' and I
had spelled it with an 's' even though I had known the spelling. Probably
because I was nervous. I was five.

I however did get admitted to that boarding school and was soon accompanied by pishimoni (aunt), ma (mom) and a black trunk filled with my belongings on my
first day there. I will come back to the trunk soon but right
away I need to tell you that I still remember the feeling I had in my
stomach that day as I was being dropped off. I did not shed a tear maybe
because I was too confused with the knots I was feeling deep inside me. It
was probably the calm before the storm - because later in my life there were
plenty of tears to make up for that one brave night and probably the most important moment in my life.

Coming back to the black trunk. It was an object of awe the very first time it came to the house. I don't know why exactly but maybe because it came with the significance of leaving home and entering into a brand new territory. I still remember my name and address being inscribed on it with white ink. It was like the most artistic and incredible thing I'd ever seen. Later that trunk became an integral part of my happy and sad moments both. It made me happy when it was brought out of the hostel storage - that meant I was going home on vacation and made me sad when I had to pack it at home at the end of a month long vacation.

But I digress. This post is about my first day at boarding school and even though we didn't have cameras back then to record first days of everything in our child's life - I still have a crystal clear picture of that night. The boarding section of the school was situated on the third floor of the very old building. It was built during the Britsh Raj and had grand staircases and huge windows (more like doors) with green shutters. After you climbed up the stairs to the third floor you entered into a long corridor that led to the Matrons room on the other end of it. The three dorms (junior, intermediate and senior)ran parallel to the corridor on its right. Our lockers and shoe racks ran along the two walls of the corridor and that is where we all conglomerated every night to polish our shoes in preparation for the next day.

And I've digressed again. It was late evening when we arrived at the hostel. It was already dark outside and all the dorms were empty. My place would of course be in the junior dorm and while my aunt spoke with the matron and handed her my belongings I was asked to walk into the dorm to take a look. As I did, I noticed a solitary girl standing at the other end of the dorm looking out from the window. I went up to her and asked her her name. She had the same last name as mine and I took that as a sign and we became best of friends for the next few years. She told me that it was a special night and so all the other girls were in a common room watching TV. She stayed back because she was missing her mom who I found out some time later was no longer alive.

It was because of her my first day there didn't seem as bad. That night when I lay in my bed amongst almost a hundred other girls of different ages and backgrounds, I realized my life had just begun and little did I know those were the years that would make me who I am today.

Tota Bhowmik - wherever you are, this post is for you!

5 comments:

MACMD said...

I can't wait to read the other installments.

Joy @CGBC Youth said...

Ditto what MC said. It brought back my 1st boarding school memories but I can't remember half as much...and I was 12! Geez...now I really feel bad. Wish I could travel back in time and hug the little Mala....

sukalpa said...

u have always been a brave heart dear...the decision of a boarding school must have been so hard for both you and your family...a huge warm hug with a tight squeeze...

moumita said...

ur post brought back lots of memories........the ones we shared with others and the ones that stays deep deep inside.....i so clearly remember the day we met as boaders.....we seemed experienced,becos we started our boading days much earlier than the rest.....a big tight hug dearie,u r the one who always bonded our group together......waiting eagerly for the next posts.

Mala said...

@Joy - if I were still in India I would give you the juice of a particular plant to drink to increase your memory - lol! Hugs right back at ya!

@Sukalpa - hugs to you too

@Moumita - aahhh I remember clearly meeting you at the entrance exam for gokhale - you will be mentioned on that post for sure. much love!