It’s said that school days are the best days of our lives.
When I think of my growing up years in Carmel Convent School, New Delhi, I think of a bunch of girls sharing a single, tiny piece of chalk — rubbing it on the canvas shoes. I get transported to the Chemistry classes where we struggled to stay awake as we were taught the chapter titled Carbon and Its Compounds. I taste the cold lunches; the ones we shared in between classes and during intervals. I feel the butterflies in my stomach as I wait for the teacher to give out the checked out answer sheets. I look back at the tough decisions we made — selecting our major subjects, deciding who to sit with, in the classroom, voting for the class monitor, et al. I laugh at the rivalry between the groups — how it made us cry and fight.
I recollect the good, bad, and ugly that made up for the best days of our lives.
A fortnight ago, I found myself at Gems Modern Academy, Dubai, and it all came back rushing to me. With me were three friends, alumni of the school. We were there to watch The Lost, a pop opera, which the children (13-16-year-olds) staged under the guidance of Kevin Oliver. The trio was excited to watch the magic of Kevin Sir, yet again. They spoke of how Sir hadn’t changed over the years. It indeed felt like a homecoming.
Before we entered the auditorium, in a hurried moment I sneaked into the classrooms. The pinboards were adorned with assignments. The smell of glue, the sight of chart paper in different colours, and the rewards in the form of stars felt familiar. The sense of nervousness and excitement in the air made me feel like a student. After the show, as we tried to find our way to the backstage, two little girls walked us there — their gait suggesting ownership and pride.
The show was spectacular, deserving the standing ovation it received. It isn’t easy to put up an original musical, one would agree, but the team had made it happen. Backstage, the children hugged each other and made a whole lot of noise. After the show, one of my friends shared an anecdote with Kevin — when he was a student and they’d recorded a piece, together. They decided to catch up later, as ‘friends’ now. Outside, the parents waited to pick up their kids and take them home. I was reminded of the annual day performances we would put up and how we’d wait for our parents to pick us up from the common room or how our eyes would look for them in the audience.
As we left, I sensed the making of the best days of their lives. Even if I was in a school that I didn’t attend, it did feel like mine. Will I go back to school? Yes, it’s always lovely to get a chance to rewind and rejoice. A lot may change for the batches to come, but what will not is the drama that makes us both hate and love school at the same time.