Walking right in after the security gates, one can hardly miss the virgin on rocks 😉 i mean the Virgin placed on the top of the front stage, inside a cave with her arms extended. Surrounding her are pink and white bougainvilleas. To me she always appeared aloof and unreachable. She was so high up. Right under her is the front stage, where we have the Monday morning assemblies.
Assemblies are a mix of fun and fear. Fun when your mind rests with knowledge that ‘God s in his heaven and all is well with the world’. As you wait in a queue for the assembly to start, your cousin or elder sister flashes a smile at u. when you did well in exams, your name is called and u get a badge for the respective grade. So with puffed up pride u walk along the aisle and climb the steps to get it. Or with thumping heart ill remember that the math homework is still not done or i had forgotten the history text. And please god help me just this one time.
Man! Werent those the times!!
The stage gets interesting after a rainy night. Seeing as it juts out of the classroom verandah and is not closed. Once i found muddy footprints of dogs. The footprints were very thin. Later i heard speculations of the blood thirsty, bone-crunching bloodhounds (read Dobermans) that mother superior breeds, probably to keep us away from peeping into her rooms.
There are potted plants arranged along the walls of the building in the front. If u take right, u get to a pretty little patch of garden with a bald saint in the center in shade. Lined around the low walls of the garden are the lil white flowers i fell in love with.
On the right of the garden is the church with its signature silence, its insides keeping god knows how many prayers safe. U can almost taste and smell the silence there. Once u r inside the church and done looking at the pictures of the stages of life of Jesus hung on walls, u will notice the small black money box. Instead of putting coins in, we girls used to sneak in flowers and adorn it. Again god knows why we did something like that. May be some girl tried it once and the rest thought it a ritual to be strictly followed. We are one dumb lot before puberty u know..
Right after the money box are the grills that separate the prayer room into 2 halves – one for us and the other half for the nuns. We rarely spot nuns there at lunch time when we get into the cool sanctum of the church so as to escape the harsh sun. Of course our part of the church doesn’t have any benches.
After the church u can spot a part of the boarding building and mother superior’s rooms. She makes her appearances on special occasions like Xmas and is generally given the stature of a canonized nun. We get a tête-à-tête with her just before we leave the school after SSLC examinations.
Mother Superiors by nature are old by the time they get to the afore mentioned post. They look like grandmas u see in pickles’ advertisement. But don’t be misled by the white frock and the black head gear. They can be as conniving, may be more so, as the regular nuns and clearly preferred rich kids to the common ones.
From the play ground at the backyard, u can hear squeals of girls running around playing lock n key. There is a park nearby for kids in kindergarten. it has a merry go round, 2 swings, slide, hang n go round, a fish made of red and white bars through which u can hurdle back and forth, bars on which u can hang and move around like monkeys, circular bar on which u hang and slide down and see-saws.
The stairs on the side of the park goes to the first floor containing the upper primary classes – 5th, 6th,7th.
After the stairs on the ground floor is the wash, toilets(open air) and the bougainvillea trees of the lower primary block. Two entrances to the block. the side one takes u to the class i was in, class where we used to vie for Sushma teacher’s attention, class in front of which we lie down and fake sleep to escape getting angry scars on thighs from Ceena chechi’s claws, class where i carried Maya’s earring in my bag unknowingly after the recital on school anniversary, when she was searching everywhere for it, class which i remember with embarrassment becaz my mum jokingly said i must have known all the while about the ruby earring..
Class in front of which we held the dragonfly’s funeral. Complete with flowers and prayers for the poor soul.
You walk straight and u get to the UKG classes. That’s were i remember practicing the action song- forcefully by the teachers, especially by a nightmare of a nun. “Ate a peanut, ate a peanut, ate a peanut just now…”. The dark walls covered with cheap posters of fruits, birds, and numbers. Cupboards full of copy books filled with irregular and illegible handwriting, pieces of chalk, forgotten hankies, a broken doll…
Come to think of it, there were always lots of lost hankies around. On the playground, inside the wash tub, in the toilets, under the benches, inside the desk, in some forgotten pocket of the pinafore. and my mother started pinning it on the front of my pinafore, warning me to gallows if i lost it- which made me not to use it even if my hands were wet or a running nose choked me .
You walk out of the 2nd door and adjacent to it is the dance room. that’s where the biggies practice for dance competitions, that’s where the fair and popular girls plan their glittery costumes and awful make up, that’s were kiddies like me go during breaks to watch the seniors dance and dream about the day we will be swirling around like them, that’s were i got thrown on the steps by a swirling beauty and howled on a wounded nose till i was promised chocolates. I remember her name even, Suwarna with a ‘w’. Coz she never gave the chocolate on any of the mornings i watched her get into the school bus.
Then there is this narrow way thru which u run with eyes closed if u r alone and get into the front of the school. It was said that the narrow way between the walls of the school and the dance room was haunted. Hence the squeezed shut eyes.
The library. Smelling of books and books. I have lost count of the days i spent trekking with the Five or snooping around with Miss Drew or sailing along with Marner.. Once i was over the play-eat-sleep phase, i got into read-eat-sleep phase. I guess it’s different for each kid. Its either read-eat-sleep or cricket-eat-sleep or paint-eat-sleep or sleep-eat-sleep. I guess there are a few study-eat-sleep cases too which are not interesting anyway.
The library was situated near the KG classes. There was a platform that was used only during the flag-hosting days. I remember sitting on it, waiting for the bus home with a Famous Five borrowed fresh from the library and stretching neck to the back and staring at the blue sky. I found that if u looked up long enough and stared at the moving clouds, u can feel yourself move. Or it may have been just a hallucination..
I hated it when the science exhibition started. Reason 1: u were supposed to whip up something at least remotely related to science. Drawing anatomy was my specialty. So i somehow managed to escape the wrath of gods who were too busy checking on nerds anyway. Reason2: It means the library is off-limit for a week coz the selected works were exhibited there and i had no reason to see them or be seen there. So that meant stacking up books before the science fair started with the zeal of ants collecting food for winter.
But sports day was a different deal. At the onset of the sports day, the whole school gets divided into 4 houses. I remember being in Nalanda. We had a dark green flag. I liked to sneak a look at it above the girls’ heads during the march to watch it flutter against the vast expanse of the earth and the blue sky. After the march past, we were free to do wotever we wanted. There would be stalls selling juices, samosas and snacks. The sale would continue long after the sports day. The school didn’t have any canteen and it looked cool sipping the juice out of the bottle sitting under some tree.
Of course how can i forget Xmas?? The same play year after year after year. An angel comes and lip syncs to Mary about the bounty she is to get.. Mary is completely ecstasic and praises the lord for choosing her. I used to wonder how her mother would have reacted to that bit of news. a shady looking girl as Joseph and a pathetic tearful Mary stand guarding over a plastic doll smothered in cloth to look like baby Jesus while cute kids handpicked and dressed as angels swing from side to side standing at the back to the hymn played using a Casio keyboard. Once the play gets finally over the audience praises the lord and keeps a look out for the neurotic Xmas papa. He always enters from the side of the church(trying to surprise us each time!!) throwing toffees in all directions at which we jump like a school of hungry fish spotting a spawn pool. Then comes the dance that the biggies had been practicing and the songs that we had been practicing.
Once the evening sets in after we exchange our xmas presents we get into a screeching spree of “merry xmas” and “happy hols” and wave out of the window of the buses bound home.