I was visiting my school after two decades and I was feeling unusually nervous. No one I knew was in the school now — not even my old teachers. Besides, I was dreading that the place itself could have changed manifold or worse, the building could have just disappeared. But I went just to relive the old days. More importantly, I wanted to show my son, Sid, where I had come from.
It was on a warm July afternoon that we drove to my village in Southern India. The air was thick and humid. The structures, the trees, the air, all brought back memories from my childhood.
The worn-out road, flanked by stunning greenery, paved its way to my school. I walked in gingerly, with a camera dangling around my neck. Not much had changed, except for an odd fence, I noticed. I gasped excitedly. The place was quiet. A couple of boys played at the far end of the playground and we decided to walk towards them.
The kids were playing chess. I wondered if Sid would want to join them. ‘It would be nice’ I thought, ‘because, it would give him a peek into my childhood’. As if reading my mind, Sid joined them in the game and I quietly distanced myself.
I walked along the corridors peeking into various classrooms, but I continued to watch if Sid was OK. I was thrilled that he was playing with those kids, but at the same time I was not sure if he would like what he experienced. That disturbed me and I stood in the middle of the playground lost in thought. The ground under my feet was hot, and yet I could still tell the exact texture of the soil.
Many glorious moments of childhood play-time played in my head and I compared my son’s modern playground to mine. I turned around to look at Sid. He waved excitedly. Assured, I moved to the classroom that I had entered as a little girl to learn my ABCs.
The good, old blackboard still held its place. I saw a bit of myself in the little girls with pigtails. A smile escaped my lips and I decided to head towards the science lab.
My thoughts again went back to Sid and I wondered how he felt about my school. But the unmistakable stink in the science lab distracted me and it brought back memories of girlish giggles. I stood there for a couple of minutes reliving the lost times.
When I walked out, I noticed that the kids had surrounded Sid. They were shouting something. I was a bit worried. I hoped Sid was OK. While my instinct was to run towards the group, I forced myself to stay away and watch them from a distance.
As I continued to watch, I saw that Sid slowly distanced himself, waved to them and began running towards me. He was smiling. He quickly gave me a tight hug and then turned around to wave to the kids. The kids waved back. What happened, I wanted to know.
“Ma, you know, these kids are very good,” he began. “They are sweet and also very smart. With a bit of training they can play really well,” he announced.
An unmistakable sense of pride took over me. I will never know how the kids played but that my son liked and enjoyed the game of chess in that little corner of my school meant the world to me.
My son, in his own little style, had endorsed the glorious moments I had spent in my little village. This made all the difference to me. I smiled.
“Do you like my school?” I asked, now a bit confident. “Ma, I love it”, he declared, “It is so quiet here and there is so much space and…”
I didn’t hear the rest. I didn’t have to.