The making of a Simple Man – I

I turn 30 today. I want to talk out those moments that have left a strong impression on me. I will start from my childhood and as I relay my thoughts bare, it may not remain interesting, but it is nevertheless me as I became.

courtesy: Sandeep bhaiya @ Buckroe beach

My childhood school(Holy Cross School) was on the outskirts of my city and needed a 30 minute ride on the school bus through a not-so-smooth terrain. I’ve motion sickness and hence, everyday I used to vomit in the bus towards the end of the trip. Everybody in the bus wanted to sit away from me. In that crowded ‘green’ bus, I was in no competition of popularity … everyone knew me as the ‘vomiting boy’.  Everyday I used to think … “today I won’t vomit”… “may I not vomit today” … “hey bhagwaan, aajh nahi“. Something in me never lets me lose hope, everyday I would think that ‘today is going to be the start of the day when I would stop vomiting’. Everyday I would imagine that finally there would be a day, when all these people would give up their desire to sit away from me.

There started to be some rare days finally when I would not vomit, but the crowd would anyways push me to the back end of the bus near the conductor’s gate where there was some space where, it was suggested that it is easy to clean that part of the bus.

I recall our trio Kunal (Kishore?), Danish (Khan?) and myself. we would read out the spelling of ATLAS which was a bicycle advertisement written all over the place on the way to our school. Teachers who shared the bus would get irritated but there was a fun element in that too.

Once Danish and myself went on the top of a place in the playground meant for jumping from a height. It was adequately cushioned with sand at the bottom. we both were afraid to jump from there; but after a promise to each other, we decided to jump on the count of 3, we both started counting 1, 2 , 3 ; and I jumped … Danish did not. In the air, out of fear my pants got wet. Then and Now… my fear of height has never gone away (they may not be correlated though). When I saw that he had not jumped, I was childishly offended by his breaking of promise. Now, I think, his fear might have taken over at the moment of jumping, but probably, to avoid admitting that, he instead said, “am I a fool to jump from here? I just wanted to see if you could jump”.

I recall our class was sitting for an exam and for some reason my pencil lid kept breaking, I had a sharpener, but in those days, it was normal for us to own only one pencil. I tried re-sharpening it several times, only to find another broken lid. I was scared that if I am unable to write I would fail the exam. (I don’t recall why I didn’t tell the teacher in the class that I needed a pencil) But I kept telling my bench-mate ‘Nirmal’ to share his pencil with me. But obviously he did not want to lose the time while I would write with his pencil. (we all used to have just one pencil for writing). Dripping with fear, I suggested Nirmal that he can break his pencil from middle and then I can sharpen the other half and use it for my writing. But he said that “Mummy will get angry with me, if I break my pencil; why don’t you sharpen your pencil again, it will work”. The memory of the moment and the fear is almost vivid even today. The teacher in that class room finally walked up to my bench to ask as to why I was talking to my neighbor again and again. I was about to cry, but I did not share my situation with the teacher. I stopped asking Nirmal for ‘the-half’ of his pencil after the teacher questioned me. I don’t recall what happened next, but I remember that I did not fail the exam. My deep wanting that Nirmal should have given me half of his pencil, left me with a certain impression for ever. I start feeling guilty when I find myself with something — even half extra — if I see another person lacks it.

The number of seats in the bus was much less than the number of people it used to take up. Hence, every inch of the bus space where someone could stand was put to use. It is an accepted wisdom all across human race that the one who comes first gets it first, so it happened in the bus-seats too. On our way back to home from school, I recall some ‘big boys’ would push the ‘small boys’ out of the seat, in order to get a seat.
I think that it was not for the comfort of sitting, but for proving the manliness and acquiring what one wants. I too attempted to do so(even as a kid, these feelings exits!!) at times using the tool of argument that ‘I came first to this seat’. At times, my argument would be pushed aside with the manly force of somebody who was a little bigger. I was never good at physical fight. Sometimes, some seniors in the bus would defend our case from their friends. I was so impressed by those seniors, that I slowly started attempting to get involved into any seat pushing event in the bus and would start arguing on behalf of the one who was sitting there first. I had not realized that the assertiveness of the seniors got accepted because they were ‘seniors’. I would almost always lose. I recall standing on the footsteps of my green-bus and looking down at at my (small) body and thinking that “once I grow up, I will make sure that nobody gets pushed out of his seat”. At that age (~ Class 4), I thought that, once I grow a year or two older I will become one of those who manage to push aside anybody; but I was naive not to think that by that time, those boys too would be 2 years bigger by that time.
I am 30 years old now, things of this kind still happen, no respite; and I have done little to stop it. At least, honestly, I could have done a little more towards it.

All of the above happened by or before I reached Class 4 in school.

Finally, in standard 5, I got admitted to Chinmaya Vidyalaya which was closer to my home; the daily bus-torture came to an end. I was in love with the school. I found myself getting more attention. I felt awkward about why there should be 2 days of Saturday and Sunday when the school had to close. My first bench-mate in Chinmaya was Jasmine. She was a very good person and even allowed me to copy her notes as she copied it from the blackboard. My vision was weak and I was unable to see the blackboard from the back-benches. In Holy Cross, I was allotted a fixed front row because I complained about not being able to see, but in Chinmaya there was a rule that the student’s position would change every day giving everybody an opportunity to sit in the front row. Till then I used to think that everybody just sees like me and that there is a very small variation in the ability to see because of which Jasmine could see the blackboard and I could not. I assumed that to be normal, like the little differences of facial features and height.

There’s so much thought that is streaming into my mind, but I guess I will end this post here and would make another set of entries to finish this short-autobiography.