Earlier in The Programmable Minds 1
“There is an advertisement on the TV which says that 90% of the brain is developed during, or rather till, the age of 5. It got me thinking of my first 5 years.”
After 3RD Year
Mom’s very concerned about my knowledge of alphabets in English and Hindi. She wants me to learn quickly and correctly. Her mission sees nothing whether I am crying or feeling sleepy. Now I am being put in a nursery school where I would complete my Nursery, LKG and KG in coming years.
My First School
Chaudhary Atar Singh Public School is 3 Km from here and I have to board a van every day to it. I always wanted to travel in a van when they used to come to the road behind my house but now I simply hate it. Earlier once I see a van I used to wave hands to ‘goodbye’ it, now mom does the same and I am the one being ‘goodbyed’ inside this.
There are bigger boys and girls who take the front seats and seats in the back. I probably as the last one to be picked and hence I always get the smaller, darker and deeper rear baggage place; this opens up towards rear only and there is no window. I cannot see a thing and hear only voices. These 20 minutes I spend anticipating where we would have reached or passing from, standing at or getting into. I sometimes suffocate here. I mean it, literally.
In the school I try to sit far from teacher; with my bottle around my neck, necktie drifted aside on one side –almost wanting to touch my little shoulders, I-Card tucked to pocket with a safety-pin and bag at my feet. I am feeling like I want to pee but am afraid of teacher and embarrassed of asking so I will keep sitting and snuck in a corner. I relived myself in the pants. I do this almost daily and in order to hide it I pour water all over me, from my bottle and sometimes from water tap beside the playground; I wet my shirt and bag as well so that later I may blame other kids for throwing water at me. Mysteriously, back home mom always catches me and I am punished with a stick or a scale, whichever is handy.
First Untoward incident of My Life
I may have broken bones and ripped of flesh many a times later in my life. I , also, may have messed up a lot and got in unexpected situations so much in coming years but the first such incident took place so early for me.
It is summers of 1993. One day a very peculiar thing happened. The school bus driver got to drive our van that day. He used to drive a bus to and from school and today he was on the steering wheel during the drop time. He dropped everyone but me; to look in the rear of the van for a ‘luggage’ was not in his practice. I can’t hear other children anymore. Once he thought he has dropped everyone he started driving back to the school. I am still waiting to be dropped wondering why this is taking longer than always. I felt that the bus is going through the same places where we have come from. I can hear those voices and my mind tells us that we are going through the same places where we have come from but by heart tells me otherwise. I am the only one in the back; it has always been me here. No one else.
Tired of waiting I fell asleep. The bus driver drove the van to school and from there to Agra Canal Bridge. Here he would have lunch.
Back at home mom is waiting beside the road. The van has not come yet. She used to come and wait beside the road about this time when van is there to arrive. Today, the van did not come. This got Mom worried and she called an uncle who reside nearby. Uncle went to school only to find neither the van nor the driver was there. School called driver and rushed few staff along with uncle to Agra Canal Bridge. They found the van with me sleeping in it.
Uncle took me in his arms and I am being brought back and I can see the, over the shoulders of uncle, that the teachers are shouting and making faces on the driver. I see the canal and the bridge on it; must be a very old one.
I am finally at home, usually by this time I used to have had my lunch so I am feeling hungry. A dozen of people are gathered around me and I can’t understand why Mom is crying! She is calling me nearer and I am afraid of being caught yet again for having done ‘it’ in my pants. Nevertheless, she pulled me to her and embraces me in her tender arms. Today I am not punished, I wonder why?
Random and Locality
I have plenty of space to play but no friends. Everyday some horses, mules and a few donkeys come to graze in the fields near us. It is a very vast field, almost 2 KM long and same wide. The village in distant, after this field, is called Ismile Pur. It rhymes with ‘smile’ and like other kids of my school and in van, I too call it ‘Smile Pur’.
After the 90%…
After I turned 5, and my brain turned 90%, I was taken to the Government Primary School in Jaitpur for admission in 1st standard.
The school has a building that has almost 10-12 rooms and rest everything is empty compound and bare ground. The empty compound has a number of tent setup using bamboo poles and Tarpaulin sheet, some are of other material looking more like thick rugs, here and there. Classes are being held under these tents with children sitting on durries and I know, actually I realized, that it would be any one of these olive green tents under which I would write my destiny.
To the far western-end there is a small block of building that comprises of storeroom and washrooms, those are in unusable condition. It is even difficult to go near them given their sharp stinky smell and dirty look. Students, like teachers, go back of this small block towards the eastern and also to the western boundary walls to relieve themselves.
I am in 1-B. The names of the sections are written in Hindi so it’s AA, BA, SA, DA and EE. There is a poles in the center of the tent of every class. Teacher’s chair is brought by the monitor from the staff room, before he arrives, every day. Once the chair is kept in front of us we all fall silent immediately –survival instinct!
We are given a daily snack, distributed every day around 4 pm, and for which we wait eagerly. The item is changed every day- the Salted Chana, multi-grain biscuits, sweetened-yellowish bread- everything is amazing in taste! Along with this the cloth for the dresses, blue shirt and brown pants, is also given by the school. The books too are provided by the school.
Ram Bharose is the name of my class teacher and he is the one who teaches every subject, marks attendance, grants leaves, let us go to pee, distributes dress (for entire school) and biscuits or breads or Salted Chana, whatever comes for us every day.
A very little memory, I have left, of the taste of those breads and biscuits and I remember that they were tremendous hit amongst us. We even traded pencils and erasers with other children for a pack of six biscuits! Towards the evening when teachers are busy, children are at their best! My classmates are throwing paper-planes at each other, some are playing roll-the-pen using a notebook and their pencils and pens. Some are munching on the day’s delicacy. In a distance, towards the store-room, there is a huge group of boys running around and shouting at the top of their voices. It is a few squirrels they are after. There is another group throwing stones at a three; it’s a mango three being attacked by small stones for these children want its fruits, doesn’t matter if they are still green and small.
Further towards south-western side of the compound wall, where there is a gate, a handful of children are gathered up. It’s the place where all sorts of hawkers sell all sorts of crap. I am fascinated.
Children are stretching their hands out of the gate, through the iron bars, with coins in their hands and hawkers are loading them, as they pull them back, with toffees, biscuits, small toys, eating-gums, powdered- candies, lady’s hairs, coin-shaped-chocolate and what not. It’s all sorts of colors.