Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Hostel and onwards

From Triplicane I think my mother and grandparents moved to Broadway and T Nagar.The areas we moved to, make no sense with regard to proximity. I have perhaps lived in about 35 houses or even more throughout my time in Chennai. Some houses I hear, we hardly lived in for a few months. 

Triplicane was when we had our first phone number. 845313. 6 digits. I was very proud of taking messages for other people. I think we got the phone number for mom's work on the documentary. She had less and less time to spend on me. And then one day she suggested I should stay in the hostel. I remember crying. But finally I said OK. Not that there was a choice. 

I checked into hostel. It was the most traumatic time for me. Some of the kids around me were bullies. I used to be beaten up all the time. I used to be terrified of this boy who would keep "kottifying" on people's heads, hard enough that I was afraid it would leave a dent. Those of us on the receiving end would be terrified of complaining. A lot of kids would be beat up. Sometimes stuff would be stolen. My classmate would stinking rich or really poor. 

The day I landed in the hostel I developed a fever and landed up in the sick room. I loved it there. It felt like a nicer atmosphere. And almost everyone in the hostel spoke Telugu. 

I learned to name my clothes to differentiate them - SCH 61 was how I'd learned to embroider the clothes I would send for laundry. Whatever mom brought would be kept in a locked Godrej Almirah the keys to which the 'Akka' or the matron would have. If you wanted anything from soap to toothbrush, it would be under her care. 

We would all have our own shelves, we even had a TV on which we watched films on Sundays. Sun TV-yin tamizh maalai and all that. Each morning we'd wake up, fold up our sheets and mats and arrange it on the top shelf, to be removed at night again. 

We all had equal duty to clean up the huge hall we all used. Sweep and mop and cleaning toilets and cleaning the corridor would be done by turns by all of us. In a way it was one of the best light lessons I had learned. We would wash our own tiffen boxes too. 

Like a lot of kids, I'd put pencil shavings in water to see if it would magically turn into a "lubber" (Eraser). I was very excited when other kids said it happened all the time. I planted a seed from the watermelon slice I'd eaten to see if it would grow. Nothing happened. 

I remember this one time while eating lunch in the school playground that I had spilled food from the lunchbox. I was terrified of being found out and the bullies came out, made me eat the food that I had spilled in the sand - sand and small stones and all. Added to that they complained I had spilled the food - carrot rice, to be exact and that I "threw food" because I didn't like it. I was scolded by every matron in the hostel that day. 

Sometimes the Principal would call me to spend time with her family in her quarters - they lived in the same compound as the school - they took me out to their family gatherings and took me to the school farm. 

Now, for me, it was a great escape. But to the other kids - I was the special kid they hated. I understand and empathise with the resentment in retrospect. But each time I went out and came back I would face hell from a certain set of kids. I'd be terrified. And would pray each day that I should get sick and go to the sick room.

Some days I would wait at the gate waiting for my mother to come. Somedays she wouldn't have been able to. And later I realized visiting me and leaving was one of the toughest things she had to do and she'd cry herself to sleep each time she visited me. She wasn't going through the greatest of experiences working on that documentary either. 

One time, God did hear me out and I fell really sick. The mercury read 104 and my mom was called. She stayed with me in the sick room. The principal would visit me each day and give me books to read or grammar books to finish which I promptly would. 

Sick room and Maragadham akka, who managed the sick room was my happy place. Ironic as it may be.

No comments: