Friday, March 30, 2012

Oh, it's that boy from my class!

My visit to Madurai has begun with a startling discovery that they have opened a mall near Gokhale road. I discovered it after reading this article. It is very elegantly written not discounting the fact that mall or not, it is still situated in Madurai. I also noticed that one Mr. A.Shrikumar has written the article. I remembered vaguely that a classmate of mine with the same name, ignoring the rest of school's mad sprint for engineering/medicine, took up liberal arts. I have not seen him since I joined college and recalled my mother telling me that he is now working as a journalist at The Hindu. I know and remember him because of this funny thing that happened when I was in fourth grade. Apart from the zillion other competitions that TVS had, there was one that was an intra co-curricular affair that happened every year with about 30 different competitions including English handwriting, Tamil handwriting, etc. 

Taking a slight deviation from the main story, I feel that I have to tell you about the handwriting bit. I remember the handwriting competitions very well because it was the age where a person's success in life was measured by the slant of the copper plate. My mother blamed her handwriting for all the opportunities that she missed in her life. Egged on by my grandfather and the fun gang that our family is, there has always been a medium to heavy paranoia around handwriting. I copied pages and pages of Macmillan's handwriting books, perfecting the loop of my J’s, the curve of my e's and the slant of my t's. I wrote in pen while at home even when I was in first grade when the rest of the kids were just scribbling with crayons and pencils. I used gel pens; the ones whose blue was slightly more vivid adding flavour to my perfect copper plate. There was one gel pen whose blue was more like purple and when they stopped making it, I wrote to the manufacturer and got him to ship me 50 pens. My handwriting was thus renowned in my parents' circles and was proudly displayed when someone came home (Exhibit A).
Exhibit A (Writing in 5th Std)

After a year at college, the copperplate lost its "pointiness" and started having wide spaces in between the joints, overall reflecting the amount of time I spent writing records, which varied between 30-35 minutes. In the second year, the time reduced to 20 minutes and the tittles over my i's and the crosses over t's missed their marks by inches. By the end of third year, my records became very well known for the extremely illegible scrawl and many a lab prof have shuddered at my written work (Exhibit B). I once told this gleefully to my mother, who literally clutched her heart and left the room.

Exhibit B (Writing in the third year of college)

Coming back to the main story, it was my fourth grade and I had just joined TVS. Of the 13 or so cultural competitions I had entered  (even fancy dress as the little known Bhikhaji Cama), there was a poetry recitation competition for which Shrikumar and I were chosen from Fourth "A" to represent our class. I practiced the following for days together

To My Sister
O my sister remember the stars the tears the trains
The woods in spring the leaves the scented lanes
Recall the gradual dark the snow’s unmeasured fall
The naked fields the cloud’s immaculate folds
Recount each childhood pleasure: the skies of azure
The pageantry of wings the eye’s bright treasure.

Keep faith with present joys refuse to choose
Defer the vice of flesh the irrevocable choice
Cherish the eyes the proud incredible poise
Walk boldly my sister but do not deign to give
Remain secure from pain preserve thy hate thy heart.
~ Theodore Roethke

Phrases with fancy words like "Immaculate folds" & "Pageantry of wings" stuck to me so much that I was able to retrieve this poem in Google just by searching for those phrases. I practiced this darn poem for days together. All was well, until the day before the competition, the class teacher called Shrikumar & I to tell us that she had made a mistake and only one person was to be selected from one class. She reasoned that since I was already in 13 or so contests, it made sense for Shrikumar to go for this one. 

I was heart-broken. I cried and cried at the abject breach of fairness that my mother had to ring the bell of justice; er, call the principal's office demanding a selection process by a neutral judge. It was the time of monsoons and the next day, it rained so much that my school was flooded. We were wading through the rainwater as if we were crossing rivers. I remember flying into the class and dragging the generally very nice, soft-spoken Shrikumar by his arms, through the heavy rain and water to the next building for the impending hearing by our impartial judge. 

Imagine yourself as a principal of a school and having to put up with such situations- a completely barmy kid at one hand and a nice kid almost driven to tears by the aforementioned psycho kid, at another. It almost reminds me of this passage.

"How this situation arose, we do not know," said Dumbledore, speaking to everyone gathered in the room. "It seems to me, however, that we have no choice but to accept it. Both Cedric and Harry have been chosen to compete in the Tournament. This, therefore, they will do. ."

However, it was not the case. I waved and gesticulated and thundered the well-practiced poem until the teacher was forced into choosing me. I remember seeing Shrikumar's parents, the next day, coming to our school to talk about the emotional trauma their son had to go through.

He & I buried all the misgivings of the past in middle school. It is nice to know that he is doing great what with his selection to IRS. Whenever I think of him I always remember that rainy day of the poem and my more than maniacal competitiveness. Though this madness sprouted time and again through college, I give it to CIT for totally sapping this spirit from me by the time I finished college and converting me from 


1 comment:

Ashmur said...

Get Mr.Shrikumar to read this post and post his response. Should be interesting :-)