And I wrote the ocean
During the train journey yesterday (Jabalpur-Somnath Express), I met Mr. Roopak P., Regional Manager of Navdeep Publications. We chitchatted a bit and had the same interest in school publications due to our previous career paths. I shared him one incident which leapfrogged me into writing and I never hesitate to write. Here is the old collection of experience.
My father sent me to a Hindi medium school because of the nature of transferable job and possible rural postings. I studied till 7th grade in pure Hindi medium schools. Then as chance would have it my father got deputed to New Delhi and I got admission in another Hindi medium school called MBDAV Sr Sec School in Yusuf Sarai. As luck would have it CBSE gave us a choice to study science subjects in English medium from 9th grade, I opted for this. So 9th and 10th grades were in English medium and I enjoyed reading dictionary from word to word.
In 1988 I scored good marks and stood 3rd in the class/school for 10th exams. My father again got posted back to Jabalpur and we decided to take transfer from School. All we remember was a inland letter from school offering me 100 Rs. per month in scholarship. But I was finding it good to go back to small hometown.
We returned back to Jabalpur and somehow I was head-bent to go to Kendriya Vidyalaya (Central School) as it was co-ed. I had never studied in a co-ed school. There were four KV schools in Jabalpur and we tried seeking admission in all but were duly rejected as my father was not in central services but state.
My father asked me to go back to old Hindi medium school as the other two convent schools had closed their admission procedures. I was not in favour of it and totally rejected the idea as I wanted to be that upper league of English education. I didn’t want to let go of the Delhi chance as a waste.
Few days later my father took me to buy a bicycle to The Central India Machine Company. The owner Mr. Basant Nigam was chewing pan (a famous mouth freshener in India) and offered us a cup of tea. He then asked me to look around to select a Bicycle, I had one glance and selected “Street Hawk”. He remarked thats the best one in the store. I still remember the Street Hawk’s price was 1300 INR in 1988. He then inquired about my school and understood my story.
He then suggested us to meet Mr. Brij Bihari Singh of Christ Church Boy’s Higher Sec School. His son was studying in the same school and was admitted in ICSE Board. The school had recently introduced this new curriculum from 1988.
My father told me to go and inquire as he had a working day on Monday. I was feeling fresh on the new bicycle and in the rain rode to the CCBHSS. The assembly had just dispersed and classes were about to start. I went to the school office and inquired for Mr. B.B. Singh. He came out of the office after 10 minutes or so and heard my story and enquiry. He saw me drenched in rain and asked me to come the next day with my father.
The next day I was accompanied by my father and the teacher had a discussion with my father. They both came out and Mr. Singh was carrying a paper with him. He then asked me to write an essay in an empty classroom for 30 minutes odd and gave me a topic “Ocean”. Write an essay on this topic, he said.
I was ready for the experiment. I splurged the ink on the paper as if I was a fish in the ocean, seeing all the world under the water and sharing my experience on the paper. I wish I could have saved a copy of that essay I had written. I enjoyed writing for the first time in my life as this essay was a bit different from the ones given in the classrooms. One it had an abstract topic, two purpose of writing it was different. I wanted to get into an English medium school that too the best one in the town as I was told.
My Singh took the paper, went inside with a promise that he will come back shortly. He did come back with the paper and I could see read circles around words, some underlines on sentences and the colour blue was equally mixed with colour red.
It seemed for a while that I will have to go back to the old Hindi medium school, Pt. Lajjashankar Jha (called model school) but I never wanted to go to the classrooms with water dripping from the roof during raining season and we students sitting on the floor.
Alright then,so here are the conditions, Mr. Singh spoke. For ICSE you have to compulsorily pass in English subject for promotion to next grade. That’s the rule of ICSE, Will you be able to cope up with the challenge? I immediately said yes. Fine then please take the admission rules from office and join the school from tomorrow. Mr. Singh took me by surprise as I was concerned about the red circles on the paper.
Years later somehow I recalled that incident and narrated it to Mr. Roopak. I realized one thing that Mr. Singh might not have been able to force down Macbeth in my limited understanding of English literature, he gave me a chance risking his reputation. I am still wondering why he did that as a teacher.
I wish the records in schools were digitized so that future generations are able to reflect on their learnings. Street Hawk gave me physical agility to ride the roads of Jabalpur for many years but red circles on ocean became a lifetime lesson and that lesson is “Red Circle on papers do not matter,as for the fish there is always an ocean to explore”.