We were in Class 3. Lakshmi amma was drying banians on the string near the dhobi box and we were playing in the dormitory. "Play all you want now, once Bull Amma comes, I'll see how much you will play!", she said. We took that threat with a pinch of salt. We had passed out from 'E' dormitory and there couldn't be anything scarier than the Seshukumari mam, could there?
Then, she arrived. For the next 5 years, sneaking into the dormitories to bunk classes was like going to Dantewada jungle for a picnic. You never knew when you would be ambushed, and thrashed so badly that your insides would feel like scrambled pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. In some ways, she was an ideal amma. She washed the clothes, her dormitory was the cleanest. She knew how to silence a bunch of chattering ten year olds. (Arbit BA Trivia: She also played the harmonium and was well versed in karra samu - a martial art that involves use of a stick). Everything was perfect till you pissed her off. Then, heaven save you.
You did not dirty the dormitory. You collected your underwear in time. Otherwise, like a Sudarshan Chakra, it found you and stayed on your head after landing a slap on your face. If you wanted to pee in the night, you had to do it while brushing your teeth before going to bed. There were two doors to the bathrooms. She would bolt one of the doors from inside, and the other one from the outside, and then open the meshed window near the door. If you had to go pee, you had to open the close the window first. This would make a creaking noise. If she woke up, (as my friend once put it) you had to pee from the eyes.
Bull Amma was the only amma who was given deemed rights equal to that of teachers. She was the allowed to punish us and they were scarier punishments! Like, if you were caught talking by a teacher, you would be asked to stand in the old prayer hall. I was once caught by Bull Amma talking. She yanked me out of the bed, pulled an underwear drying on the window and put it on my head, and made me stand in the lobby downstairs. There were 12th std. girls studying there, I was not amused.
She did not like it if you went to the toilet in between classes. And since the toilets were upstairs in the dormitories, it made it very tough for us. If it was 'urgent', it meant a 100 meters sprint up the stairs, only to be met with a very pissed Bull Amma. Such situations were responsible for adding some colourful words to my Telugu vocabulary. Words like "Dunnapotta, Donga Sanyasi, Go Bite, and Lan*a ko****", all souvenirs of vicious encounters. Whenever we sneaked into the dormitory, we had to be on the look out for the maroon or dark green saree lurking behind the pillars. The CD dormitory was quite popular among the guys. There was a wooden almirah in the dormitory which had a life size mirror on the front. Some of the seniors would come to the dormitory and stand in front of it and adjust their 'cap style'. Bull amma would wait near the other door, waiting for the guy to step out and launch into attack.
The dormitory was her domain. She set the rules and you implicitly obeyed the rules. Unless you were early into bondage.
Or if you were Enrico Sandri.
Like Nadal and Federer, and Rakhi and Mika, Bull amma and Enrico saved their best for each other. If she was Bull Amma, he was 'Matador abbayi'. And they never had the small, mundane quarrels. Prayers in the assembly would be interrupted by a loud, "Oraaaaai Henrigaaaaaa!!!...BOOM! SLAM !! THUD !!!"
Enrico had done a One year diploma degree in how to piss Bull Amma off. While she would be mopping the dormitory, he would enter and do cartwheels in front of her, knowing fully well that she could not chase him. Not to be outdone, she deviced a strategy of her own. She would keep a long stick with her and hurl it at his legs. In one fight, she chased him into the prayer hall. Enrico ran upto the shrine, picked up the Muruga spear that was kept near the altar, and hurled it at her, breaking in into two. Even today, the spear has a tape joining it, a testimony to one of the greatest battles ever fought in the history of the school.
A few years back, we had gone to visit the school. She was sitting on the steps at the entrance. She recognised a few of us, smiled and asked us how we were. It seemed strange, the person whom we were petrified of seemed gentle, with kind eyes.
Just then, a kid who was being chased came running into the lobby. In a flash, amma caught hold of him. "Aaaaah....amma, sorry amma....aaaaahh"
Some things, they never change!