I have met a lot of friends after we passed out from school, and most of the time, I am surprised at the transformation that has taken place. Some who were considered 'duds' are now the most successful, silent guys have become extroverts, and there is a sense of rebellion in almost everybody. Another thing is that when they step out, almost everybody has long hair. (At least for a few years, till like me, they realise they look like a rickshaw wala).
But when there are talks of meeting up, it is always found that some of the guys are unwilling to meet up. Many are ashamed to admit they studied at Puttaparthi and instead say they studied somewhere in the outskirts of Bangalore. Some do not want to talk to the rest of the batchmates. This has never failed to surprise me.
How could this be? We were given the perfect education, weren't we? The flowers in the Garden of Sai or whatever. Why then would these so called flowers not bear to talk to each other then?
I think the problem was too much judgement. Even before we could make sense of the rules, the language, and the daily routine, we were categorised into good and bad. Into bright and dull. Into form boys and rakshashas. Too early in life, and these tags stayed for ten years.
If there is anything about my schooling that I regret, it is this categorisation. I know it is difficult to control a large number of kids, and that sometimes we did get under the teachers' skins, and onto their nerves. But still, sometimes the categorisation was too much. And it was in this habit that our education became pretty much one-dimensional. Sports was extra-curricular, other talents were only to be noticed during competitions. If there were two things you had to be good at, it was studies and behaviour. I found it a little stifling.
Rules are meant to be broken, I know. But some of the rules were completely ridiculous. One of the main problems I had with the school was the rule against talking. I talked a lot - while eating, during darshan, during classes, and also sometimes in my sleep. And I got punished for that too. But how can you ban talking? Children are human beings after all. How will they communicate if they do not talk?
We did not have parents to talk to, nor could we go talk to someone after school. The teachers weren’t exactly E.R.Braithwaites, so we couldn’t talk to them. And I really could not understand what the fuss was about talking. Come to think of it, talking to each other was illegal throughout the day, with games time being the only legal talking time. If children do not talk, do not communicate, what will they do? Write autobiographies? Develop spiritual theories??
Another rule I could not understand was the rule that banished people from going to others' rooms. I understand this rule was created when swami had once said that boys are going from one room to another like cats and dogs. Now, even someone with a basic understanding of things would tell you that the problem lay elsewhere. But the brilliant minds there could do nothing but take the statement verbatim and ban people from entering others' rooms. So, if you wanted to talk to someone about something, you could not enter their room. You had to stand at the door and speak to the person.
And then, there was a brilliant rule in C floor, under which, if you were caught entering a friend's room, your luggage would be sent to that room and you had to stay there. Now, this was completely baffling. Its like saying, alcohol is banned, but if you are caught drinking, you will be given a crate of beer and asked to drink it all. But nonetheless, I enjoyed this rule. Half of my time in C floor was spent in others' rooms, as most of the time the guys in my room were mini-Bhakta Prahalads.
Lastly, the habit of tagging people was more common in the high school than the primary school. If you were weak in studies in Class 1, the tag stuck till you left school. If you were talkative, it meant you were a criminal. Though it was alright in the primary school, there was a sudden transformation in the high school, when a seat in the eleventh standard was on top of everyone's minds.
A lot of my friends stopped talking to me, for fear of being branded as a bad boy. In Class 10, a lot of my friends would get letters from the teachers asking them to stay away from me. There have been instances when parents have called up, asked for me, and specifically asked me to stay away from their children. It took a little time to digest, but it did eventually sink in. That a seat in 11th standard was probably more important than sharing a Sardarji joke. And if they did speak to you, their palms would be reddened with a wooden ruler.
We might have been the flowers of Sai. We might have been monkeys in the Vaanar Sena in Treta yuga, and Gopikas in Dwapar Yuga, and struck third time lucky being students in Cyber Yuga. But behind it all, was a complex structure of trying to figure out who you were, who your friends were, and why everything was black and white.
And then, may be you can understand why some of the guys do not wish to acknowledge their friends once they have left school. May be they are still scared of being judged, compared, and asked to shut up. If there is someone like that, leave them be. They have made the choice they have, and you have the memories of the days you spent together.