AN ODE TO FRIENDSHIP

“True friendship comes when silence between two people is comfortable”. This quote came to mind when I recently met a few of my school friends – some of them after thirty odd years! The moment we met, we started conversing as if the three decades of taciturnity that existed between us did not matter at all. That, in short, is the quintessence of friendship that is formed in schools. One of the reasons that most of us reminisce our school days and miss them so thoroughly is not because of the nostalgia that pops up in our minds. Subconsciously, it is because we miss the friends that we made in our school – friends with whom we had unforgettable experiences, not to mention unadulterated fun. We make many friends in our life, but school friends are the ones that are remembered for eternity.

My younger sibling studied in a convent close to my then residence, and I went to an English-medium south Indian school some distance away from home. This was mainly due to the fact that my parents unwittingly decided on our educational institutes based on where they had studied – so my sister went to the convent my mother studied in, and I to the school where my father completed his education from. Fortunately, I have no regrets that I went to the school I did. In addition to having excellent teachers, the school also taught me to read and write my mother-tongue (Malayalam) and also introduced me to Sanskrit (a language I admit, I have no recollection of). Being a south Indian school, it was natural that I also picked up more than a smattering of Tamil. But the best part of the school was the friends that I made during my decade plus educational career there. My sister (who is four years younger) and I were not the best of friends then (though we are very close now), so going to school to be among friends who I could relate to was an edifying and enjoyable experience. The other joyous factor for me in school was the fact that my maternal grandmother (who I have eulogized in an earlier blog) used to visit me virtually every day during the lunch break, with sweets, savouries and other goodies. Add to it that she looked like a teacher (though she was not) and was extremely friendly with the school’s teachers, gained me a lot of respect in school. I also had my cousin, (a year older), literally playing big brother to me. I being very puny during my school days, he would protect me from bullies (even to the extent of bashing up a boy from a higher class for terrorizing me), and invariably reserve a seat for me in the school bus daily. He was and remains a dear friend in the guise of a brother. And then there were my contemporaries – classmates with whom I could openly discuss matters that I would dare not raise at home. With them I could debate, consult, argue, fight, plot, plan, share, borrow, etc. and they would not feel bad about it. In fact, I have a friend with whom I shared the school bench right from kindergarten to the tenth grade. We have had innumerable fights (he has broken my glasses and I have torn his shirt), but we remain friends to this day. I could openly shed tears when I was among them (something that was a strict no-no at home), in their presence I could freely discuss taboo topics (another thing that I never dared do with my parents), and use the choicest of invectives when I was with them (definitely not possible at home!). We would have regular dares, primarily where one of us would have to go and talk one-on-one to a girl in class (many of us would shy away from it but some would do it lief) only to stultify themselves. A visit to the teacher’s room was an adventure in itself, with the visitor having to narrate the whole experience and share any juicy gossip that was gathered in the excursion. A visit to the Principal’s office was even more venerated, and the one who was a frequent visitor, was revered and looked up to with awe. “Mugging up” before the exams was our favourite pastime, and each of us would exceed the other in boasting about our lucubration skills. After school hours, “hand” cricket and football matches played in the concretized compound was something that many of us looked forward to – scratches and injuries sustained notwithstanding. Eating sandwiches and ice-golas from roadside stalls used to be the secret pleasure we all enthusiastically indulged in. Corporal punishment was the favourite intimidation tool that our teachers used and this was surprisingly acceptable during our school days. The most we could do was protest to our parents, who would in turn rebuke us saying that we deserved it! But I do vividly remember one occasion when my father had stormed into the Principal’s office as my cousin had been slapped by a teacher and had a swollen face as proof. My father being an ex-student knew the principal and raised hue and cry in his office, but was eventually calmed down after being assured of such a thing never being repeated.

I am sure all of us have fascinating memories of our school days. Even now when we school friends meet (I am not as regular for these gatherings, but whenever possible I do make it), we break out into fits of laughter when we ruminate those nonage days. Those were the days we would look for an escape from the agony of examinations and the tyranny of teachers. Little did we know that once we grew up, we would once again yearn to re-live those days!!!

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