Everyday after lunch, when I sit in my cubicle, there takes place a tug of war contest between me and that voice within me that keeps reminding me of my deadlines. Sometimes I win and peacefully lay my head down on the desk and visit Alice in wonderland for a few minutes. But sometimes, I capitulate to the urges of the voice within and put up a fight, to stay awake. When faced with defeat, as an act of rebellion, I stare intensely at the monitor and do nothing but scroll up and down the file using the 'Page Up' and 'Page Down' buttons.
On one such trip to wonderland, I was back in my school days with friends, recapitulating those wonderful, fun-filled moments that I had. The rusty old building which occupied a measly three floors of vertical space is not worth writing about and neither is the dingy classroom into which all of us were huddled. About the campus, the less said the better. Only Lilliputians would have called it big. The surroundings were nothing to brag about either. 'Valluvar Kottam' which neighboured the school was not exactly a hotspot for escapades of any kind. But what does inspire me to write is the warm blooded creatures that inhabitted that room from 9.00 AM to 3.15 PM on all weekdays. We were all made of flesh and blood. The similarities ended there, each of us unique in our own ways.
I occupied the last benches for most parts of my academic career. A born back-bencher, my gurus never had second thoughts about confining me to the last rows of a classroom. Those of you who have been accorded such honors as a permanent back bench position would know the privileges that this position offers. When to listen to the instructor, when to look at that girl to the right of you and when to play naughts and crosses with your benchmate becomes your prerogative. When faced with a boring session on 'Lateral Thinking' or 'Economics', the option of not listening to it, is something that many would give their right hand for.
A typical day would begin with Mrs.VM, our class teacher entering the class for the roll call. The roll call was a much awaited event everyday and though day after day, she called out the names in the same order, in the same way, none got bored listening to it. Infact you could be sure that this was the only time that all of us would be listening to her. Be it roll call or teaching us trigonometry, MrsVM would punctuate it with frequent yawns, opening her so mouth wide that you could put your fist inside and play with her larynx. The more scientifically inclined amongst us ruminated that the amount of oxygen she could suck in, with her mouth that wide open would suffice an oridnary individual for five 'breath cycles'. A statistical study revealed that she yawned thirty times an average in a session lasting for forty minutes giving a yawn average of 0.67 per minute !!!!!
While Mrs VM would be busy reading problems on linear algebra (the reading punctuated with gigantic yawns) the rest of us would be busy updating ourselves with the happenings in each other's lives. Some would be pursuing private agendas wooing the damsels. Take for instance this guy who joined school the same year as me. At an age when most of his friends were grappling with the effects of testosterone, he had a girl friend !. Well no, Cupid struck no arrows and romance evaded me then too.
Lunch was never a peaceful affair. Even before any lunch boxes were opened, the predators would be out sniffing for their prey. The curd rice, the sambhar rice and all allied rice items were spared of the butchery. The chappathis, the paranthas, the puris and the biryanis were attacked with a fervour and vigour never seen anywhere. Civilization would be at its lowest level, but we never gave a damn. Infact after witnessing one particular raid on the lunchbox of a guy who dared to bring some delicious Biryani, passersby commented that rugby could be termed as a gentleman's game.
Gossip and chat sessions that were not completed within school time were continued on the telephone from the comforts of home. I am sure we contributed majorly to BSNL's revenue. On days before tests BSNL's profits would soar to new levels. N people would call N-1 people to find out how much of the portions N-1 people had completed. Truly, there are somethings in life that money can't buy. One of them is the comfort of knowing that there are people who have not studied as much as you and are as ill-prepared as you. Calls would be made, not just to find out how much the other person had studied, but also to discuss probabilities of questions appearing and not appearing. Minutes (and sometimes hours) would be spent discussing how important some questions were and some not. The following day would reveal that decibels of energy had been wasted on nothing. It was only later in life that I read a book on Murphy's laws.
Free time was never wasted on trivialities like academics. We had our priorities right and the gossip sessions would start within minutes. Some indulged in more interesting activities like pushing unsuspecting innocent guys on to the laps of even more unsuspecting girls (that lucky guy !!!). Any discussion, whatsoever be the starting point would always converge on topics related to the opposite sex. The conservative guy would state in a serious tone that the girl of his dreams should be righteous, virtuous and devoted to him. The more anatomy-inclined ones would mock in disdain at the above claim and profess that their girls should have hourglass figures. The all desiring ones would unequivocally claim that a combination of both is a must. Ah!, simple demands we had - straight records and curved statistics.
In retrospect, the times that I spent within the walls of that classroom are some of the best ever. Today with most of us being located in different latitudes and longitudes of the globe, I wonder if we shall all ever meet again. A few excited frequencies in a ray of light we were and each year acted as a prism, dispersing us further and further away. Some left school the same year, some the next year and for college all of us trod different paths. Life does not offer the same destiny to everybody and I knew the scattering was inevitable. But at times, its irreconcilable. One thing's for sure -the people with whom I have maintained contact since those times, I shall continue to do so, be it dinner at a restaurant (if they are in town) or bytes of characters through the www.