The Times That Changed….

Nostalgia struck when I woke up early in the morning, earlier than usual. It has been more than ten years since I walked out of school. And today morning, I walked back to those days. A few steps from my bed, and I felt ten years younger (though my body and looks wouldn’t agree)! Certainly things were much better those days. Or was it actually so simple? Well, it seems to have been.

Invariably the best days of my life were spent in school. I never realized the value of those days. Life has taken twists and turns, climbed uphill and fallen off the edge. Yet when I think of my days in school, it warms my heart like no other. When emotions seem to take me for a roller-coaster ride, I tend to take refuge in the comfort of those memories. I guess we all have similar comfort zones. For me, it is school – familiar, friendly and secure.

Memories of school are not restricted to events within the school. Not to studies either. Perhaps it has got more to do with things other than studies. Some of the small, subtle things came back to mind today morning. The routine was different then. To be up from bed at six was considered normal (whereas it is a struggle to wake up at half past seven nowadays)! With a cup of steaming hot coffee in hand (thanks to mom), newspaper was fetched from the gate. Cricket and football mattered more than the political headlines on the front page. It happens to be so even now, if the newspaper is given a glance (another forgotten habit).

Newspaper was soon dumped in a heap on the table, and the dash for bath is made. Needless to say, the dash was made to escape the stares from around the living room. It was a time when early morning rituals were followed diligently (wait! the reference is to the religious ones!!!). Prayer was a time for concentration with a flow of spiritual energy. The transition from college to work took away some of the habits and this was one of them. My parents are disappointed but I always feel that the drive should come from within.

Once the prayers are done, stomach starts anticipating a typical South Indian vegetarian breakfast. The feeling of hunger was habitually related to the time of bath. Till the point my bath and prayers were done, I wouldn’t have thought about breakfast and wouldn’t have felt hungry. Thoughts would turn to food once the rituals were completed. Those were times when both my parents were working in central government establishments. They had to leave for work earlier than my time for school. Breakfast with my brother was always eventful – debates, quarrels and what not! Ceasefire would have to be declared by our maid. Fortunately, we had a full time maid – we never treated her like one though. For us, she was as much a part of the family as everyone else. Her efficiency has been integral to the smooth operation of the household.

The time immediately after breakfast was devoted to two activities – ironing my uniform and listening to the radio. Cable TV had not yet become popular, Doordarshan offered sufficient entertainment and the radio was still an essential element in the household. My dad loves music and I was fortunate to know about the music of the yesteryears from him. His addiction to the radio caught up with me too. The FM station in Trivandrum, currently christened Ananthapuri FM at 101.9 Megahertz, had started its trial run during my higher secondary school days. The trial broadcasts from the FM station were the best that I have ever listened to, for the variety of music. Once it was officially inaugurated, it became formal but didn’t lose its charm. With the music set to high volume, ironing of my uniform would commence. White shirt and black trousers – thirteen years passed in this attire.

Those were the times when a day at school was never a chore. We looked forward to being at school. It was a symbol of freedom for us and we believe that our school has been integral in shaping our views and character, and we are proud of it too. It was one of the most celebrated boys’ schools in town – one with a legacy of its own. After classes on a regular day, we would be on the grounds to play. The school buses, six in number by the time we passed, had a regular evening trip immediately after classes were over.  One of the buses would make another trip later during the evening. This gave us an opportunity to play the sports we all had grown to love – cricket & football. By the time I reached home, the white shirt would be soaked in sweat and would have turned almost brown in colour. As time passed, I was given an order not to use my uniform while playing and I started taking a spare shirt with me.

The evening rituals were followed diligently, similar to the morning rituals. It took me five years into my job to realize how much my persona had changed. The positive energy and a composed visage gave way to lots of negative energy and an inconsistent expression. The price was paid in the form of several painful moments, physical and psychological. A diary was maintained to pour out my thoughts and several of them were burnt at a later point of time when it turned into classified property. The times have transformed and the comfort has shifted from scribbling out characters on paper to typing it out on a screen.

And as I lie down to sleep, thoughts race around like cars in a circuit – making extremely swift laps in the same route. The moment sleep arrives is actually pure bliss – it is me and my world. Into my silent private world I shrink – I have my own demons to fight and my own battle to wage for the betterment of my world.

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