There’s a Catholic school a 5-minute walk away from where I live. They have an adjacent church with a cross atop a spire that’s visible from my window, and church bells ring now and again during the day. When the bells ring, I wonder what the kids in the school are up to – Is it time for a prayer? Are they assembling in a special room for lunch?
Of course these questions pop up because of the many rituals we had in school. We had a Mary behind a glass wall at the entrance landing that kids jostled to touch for morning blessing, and a chapel with clean floor tiles that was always deserted. When Principals changed, we wondered if the new Sister would be stricter or distribute nicer gifts on Children’s day. There were speaker announcements to gather somewhere class-wise to deliver yet another announcement, and a bunch of similar school things.
What I was most curious about, however, was the school’s boarding facility.
From what we’d heard, life there was unappealing – you had to pray at least twice a day, wash your own clothes, go to bed early, other general dull stuff. However, to me, the plus that paled all cons was that you could walk the empty grounds in the evening when nobody was around, the red earth glowing in the brilliant evening sun.
That was a sight you only saw if you happened to be at school for summer classes, or in the evenings after board exams while walking to the main gate entrance. Or if you had to arrive in the early hours for a class trip or an ISC meet – in which case you’d likely be running around to locate a student or to grab hold of your event’s teacher-in-charge. And you would steal glances from afar of the ground stretched out in the twilight, like stealing precious memories. 🙂
In tenth during Youth Festival week , a junior in our dance team was staying at the boarding cos her family was not in town. She was a window into the intriguing world with her tidbits : they had to wake up early in the morning, sit at a common table for meals, show up on time for prayer at the sparkling-clean chapel. One evening before practice, she went to her room to leave her bags and brought back with her the evening snack – it was pudina chutney sandwich, humble, believable. But of course, I thought, you could stroll around the ground any time you want to, alone or with a friend, in non-uniform clothes (slightly crinkled, because you washed them yourself), soaking in the peace.
After our last board exam in twelfth, we were slowly walking from New hall to the front gate. It was our last day in school, in uniform. We were exhausted and hadn’t planned anything special, no clicking pictures either. I think Divya said that out loud, the rest of us nodded and hmmed. As we passed by I realized I never got to stay at the boarding, never got the golden grounds to myself after all.