Al-Avalathi's Life (Al-Avalathi is the last Mallu to go to the Gelf)
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In school

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General Sundarji’s weekly column in Hindu was not the only reason why I was fascinated by the Army. I read every single of those columns that appeared in The Hindu. I liked the name, Generally Speaking. I liked the wordplay in it. The Week magazine had the Colonel’s column. This gentleman was anonymous. He still writes, I guess. Or he does not. The style and content were different, but at the end of the day both were columns by men in uniform.

A dog-eared Oxford dictionary at home had the defense defence hierarchy listed in the Appendix. I memorized them much before I started going through the words. In it, Army was the Royal Army. But a Manorama year book was always there to cross check. Ranks were almost the same. Apparently, they were similar across the world.
Through half of my schooling, my classes were held in Army barracks converted into classrooms. The new campus’ construction went on for ever. The entrance had a Howitzer captured from the Pakistanis. There was a Hanuman temple inside the campus and a peepal tree in front of it. Probably the first Peepal I saw in my life. We had unit-tests every month. On such days,  we prayed at the temple before the morning assembly. More than anything religious, praying in groups was a lot of merry making . Either we did not understand religion or we did not care much. Syed prayed. So did Sanish Jacob.
The Howitzer induced pride. And lots of it. We would go near that and read the plaque, touch the gun and feel proud more and even more. By then, the smartly dressed Military Police manning the gates opposite to the school would ask us to get off. We did. That guy could shoot us down. He had a gun, that too with bullets.
There were trees all over the campus. The kind of trees painted till their ‘knees’. You know the typical maroon(-ish) paint along with a white band? Or something like that. Amidst the groaning and moaning fans, classes were held. Sometimes, teachers took classes in the shades of trees. A drizzle. We would all run back into our classes. Having classes outside continued even when we moved to our newer premises. Must have been class 7. Prasanna teacher was teaching Science and her chair just toppled. She was alright. I mentioned this to her recently. She was embarrassed. If she reads this, she’ll still be.
I used to take a short cut to school. Walking through a stretch of paddy fields brought my school closer to me, literally. It was like getting into the Cantonment area through the backyard. The fence was always broken. Either they wanted to get out or someone wanted to go in. Good for me.
When the school moved, the buildings were classy. Classrooms were large and wide. 8 fans, 12 tubelights including 2 for the black boards. Yes, that’s luxury, but we had a long wait for this. Next to the new school was the MH(Military Hospital) and the Gurudwara opposite to it.
Prestige should have been some brand of whiskey. XXX Rum can only be a rum brand. Old faujis would buy their quota of bottles from the canteen close by and sell it clandestinely, not really. The bottles’ cartons would be lying all over the road from MH to the school. Some of them flew into our play ground.
Another nearby ground had an old abandoned tank in the middle. It was more like a landmark. It never moved. It was rusting away. So it could not have been a Pakistani tank. I still don’t know. There was a Tamarind tree in this ground. Raw tamarinds were yum, I tell you.
There was an SBT branch close by. It was here that Manjula teacher made us open our first bank accounts. My five rupees should still be there. I never went there.
There were jails. The high-walled buildings with only ventilators and no windows could not have been anything else. That was our conclusion. We did not dare to ask the guards there. While walking past the jails, we would only whisper if not stay mum. What if these people arrest us! Actually there were some teachers who should have ideally been in these prisons. Not just that squinted Chandrika teacher, but even that John sir who took SUPW for us. Padma teacher also. Or we should have locked these people inside a that abandoned tank. Would have been real fun. Hope someone does if they’re still like how they were back then.

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15 comments

1 NirmalaNo Gravatar { 06.22.10 at 7:53 am }

Super post first thing in the morning :)) Can still feel the cold chandanakkuri on my forehead as we finish our temple visit and rush to the school assembly. That peepal tree has been such a central part of our childhood – so many sports events, CCAs, lunches and endless chats :) I still remember playing on the steps under it – red blue green!? And falling as we tried to jump to white – which was the last step :) And on the smaller ground, we sometimes would have girls and boys playing kho-kho together – that would be like the event of the day in our naam ke vaste co-ed school! This post triggered so many memories and I can go on and on, but guess will wait for your next blog post on school days :)

2 Sujil PokkaVayalilNo Gravatar { 06.22.10 at 3:09 pm }

Took me back through time ….years …
the myth(?) of HMT and all …
man.. you got a thing.. recalling all these in detail … i guess your time then,was full of highpoints .. good read…

3 Sajith MNo Gravatar { 06.22.10 at 7:37 pm }

@Nikhil, Super awesome post. Brings back memories – lots of it. I joined KV Pangode in 7th, and then it was the old premises. Guess we moved in 8th (or am I wrong?)
@Nirmala, “naam ke vaste co-ed” – really?

4 NirmalaNo Gravatar { 06.22.10 at 7:48 pm }

Yes Sajith – we moved in 8th! I remember the classroom at the end of the corridor in level 2 – still brand new with the smell of fresh paint! Yeah, we never played together as kids. I am talking about 3rd/4th standards.

5 Preeti ShenoyNo Gravatar { 06.22.10 at 8:04 pm }

I could relate to a lot of things you mention here :) I think every KV has their versions of these teachers :)
Cheers
preeti

6 PoonamNo Gravatar { 06.23.10 at 11:57 am }

Very interestingly begun. :) I was in KV too, briefly in the one managed by Army. Most times tho it was managed by a refinery so it was a plush school as far as I can remember.

SUPW. Still not sure what useful activity did we ever conduct there. But yes, I too know my share of KV teachers who should have been jailed. :| But, they were most fun days.

P.S: Yes, raw tamarinds are yum. So are raw mangoes, especially if eaten inside the class behind the back of the teacher. :P

7 SabarinathNo Gravatar { 06.24.10 at 11:06 am }

Chandrika Teacher’s pinch, Padma Teacher’s hitting on the knuckles with scale, Kousalya Teacher’s “Kya Hai?”, John sir’s attitude that SUPW is the most imp paper in 12th Board….. Nostalgia

8 SabarinathNo Gravatar { 06.24.10 at 11:18 am }

@nirmala
wouldnt agree with your ‘naam ke vaaste co-ed’. when we were in 8th, the crushes, lines were so meshed up and messed up. Full co-ed. Everyone except one girl in my class involved. No points for guessing who.

9 gNo Gravatar { 06.27.10 at 9:10 pm }

:)

Loved it! And loved the voice that wrote it. Don’t let it grow up.

10 iPrashNo Gravatar { 06.28.10 at 6:25 am }

Very well written – memories of schooldays through streams of consciousness. Makes one believe one was actually there with you! We want more!

11 DeeptiNo Gravatar { 06.28.10 at 3:06 pm }

Nice post nikhil … every school is different but our pranks, memories and curiosity binds our memories for sure :D

12 sooryaNo Gravatar { 06.28.10 at 7:51 pm }

Anything on Kv in this page is always nostalgic :-)

13 maddyNo Gravatar { 06.29.10 at 4:45 pm }

These things remain with you – we had an old fighter plane in the school courtyard, and now you realize how such small things give flight to imagination & hope…

14 UshaNo Gravatar { 07.10.10 at 9:36 pm }

Pure nostalgia. Brought back all those capers in school time; though perhaps mine would sound really boring when compared to the varied landscapes, persons, and props mentioned here :) All the same, these memories are precious, even if some teachers in them aren’t! Just found a hilarious audio doing the rounds on FB, in which a little girl rings up a demolition co. and asks them to please demolish her school, and make sure that all the teachers are in it :D!
Nice one Nikhil… :) It was the title that drew me in. And I’m glad to be here again!

15 lipiNo Gravatar { 08.03.10 at 10:46 am }

Nice blog really… u freshen up all my memories of my school days..coincidently during my time in school we also shifted from old premises to the new one in KV Chandimandir of army cantt. same Army hospital in the premises and canteen etc. believe me I could relate with each and every word of your blog. as if it was my own. Good one….

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