Subscribe for Newsletters and Discounts
Be the first to receive our thoughtfully written
religious articles and product discounts.
By registering, you may receive account related information, our email newsletters and product updates, no more than twice a month. Please read our Privacy Policy for details.
.
Share
Share our website with your friends.
Email this page to a friend
By subscribing, you will receive our email newsletters and product updates, no more than twice a month. All emails will be sent by Exotic India using the email address info@exoticindia.com.

Please read our Privacy Policy for details.
|6
Your Cart (0)
Books > Language and Literature > The Penguin Book of Schooldays: Recess
Displaying 3530 of 4419         Previous  |  NextSubscribe to our newsletter and discounts
The Penguin Book of Schooldays: Recess
The Penguin Book of Schooldays: Recess
Description

Whatever else we forget in our lives, memories of our schooldays stay on forever. We may think of them with longing or wish that we could forget about them, but there's no getting away from them. That crucial winning run scored in an inter-class match will act as a salve for all future failures; that prefectship denied in high school will fester despite the progress one may have made in life thereafter.

Recess: The Penguin Book of Schooldays brings together over fifty moving and human accounts of school, covering a period of around 200 years, as seen through the eyes of some of the finest minds India has produced—from Lal Behari Dey and Dayananda Saraswati to Premchand and Harivansh Rai Bachchan; from Andre Beteille and Nirad Chaudhuri to Vikram Seth and Amit Chaudhuri; from Ismat Chughtai and Sheila Dhar to Dilip Simeon and Shuddhabrata Sengupta.

The poems, essays and stories in Recess take us to the heart of the Indian school experience covering missionary, religious, residential, municipal, village and refugee schools; and reflect on the different emotions that this institution evokes: indifference, rage, fond nostalgia. While Satyajit Ray remembers participating in an event called 'musical drawing' and writing with 'nibs that had to be dipped into the inkwells built into our desks', Ved Mehta writes about learning Braille for the first time and taking part in a variety of races: Biscuit Race, Leapfrog Race. Mihir Bose reminisces about his days at St Xavier's High School, Bombay, and its sports master Father Fritz who predicted Sunil Gavaskar's rise to greatness as a cricketer even as P.T. Usha shares her experiences at the Cannanore Sports Division, training for future glory while

Coming to terms with eating eggs and meat. Farrukh Dhondy’s delightful take on the eternal conflict between day scholars and boarders contrasts with Omprakash Valmiki’s somber account of the obstacles he faced as an untouchable in order to become the first high school graduate of his neighbourhood.

This magnificent collection casts a clear and mostly unsentimental eye over a familiar childhood battleground, making us recall and re-examine our own schooldays. Palash Krishna Mehrotra’s delightfully irreverent introduction sets the tone for what is the most comprehensive anthology on the subject to date. Subversive and honest, Recess will remain the definitive record of the Indian experience of school for years to come.

Palash Krishna Mehrotra was born in Bombay in 1875 and educated at St Stephen’s College, Delhi, the Delhi School of Economics and Balliol College, Oxford. He is Contributing Editor at Rolling Stone, and writes a regular column for Mail Today. In the past, he has worked for tehelka.com and taught at the Doon School. Eunuch Park, his first collection of stories, will be published by Penguin in 2009. He is currently writing a non-fiction book on young India called The Butterfly Generation. He lives in Dehra Dun with his grandmother.

Recess

The Penguin Book of

Schooldays

Edited by

Palash Krishna Mehrotra

PENGUIN BOOKS

For Shankar, Rishi and Tanks Thank you for de-schooling me

Boxing my ears, a teacher said, How much is thirty-three times thirty-eight? Rapping my knuckles, a teacher said, And where's Sheffield then? Where's Sheffield? Squeezing my thigh, a teacher said, Let's go to the mango grove.

—Arun Kolatkar, 'Biograph'

When I was thirteen I finished going to school. I do not want to boast about it, I merely give it to you as a historical fact.

—Rabindranath Tagore,

Talks

If we went to the school in neat and clean clothes, then our class fellows said, Abey, Chuhre ke, he has come dressed in new clothes.' If one went wearing old and shabby clothes, then they said, Abey, Chuhre ke, get away from me, you stink.'

—Omprakash Valmiki, Joothan: A Dalit's Life

School seemed to prove that work was one thing and living another.

—Farrukh Dhondy, Poona Company

CONTENTS

Introduction

XV

Lai Behari Dey
From Recollections of My School-days

1

Swami Dayananda Saraswati
From Autobiography of Dayananda Saraswati

8

Fakir Mohan Senapati From Story of My Life

11

Rabindranath Tagore
From My Life in My Words

17

From Boyhood Days

20

Ramabai Ranade
From Memoirs of Our Life Together

24

Krupabai Satthianadhan
The Story of a Conversion

28

M.K. Gandhi
From An Autobiography or
The Story of My Experiments with Truth

K.S. Ranjitsinhji
From The Jubilee Book of Cricket

36

Premchand
Big Brother

3 8

Jawaharlal Nehru
From An Autobiography

46

B.R. Ambedkar
From Autobiographical Notes

51

Nirad C. Chaudhuri
From The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian

55

Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit
From The Scope of Happiness

63

Asha Mukul Das
From Santiniketan: Learning from a Way of Life

66

A.N. Sattanathan
From Plain Speaking: A Sudra's Story

70

R.K. Narayan
From My Days

78

Harivansh Rai Bachchan
From In the Afternoon of Time

83

Ismat Chughtai
From The Crooked Line

89

Satyajit Ray
From Childhood Days: A Memoir

107

Nayantara Sahgal
From Prison and Chocolate Cake

112

Dharma Kumar
Scenes from Scholastic Life

115

Sheila Dhar
A Taste of British Guiana

119

Ursula Sharma
From Rampal and His Family

123

Ved Mehta From Vedi

126

V.K. Madhavan Kutty
From The Village Before Time

134

André Béteille
Boarding School

139

Kamala Das
From My Story

148

Keki N. Daruwalla Childhood Poem

152

Sasthi Brata
From My God Died Young

156

Eunice de Souza Sweet Sixteen

162

Adil Jussawalla
In Memory of the Old School

164

Vilas Sarang
On the Stone Steps

166

Farrukh Dhondy
From 'Boomerang'

175

Mihir Bose
From A Maidan View. The Magic of Indian Cricket

185

Dilip Simeon
Of Bagpipes, Horses and Golden Orioles

193

Omprakash Valmiki
From Joothan: A Dalit's Life

202

Vikram Seth
On Founder's Day

210

Rohinton Mistry
From 'Exercisers'

220

Richard Crasta
From The Revised Kama Sutra: A Novel of Colonialism and Desire

222

Manohar Shetty Fireflies

229

Narendra Jadhav
From Outcaste: A Memoir

231

Aamer Hussein Singapore Jay

236

Rukun Advani
From Beethoven Among the Cows

247

Cyrus Mistry
From The Radiance of Ashes

254

Upamanyu Chatterjee From Weight Loss

262

Sharmistha Mohanty From New Life

271

Amit Chaudhuri
From 'Four Days Before the Saturday Night Social'

277

Suketu Mehta
From Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found

282

Sudeep Chakravarti From Tin Fish

289

P.T. Usha
From Golden Girl

292

Rohit Manchanda
From In the Light of the Black Sun

296

Rani Siva Sankara Sarma
From The Last Brahmin: Life and Reflections of a Modern-day Sanskrit Pandit

306

Shuddhabrata Sengupta Recess

309

Tenzin Tsundue
From 'My Kind of Exile'

319

From 'Celebrating Exile—I: Education and Outlook'

320

Paromita Vohra Osmosis

323

Anjum Hasan
Coming of Age in a Convent School

333

Siddharth Chowdhury Fuselage

335

Palash Krishna Mehrotra Pornography

340

The Superfuzz School'

349

Copyright Acknowledgements

351

Acknowledgements

355

INTRODUCTION

I got the idea for this anthology when I took up a teaching position at Doon School, Dehra Dun. School teaching must be one of the most unglamorous professions in the world. Everyone from the neighbours to college friends to the students themselves think you are a loser. Many of my own students asked me the same question over and over again: 'Sir, if you went to St Stephen's and Oxford, then what on earth are you doing here?' W.H. Auden, briefly a schoolmaster himself, once wrote, '...if one were invited to dine with a company representing all trades and professions, the schoolmaster is the last person one would want to sit next to.' He goes on to complain, 'Far too many masters are silted-up old maids, earnest young scoutmasters, or just generally dim.

It is difficult to say why we do what we do. I have an innate mistrust of statements of purpose. They always have a false ring to them: 'I want to join your multinational because I have excellent leadership qualities'; 'I want to do a course in development economics because I want to eradicate poverty ; I teach because I think children are the future and I want to play my role in shaping this future.

I had no such lofty ideals. I've always liked kids more than adults and am blessed with enormous reserves of patience. These were, I thought, good enough reasons to take up a teaching job.

I taught for three-and-a-half years. I got ragged plenty as a new teacher. I lost my temper quite a few times. But, in the end, it was all worthwhile. I left not because I was unhappy but because I had received an advance for a book I always wanted to write. It required travelling and I couldn't possibly be in two places at the same time.

Mention the word 'school' and you get a variety of responses. Some feign amnesia. Some get dreamy-eyed. Some never seem to get over that crucial goal they scored (or failed to score) in a 7B vs 7C hockey match. Public school founders day functions are a good occasion to observe this type. No matter what life gives or takes from you, no matter how old you get, you always return to the playing fields of your early adolescence. You might have been unfairly overlooked for promotion, your business might be failing, your parents might be dying, but these tragedies will ultimately be overshadowed by the prefectship that was denied to you in high school. Finally, there are those who hate school unequivocally. All they remember is the terror and the trauma, I once met a woman at a party who launched into an attack on the nuns in her old school. With every whisky she seemed to get more worked up. 'What were they thinking?' she kept muttering. 'Who did they think they were, those frustrated bitches.'

Schools can be extremely unpleasant places no doubt, but why does this experience overshadow everything else? Sasthi Brata, writing in My God Died Young, wondered:

How does a man remember what words who spoke at what time (especially when that 'time' happens to be the 'years of immaturity')? Why would 'bamboo meeting bum' (at adolescence) make a greater impact on a man's life than adult love, misfortune or achievement? Why should one display a 'passionate interest in the contents of lavatories' when there are flowers, Bach or butterflies? And if school was such a dreadful place why dwell so insistently on those days?

A few pages later, Brata attempts to answer the question himself:

Because pain is easier to recall than happiness; because the exact temper of a beautiful sunset or fulfilled love is harder to capture in words than cruelty, the instances of battered vanity, or the chill of adolescent fear. Also because (however unwilling we are to admit it) these things leave permanent impressions, mould our personalities more than the ecstasies of an autumn afternoon or birdsong on the first spring morning.

Cruelty is an integral part or school life. Brata writes about the boys in his school being 'psychological fodder for pathological monsters but from experience I know that school is not a simple power equation with the boys on one side and the teachers on the other. Children are capable of perpetrating enormous cruelty on fellow children. The opening of Michel Houellebecq's novel Atomised covers this ground rather well. The school in the novel is French but what goes on inside it underlies a reality that is universal.

Children can also be extremely cruel to their teachers. In Cyrus Mistry's novel The Radiance of Ashes, the school bully plays an oily prank on Ghanshyam, the Sanskrit master, a gentle soul, whose reputation of being a sacrificial goat preceded him, communicated unfailingly to every fresh batch of students by those satiated gremlins who reluctantly moved out of his academic orbit'. He slips on a puddle of oil and slides down the stairs, hurting himself badly in the process. Ghanshyam's wife has cancer but the boys are unaware: 'And all these months while they were making life miserable for Ghanshyam, just for a lark, a giggle, a distraction, privately he had been trying to cope with something much bigger. Something that was probably quite beyond their comprehension.'

Sexuality, too, is integral to school life, not least because it is within the school's boundaries that children grow into adolescence, where they become aware of themselves as sexual beings. The response of most Indian schools is to deny that this happens. But denial and control is one thing, fact another. In her novel, The Crooked Line, Ismat Chughtai writes about a teacher who is forced to leave the residential school where she teaches because a student, who has recently developed a crush on her, sneaks into her room at night and is discovered cuddled up in her bed. Kamala Das describes a lovelorn girl in boarding school who writes romantic letters to herself, while Cyrus Mistry tells us about a coercive arrangement in a day school: After school hours, a very select few boys—and particularly one effeminate puny fellow by the name of Percy—were entrusted with the dark privilege or providing Hippo with secret pleasures in the cubicles of the vast student latrine.'

It is also in school that we are made aware of our social status, the hierarchies to which our parents belong in the outside world. Schools are part of the fabric of society, and, to that extent, they mirror the prejudices of the larger society in which they are situated. In the school in which I studied, every new academic year began with the teacher asking the boys what their fathers did for a living. Upamanyu Chatterjee writes about it in Weight Loss: 'On the first day in the new class, Miss Jeremiah had asked everybody what their fathers did and Dosto had ceased to be part of the blur when she discovered that his father held a position of some importance in the Ministry of Communications. Within a week, she got her home phone connection...

In his autobiography, Joothan: A Dalit's Life, Omprakash Valmiki tells a story about a story. Master Saheb is teaching a lesson. He tells the boys, with tears in his eyes, that Dronacharya had fed flour mixed in water to his famished son, Aswatthama. This episode is narrated by Vyasa, the author of the Mahabharata, to illustrate Drona's poverty: he couldn't afford milk so he fed his son gruel. The young Valmiki, a Dalit, cannot resist asking a question: 'So Aswatthama was given flour mixed in water, but what about us who had to drink mar? How come we were never mentioned in any epic?' Master Saheb is livid: 'Darkest Kaliyug has descended upon us so that an untouchable is daring to talk back.' Valmiki is beaten with a teak stick: 'Chuhre ke, you dare compare yourself with Dronacharya ... Here, take this, I will write an epic on your body.' Valmiki concludes: 'This epic composed of feudalistic mentality is inscribed not just on my back but on each nerve of my brain.'

Many boarding schools claim that they have been able to create classless, casteless Utopias. Vikram Seth, in his founder's day address at Doon School, has spoken of the difference between residential schools and others: 'For though in a day school we would have had the company and affection and example of our parents, we would also have absorbed their social prejudices, and after school hours we would have mixed largely with children of the same social background, locality and economic class.' Doon School was different because the boys 'got the same amount of pocket money. Caste did not matter, religion did not matter, the part of the country you came from did not matter, the social status of your family was unimportant.' How true this claim is, is a matter of contention. One might argue that boarding schools create Utopias within a largely homogenous class, and in doing so they perpetuate larger social inequalities (by drawing their student base from a certain class only) rather than do away with them altogether. Also, though Utopias they might be, they very soon spawn their own hierarchies and class systems which bear an uncanny resemblance to the hierarchies in the outside world. In one residential school that I know of, the sons of old boys go into a particular house; first-generation students at the institution are distributed among other houses. This separation is done at the time of joining. Students might eat the same food and wear the same white shirts, but the divisions between old and new money, which exist in the world outside, have managed to establish themselves in the heart of boarding school Utopia.

Schools are established for the purpose of imparting education and instilling, to use a dubious phrase, 'good values'. Often, they end up being about other things. More often than not, they end up killing the student's curiosity. The poet and Tibet activist Tenzin Tsundue has written about how the classroom got in the way of his natural inclination towards poetry: 'Behind one such closed door, in front of the stunned and staring eyes of my classmates, our teacher demanded from me a recitation of the poem we were told to learn by heart the previous day. My poor memory could retain only the first few lines and then I went blank.' It was the world outside, not school, which rekindled his interest: 'I hated poetry in school until I discovered graveyards. The old inji graveyard on the hillside of Dharamsala was a quiet getaway. The beautiful lines the living wrote to their dead loved ones engraved in ornate calligraphy on headstones revealed to me what poetic magic words could create.

Fortunately, children are not fools who believe everything that schools tell them. As Farrukh Dhondy writes in his story 'Boomerang', there was 'a tacit understanding, a rejection of "character", "tradition","discipline" and gentlemanliness. We had as much use for these as we had for test tubes of mud from the school drive.

Schools have long been seen as places where children first manifest their adult personality. It's a simple, convenient linearity which suits everyone. Someone who is good at sport in junior school will be good at sports in his second year of college. Someone who is studious in his younger years will grow up to be an academic. But, as experience shows, schooldays are a notoriously unreliable guide to what the future holds.

The sociologist M.N. Srinivas was more interested in cricket than reading as a schoolboy. He even had his own team, the Bradman XI, which won a small shield in a local tournament. And Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the philosopher and statesman, displayed little inclination either towards books or sports. As S. Gopal writes in his biography: 'His main activity was to play truant and walk long distances from village to village, utilizing the scholarship money and whatever was sent from home to pay for his food en route.' Once, he was even waylaid by a highwayman who searched for the gold ornaments that Brahmin boys were supposed to wear in those days. Not finding anything he finally let him go rather than push him into a well. This didn't discourage the young Radhakrishnan at all. He continued in his wayward ways, not turning up in school on the day the forms for the lower - secondary examinations were being filled. This was a public exam in those days and a mandatory requirement for promotion into the next class. A sympathetic headmaster overlooked the rules and filled the form out on Radhakrishnan's behalf. Gopal writes: 'Radhakrishnan was sensible enough to turn up for the examinations themselves.'

At best, schools can point out the straight and narrow. There are roads leading off the beaten track, but school was never in the business of pointing them out. Those who are good enough find them on their own; those who can't are condemned to attending class reunions for the rest of their lives.

[...continued from the front flap] coming to terms with eating eggs and meat. Farrukh Dhondy's delightful take on the eternal conflict between day scholars and boarders contrasts with Omprakash Valmiki's sombre account of the obstacles he faced as an untouchable in order to become the first high school graduate of his neighbourhood.

This magnificent collection casts a clear and mostly unsentimental eye over a familiar childhood battleground, making us recall and re-examine our own schooldays. Palash Krishna Mehrotra's delightfully irreverent introduction sets the tone for what is the most comprehensive anthology on the subject to date. Subversive and honest, Recess will remain the definitive record of the Indian experience of school for years to come.

PALASH KRISHNA MEHROTRA was born in Bombay in 1975 and educated at St Stephen's College, Delhi, the Delhi School of Economics and Balliol College, Oxford. He is Contributing Editor at Rolling Stone, and writes a regular column for Mail Today. In the past, he has worked for tehelka.com and taught at the Doon School. Eunuch Park, his first collection of stories, will be published by Penguin in 2009. He is currently writing a non-fiction book on young India called The Butterfly Generation. He lives in Dehra Dun with his grandmother.

The Penguin Book of Schooldays: Recess

Item Code:
IHL374
Cover:
Paperback
Edition:
2008
Publisher:
Penguin Books India
ISBN:
9780143100119
Size:
8.9 inch X 5.9 inch
Pages:
375
Other Details:
a53_books
Price:
$35.00
Discounted:
$26.25   Shipping Free
You Save:
$8.75 (25%)
Add to Wishlist
Send as e-card
Send as free online greeting card
The Penguin Book of Schooldays: Recess

Verify the characters on the left

From:
Edit     
You will be informed as and when your card is viewed. Please note that your card will be active in the system for 30 days.

Viewed 12183 times since 19th Nov, 2010

Whatever else we forget in our lives, memories of our schooldays stay on forever. We may think of them with longing or wish that we could forget about them, but there's no getting away from them. That crucial winning run scored in an inter-class match will act as a salve for all future failures; that prefectship denied in high school will fester despite the progress one may have made in life thereafter.

Recess: The Penguin Book of Schooldays brings together over fifty moving and human accounts of school, covering a period of around 200 years, as seen through the eyes of some of the finest minds India has produced—from Lal Behari Dey and Dayananda Saraswati to Premchand and Harivansh Rai Bachchan; from Andre Beteille and Nirad Chaudhuri to Vikram Seth and Amit Chaudhuri; from Ismat Chughtai and Sheila Dhar to Dilip Simeon and Shuddhabrata Sengupta.

The poems, essays and stories in Recess take us to the heart of the Indian school experience covering missionary, religious, residential, municipal, village and refugee schools; and reflect on the different emotions that this institution evokes: indifference, rage, fond nostalgia. While Satyajit Ray remembers participating in an event called 'musical drawing' and writing with 'nibs that had to be dipped into the inkwells built into our desks', Ved Mehta writes about learning Braille for the first time and taking part in a variety of races: Biscuit Race, Leapfrog Race. Mihir Bose reminisces about his days at St Xavier's High School, Bombay, and its sports master Father Fritz who predicted Sunil Gavaskar's rise to greatness as a cricketer even as P.T. Usha shares her experiences at the Cannanore Sports Division, training for future glory while

Coming to terms with eating eggs and meat. Farrukh Dhondy’s delightful take on the eternal conflict between day scholars and boarders contrasts with Omprakash Valmiki’s somber account of the obstacles he faced as an untouchable in order to become the first high school graduate of his neighbourhood.

This magnificent collection casts a clear and mostly unsentimental eye over a familiar childhood battleground, making us recall and re-examine our own schooldays. Palash Krishna Mehrotra’s delightfully irreverent introduction sets the tone for what is the most comprehensive anthology on the subject to date. Subversive and honest, Recess will remain the definitive record of the Indian experience of school for years to come.

Palash Krishna Mehrotra was born in Bombay in 1875 and educated at St Stephen’s College, Delhi, the Delhi School of Economics and Balliol College, Oxford. He is Contributing Editor at Rolling Stone, and writes a regular column for Mail Today. In the past, he has worked for tehelka.com and taught at the Doon School. Eunuch Park, his first collection of stories, will be published by Penguin in 2009. He is currently writing a non-fiction book on young India called The Butterfly Generation. He lives in Dehra Dun with his grandmother.

Recess

The Penguin Book of

Schooldays

Edited by

Palash Krishna Mehrotra

PENGUIN BOOKS

For Shankar, Rishi and Tanks Thank you for de-schooling me

Boxing my ears, a teacher said, How much is thirty-three times thirty-eight? Rapping my knuckles, a teacher said, And where's Sheffield then? Where's Sheffield? Squeezing my thigh, a teacher said, Let's go to the mango grove.

—Arun Kolatkar, 'Biograph'

When I was thirteen I finished going to school. I do not want to boast about it, I merely give it to you as a historical fact.

—Rabindranath Tagore,

Talks

If we went to the school in neat and clean clothes, then our class fellows said, Abey, Chuhre ke, he has come dressed in new clothes.' If one went wearing old and shabby clothes, then they said, Abey, Chuhre ke, get away from me, you stink.'

—Omprakash Valmiki, Joothan: A Dalit's Life

School seemed to prove that work was one thing and living another.

—Farrukh Dhondy, Poona Company

CONTENTS

Introduction

XV

Lai Behari Dey
From Recollections of My School-days

1

Swami Dayananda Saraswati
From Autobiography of Dayananda Saraswati

8

Fakir Mohan Senapati From Story of My Life

11

Rabindranath Tagore
From My Life in My Words

17

From Boyhood Days

20

Ramabai Ranade
From Memoirs of Our Life Together

24

Krupabai Satthianadhan
The Story of a Conversion

28

M.K. Gandhi
From An Autobiography or
The Story of My Experiments with Truth

K.S. Ranjitsinhji
From The Jubilee Book of Cricket

36

Premchand
Big Brother

3 8

Jawaharlal Nehru
From An Autobiography

46

B.R. Ambedkar
From Autobiographical Notes

51

Nirad C. Chaudhuri
From The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian

55

Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit
From The Scope of Happiness

63

Asha Mukul Das
From Santiniketan: Learning from a Way of Life

66

A.N. Sattanathan
From Plain Speaking: A Sudra's Story

70

R.K. Narayan
From My Days

78

Harivansh Rai Bachchan
From In the Afternoon of Time

83

Ismat Chughtai
From The Crooked Line

89

Satyajit Ray
From Childhood Days: A Memoir

107

Nayantara Sahgal
From Prison and Chocolate Cake

112

Dharma Kumar
Scenes from Scholastic Life

115

Sheila Dhar
A Taste of British Guiana

119

Ursula Sharma
From Rampal and His Family

123

Ved Mehta From Vedi

126

V.K. Madhavan Kutty
From The Village Before Time

134

André Béteille
Boarding School

139

Kamala Das
From My Story

148

Keki N. Daruwalla Childhood Poem

152

Sasthi Brata
From My God Died Young

156

Eunice de Souza Sweet Sixteen

162

Adil Jussawalla
In Memory of the Old School

164

Vilas Sarang
On the Stone Steps

166

Farrukh Dhondy
From 'Boomerang'

175

Mihir Bose
From A Maidan View. The Magic of Indian Cricket

185

Dilip Simeon
Of Bagpipes, Horses and Golden Orioles

193

Omprakash Valmiki
From Joothan: A Dalit's Life

202

Vikram Seth
On Founder's Day

210

Rohinton Mistry
From 'Exercisers'

220

Richard Crasta
From The Revised Kama Sutra: A Novel of Colonialism and Desire

222

Manohar Shetty Fireflies

229

Narendra Jadhav
From Outcaste: A Memoir

231

Aamer Hussein Singapore Jay

236

Rukun Advani
From Beethoven Among the Cows

247

Cyrus Mistry
From The Radiance of Ashes

254

Upamanyu Chatterjee From Weight Loss

262

Sharmistha Mohanty From New Life

271

Amit Chaudhuri
From 'Four Days Before the Saturday Night Social'

277

Suketu Mehta
From Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found

282

Sudeep Chakravarti From Tin Fish

289

P.T. Usha
From Golden Girl

292

Rohit Manchanda
From In the Light of the Black Sun

296

Rani Siva Sankara Sarma
From The Last Brahmin: Life and Reflections of a Modern-day Sanskrit Pandit

306

Shuddhabrata Sengupta Recess

309

Tenzin Tsundue
From 'My Kind of Exile'

319

From 'Celebrating Exile—I: Education and Outlook'

320

Paromita Vohra Osmosis

323

Anjum Hasan
Coming of Age in a Convent School

333

Siddharth Chowdhury Fuselage

335

Palash Krishna Mehrotra Pornography

340

The Superfuzz School'

349

Copyright Acknowledgements

351

Acknowledgements

355

INTRODUCTION

I got the idea for this anthology when I took up a teaching position at Doon School, Dehra Dun. School teaching must be one of the most unglamorous professions in the world. Everyone from the neighbours to college friends to the students themselves think you are a loser. Many of my own students asked me the same question over and over again: 'Sir, if you went to St Stephen's and Oxford, then what on earth are you doing here?' W.H. Auden, briefly a schoolmaster himself, once wrote, '...if one were invited to dine with a company representing all trades and professions, the schoolmaster is the last person one would want to sit next to.' He goes on to complain, 'Far too many masters are silted-up old maids, earnest young scoutmasters, or just generally dim.

It is difficult to say why we do what we do. I have an innate mistrust of statements of purpose. They always have a false ring to them: 'I want to join your multinational because I have excellent leadership qualities'; 'I want to do a course in development economics because I want to eradicate poverty ; I teach because I think children are the future and I want to play my role in shaping this future.

I had no such lofty ideals. I've always liked kids more than adults and am blessed with enormous reserves of patience. These were, I thought, good enough reasons to take up a teaching job.

I taught for three-and-a-half years. I got ragged plenty as a new teacher. I lost my temper quite a few times. But, in the end, it was all worthwhile. I left not because I was unhappy but because I had received an advance for a book I always wanted to write. It required travelling and I couldn't possibly be in two places at the same time.

Mention the word 'school' and you get a variety of responses. Some feign amnesia. Some get dreamy-eyed. Some never seem to get over that crucial goal they scored (or failed to score) in a 7B vs 7C hockey match. Public school founders day functions are a good occasion to observe this type. No matter what life gives or takes from you, no matter how old you get, you always return to the playing fields of your early adolescence. You might have been unfairly overlooked for promotion, your business might be failing, your parents might be dying, but these tragedies will ultimately be overshadowed by the prefectship that was denied to you in high school. Finally, there are those who hate school unequivocally. All they remember is the terror and the trauma, I once met a woman at a party who launched into an attack on the nuns in her old school. With every whisky she seemed to get more worked up. 'What were they thinking?' she kept muttering. 'Who did they think they were, those frustrated bitches.'

Schools can be extremely unpleasant places no doubt, but why does this experience overshadow everything else? Sasthi Brata, writing in My God Died Young, wondered:

How does a man remember what words who spoke at what time (especially when that 'time' happens to be the 'years of immaturity')? Why would 'bamboo meeting bum' (at adolescence) make a greater impact on a man's life than adult love, misfortune or achievement? Why should one display a 'passionate interest in the contents of lavatories' when there are flowers, Bach or butterflies? And if school was such a dreadful place why dwell so insistently on those days?

A few pages later, Brata attempts to answer the question himself:

Because pain is easier to recall than happiness; because the exact temper of a beautiful sunset or fulfilled love is harder to capture in words than cruelty, the instances of battered vanity, or the chill of adolescent fear. Also because (however unwilling we are to admit it) these things leave permanent impressions, mould our personalities more than the ecstasies of an autumn afternoon or birdsong on the first spring morning.

Cruelty is an integral part or school life. Brata writes about the boys in his school being 'psychological fodder for pathological monsters but from experience I know that school is not a simple power equation with the boys on one side and the teachers on the other. Children are capable of perpetrating enormous cruelty on fellow children. The opening of Michel Houellebecq's novel Atomised covers this ground rather well. The school in the novel is French but what goes on inside it underlies a reality that is universal.

Children can also be extremely cruel to their teachers. In Cyrus Mistry's novel The Radiance of Ashes, the school bully plays an oily prank on Ghanshyam, the Sanskrit master, a gentle soul, whose reputation of being a sacrificial goat preceded him, communicated unfailingly to every fresh batch of students by those satiated gremlins who reluctantly moved out of his academic orbit'. He slips on a puddle of oil and slides down the stairs, hurting himself badly in the process. Ghanshyam's wife has cancer but the boys are unaware: 'And all these months while they were making life miserable for Ghanshyam, just for a lark, a giggle, a distraction, privately he had been trying to cope with something much bigger. Something that was probably quite beyond their comprehension.'

Sexuality, too, is integral to school life, not least because it is within the school's boundaries that children grow into adolescence, where they become aware of themselves as sexual beings. The response of most Indian schools is to deny that this happens. But denial and control is one thing, fact another. In her novel, The Crooked Line, Ismat Chughtai writes about a teacher who is forced to leave the residential school where she teaches because a student, who has recently developed a crush on her, sneaks into her room at night and is discovered cuddled up in her bed. Kamala Das describes a lovelorn girl in boarding school who writes romantic letters to herself, while Cyrus Mistry tells us about a coercive arrangement in a day school: After school hours, a very select few boys—and particularly one effeminate puny fellow by the name of Percy—were entrusted with the dark privilege or providing Hippo with secret pleasures in the cubicles of the vast student latrine.'

It is also in school that we are made aware of our social status, the hierarchies to which our parents belong in the outside world. Schools are part of the fabric of society, and, to that extent, they mirror the prejudices of the larger society in which they are situated. In the school in which I studied, every new academic year began with the teacher asking the boys what their fathers did for a living. Upamanyu Chatterjee writes about it in Weight Loss: 'On the first day in the new class, Miss Jeremiah had asked everybody what their fathers did and Dosto had ceased to be part of the blur when she discovered that his father held a position of some importance in the Ministry of Communications. Within a week, she got her home phone connection...

In his autobiography, Joothan: A Dalit's Life, Omprakash Valmiki tells a story about a story. Master Saheb is teaching a lesson. He tells the boys, with tears in his eyes, that Dronacharya had fed flour mixed in water to his famished son, Aswatthama. This episode is narrated by Vyasa, the author of the Mahabharata, to illustrate Drona's poverty: he couldn't afford milk so he fed his son gruel. The young Valmiki, a Dalit, cannot resist asking a question: 'So Aswatthama was given flour mixed in water, but what about us who had to drink mar? How come we were never mentioned in any epic?' Master Saheb is livid: 'Darkest Kaliyug has descended upon us so that an untouchable is daring to talk back.' Valmiki is beaten with a teak stick: 'Chuhre ke, you dare compare yourself with Dronacharya ... Here, take this, I will write an epic on your body.' Valmiki concludes: 'This epic composed of feudalistic mentality is inscribed not just on my back but on each nerve of my brain.'

Many boarding schools claim that they have been able to create classless, casteless Utopias. Vikram Seth, in his founder's day address at Doon School, has spoken of the difference between residential schools and others: 'For though in a day school we would have had the company and affection and example of our parents, we would also have absorbed their social prejudices, and after school hours we would have mixed largely with children of the same social background, locality and economic class.' Doon School was different because the boys 'got the same amount of pocket money. Caste did not matter, religion did not matter, the part of the country you came from did not matter, the social status of your family was unimportant.' How true this claim is, is a matter of contention. One might argue that boarding schools create Utopias within a largely homogenous class, and in doing so they perpetuate larger social inequalities (by drawing their student base from a certain class only) rather than do away with them altogether. Also, though Utopias they might be, they very soon spawn their own hierarchies and class systems which bear an uncanny resemblance to the hierarchies in the outside world. In one residential school that I know of, the sons of old boys go into a particular house; first-generation students at the institution are distributed among other houses. This separation is done at the time of joining. Students might eat the same food and wear the same white shirts, but the divisions between old and new money, which exist in the world outside, have managed to establish themselves in the heart of boarding school Utopia.

Schools are established for the purpose of imparting education and instilling, to use a dubious phrase, 'good values'. Often, they end up being about other things. More often than not, they end up killing the student's curiosity. The poet and Tibet activist Tenzin Tsundue has written about how the classroom got in the way of his natural inclination towards poetry: 'Behind one such closed door, in front of the stunned and staring eyes of my classmates, our teacher demanded from me a recitation of the poem we were told to learn by heart the previous day. My poor memory could retain only the first few lines and then I went blank.' It was the world outside, not school, which rekindled his interest: 'I hated poetry in school until I discovered graveyards. The old inji graveyard on the hillside of Dharamsala was a quiet getaway. The beautiful lines the living wrote to their dead loved ones engraved in ornate calligraphy on headstones revealed to me what poetic magic words could create.

Fortunately, children are not fools who believe everything that schools tell them. As Farrukh Dhondy writes in his story 'Boomerang', there was 'a tacit understanding, a rejection of "character", "tradition","discipline" and gentlemanliness. We had as much use for these as we had for test tubes of mud from the school drive.

Schools have long been seen as places where children first manifest their adult personality. It's a simple, convenient linearity which suits everyone. Someone who is good at sport in junior school will be good at sports in his second year of college. Someone who is studious in his younger years will grow up to be an academic. But, as experience shows, schooldays are a notoriously unreliable guide to what the future holds.

The sociologist M.N. Srinivas was more interested in cricket than reading as a schoolboy. He even had his own team, the Bradman XI, which won a small shield in a local tournament. And Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the philosopher and statesman, displayed little inclination either towards books or sports. As S. Gopal writes in his biography: 'His main activity was to play truant and walk long distances from village to village, utilizing the scholarship money and whatever was sent from home to pay for his food en route.' Once, he was even waylaid by a highwayman who searched for the gold ornaments that Brahmin boys were supposed to wear in those days. Not finding anything he finally let him go rather than push him into a well. This didn't discourage the young Radhakrishnan at all. He continued in his wayward ways, not turning up in school on the day the forms for the lower - secondary examinations were being filled. This was a public exam in those days and a mandatory requirement for promotion into the next class. A sympathetic headmaster overlooked the rules and filled the form out on Radhakrishnan's behalf. Gopal writes: 'Radhakrishnan was sensible enough to turn up for the examinations themselves.'

At best, schools can point out the straight and narrow. There are roads leading off the beaten track, but school was never in the business of pointing them out. Those who are good enough find them on their own; those who can't are condemned to attending class reunions for the rest of their lives.

[...continued from the front flap] coming to terms with eating eggs and meat. Farrukh Dhondy's delightful take on the eternal conflict between day scholars and boarders contrasts with Omprakash Valmiki's sombre account of the obstacles he faced as an untouchable in order to become the first high school graduate of his neighbourhood.

This magnificent collection casts a clear and mostly unsentimental eye over a familiar childhood battleground, making us recall and re-examine our own schooldays. Palash Krishna Mehrotra's delightfully irreverent introduction sets the tone for what is the most comprehensive anthology on the subject to date. Subversive and honest, Recess will remain the definitive record of the Indian experience of school for years to come.

PALASH KRISHNA MEHROTRA was born in Bombay in 1975 and educated at St Stephen's College, Delhi, the Delhi School of Economics and Balliol College, Oxford. He is Contributing Editor at Rolling Stone, and writes a regular column for Mail Today. In the past, he has worked for tehelka.com and taught at the Doon School. Eunuch Park, his first collection of stories, will be published by Penguin in 2009. He is currently writing a non-fiction book on young India called The Butterfly Generation. He lives in Dehra Dun with his grandmother.

Post a Comment
 
Post Review
Post a Query
For privacy concerns, please view our Privacy Policy

Related Items

Malgudi Schooldays (The Adventures of Swami and His Friends)
by R.K. Narayan
Paperback (Edition: 2010)
Puffin Books
Item Code: NAG048
$20.00$15.00
You save: $5.00 (25%)
The Illustrated Salim Ali: The Fall Of A Sparrow
by Salim Ali
Paperback (Edition: 2007)
Oxford University Press
Item Code: IDI732
$22.50$16.88
You save: $5.62 (25%)
Masterpieces of Urdu Nazm (Urdu text,transliteration and English translation)
by K.C. Kanda
Paperback (Edition: 2010)
Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Item Code: NAE662
$35.00$26.25
You save: $8.75 (25%)
Masterpieces of Patriotic Urdu Poetry (Urdu text,transliteration and English translation)
by K. C. Kandal
Paperback (Edition: 2009)
Striling Publishers Private Limited
Item Code: NAD068
$30.00$22.50
You save: $7.50 (25%)
Rabindranath Tagore Boyhood Days
by Amartya Sen
Paperback (Edition: 2007)
Puffin
Item Code: IHL369
$12.50$9.38
You save: $3.12 (25%)
Authors Speak
by K. Satchidanandan
Hardcover (Edition: 2006)
Sahitya Akademi
Item Code: IDI076
$22.50$16.88
You save: $5.62 (25%)

Testimonials

I have been your customer for many years and everything has always been A++++++++++++ quality.
Delia, USA
I am your customer for many years. I love your products. Thanks for sending high quality products.
Nata, USA
I have been a customer for many years due to the quality products and service.
Mr. Hartley, UK.
Got the package on 9th Nov. I have to say it was one of the excellent packaging I have seen, worth my money I paid. And the books where all in best new conditions as they can be.
Nabahat, Bikaner
Whatever we bought from Exotic India has been wonderful. Excellent transaction,very reasonable price excellent delivery. We bought so many huge statues, clothes, decorative items, jewels etc. Every item was packed with love.
Tom and Roma Florida USA
Namaste. I want to thank you as I have received the statue and I shall always remember the service provided to such good standards.
Dr. B. Saha, UK
I received my Green Tara statue today and it's absolutely lovely, much nicer than I'd hoped--thank you so much for arranging its manufacture for me!
Betsy, California
Parcel received is brilliantly packed by your dispatch team. Excellent collection, beautiful Micro-art work. The items are exactly same as displayed. Hats-off to the collection team. The shiva linga Ring & Garuda pendant were superb. Its pleasure shopping every time. God bless your team with good energy to continue this Real collection work.
Badarinath, India
Jamavar arrived so quickly and is beautiful, thank you!
Caro
Your service is exceptional. I am very pleased with your professionalism.
Shambhu, USA
TRUSTe online privacy certification
Language:
Currency:
All rights reserved. Copyright 2016 © Exotic India