Happiness and joy dripped from the contours of my body. The dream was no longer a memory of past: it had transitioned into a palpable reality and there I was standing in the backyards of the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV).
Something novel had happened in my life: I willingly accepted all of it. No longer should I race away to the Bazaar to get wholesale material for my grandfather: that I despised too much as doing it would devour all of my working hours, no chance of being harassed for my tubby looks in the city school, the probability of getting a less ordinary treatment brought joy to my eyes.
Distance breeds love, I knew the worth of this wise saying. I dreamt of being surrounded by my relatives, near and dear ones hailing and praising me. I even self-manufactured the ceremonial praises: ‘he studies in boarding school, you know! he must be brilliant’, ‘serve him a leg piece of chicken, he came home after a long time’, ‘oh! When did you come back, it is a great honour to see you!’
On 5 August 2005, I, along with my old steel trunk, beddings, a packet of Yummy biscuits, and my father, left the premises of our home. The ambience was no different from the movies where a soldier in his typical style puts a bag on his shoulders, lets it dangling and leaves the emotionally charged atmosphere.
A five-kilometre distance from our residence, JNV is situated on the top of a hill and run by the central government, the school is away from the nearby countryside, near to the famous Srinagar International Airport.
Our auto rickshaw braved every hurdle posed by the steep horizons of land, eventually, we reached the precincts of the boarding school. Ours was a new batch, around twenty students had already found their lodging and some of them had dolled up their respective sleeping beds. We were escorted to a long, extended dormitory whose entire geography was painted white. On seeing me, one of the boy took hold of my bag, walked a yard and kept it on an old bunk bed.
“There you go! You will be sleeping on this, he pointed towards the bed.”
Amid tense, emotionally electrifying atmosphere, my father patted my shoulder and left the dormitory.
Though a good number of students were revolving around me, the dormitory was witnessing ecstatic frenzy but I was frustrated, lying motionless there as if transported to a strange tangle of nothingness. I didn’t feel, observe, absorb anything, until late into the night when a boy (and the irritating sound of a bell) forced me to come out of the den. It was the call for dinner!
Some tough days passed, living there was getting tougher with the passage of every day.
On one noon, while drawing a steel plate, a spoon from my locked trunk, I saw a sudden ruckus erupting in the hall. One of the seniors was bugged, bothered by my classmate. As the concept of ‘seniority’ was overwhelmingly adopted by our school, my classmate was ordered to measure the length of our fifty feet long hall with a one rupee coin. He accepted the challenge. A strong sentiment gushed across my heart. Confused and angry, I contested the absurdity of punishment and asked the senior to leave my classmate alone.
Then things turned upside down. He forced me to stay in an uncomfortable, undignified position, came running from three yards and kicked me with all his might. He didn’t stop there. The corporal punishment, as it haunts me till this day included spanking, smacking, kicking, twisting my ears and arms and much more.
Far away from my father, the unpleasant effects of homesickness had already corroded my soul, now this physical brutality devastated and ravaged me. Consolation and a sense of pity grew in every corner of the hall, many students comforted me in my grief. But I had made my mind. No more separation from my home, no more orders, no more a life of ultimate grief.
In the morning, while everyone was busy spreading butter on their bread, I packed all of my stuff and left school.