May has gone. The sweltering heat is slowly abating (Chennai is an exemption), the rains are coming in fits and starts (again, SingaraChennai is exempt), stock markets hope to shed a tepid summer of trading looking for the horned harbinger, M/s M.Singh P.Chidambaram & Madam Sonia await the rains as anxiously as an embattled Indian farmer to escape the ‘inflation’ trap, trains are bursting to capacity and kids are getting anxious looking at the calendar –fine, June is here!
It’s now more than a decade since I passed out of school yet the memories keep flooding back with the arrival of June. The crisp feel of a new uniform, the sweet smell of a virgin notebook, curious glances at the pictures in the history text, anxiety at the growing size of the books (Kid1: Dei, Science book 180 pakkamanda, Kid2: appa book cricket vilayada nalla irukkum), background check on the new class teacher (that’s how I ended up in Market Research), joy at the newfound status as a bigger boy and an indescribable excitement about the days ahead.
Growing up in a township all my school life remains my most cherished memory. Life-long friendships, fierce competition, devilishly clever pranks, great laughs, quiet truths, bloody fights, emotional unions and wonderful learning without ever losing the essential fun in the process. It is my firm belief that the age from 5 to 12 moulds a child’s character. The mind is relatively uncorrupted and resembles a sponge rather than a rock which it becomes later(atleast for some boys like me). The genesis of great men lies in the environment, friendships and philosophies they encountered in this period. Mahatma Gandhi & Harischandra’s story, Arjun & Dhrona’s tutelage, Kamal Hassan & his mother’s advice to be the best even if one were to clean toilets are a few that instantly spring to mind. The green-eyed monster is still asleep; girls are nothing but playthings albeit with longer hair and funny dress; stealing mangoes, gooseberries etc without getting caught feels better than winning gold medals and your kid brother/sister is nothing more than a punching bag. Life is simple and fun.
The age from 13 to 17 could very well be the most awkward and most decisive phase is shaping the future course of life for any boy or girl. The sudden awareness of one’s sexuality and growing changes in both the physical and emotional being can be quite jarring for all and daunting for many. It’s the beginning of the end of the age of innocence. As always girls outshine boys in this department too. Their physical and emotional maturity is quicker and can prove threatening to boys. One fine day in June 1993 I found many of female friends whom I had known since kindergarten suddenly look very different in their attire and behaviour. Gone was the buck toothed grin, bony pats and the quick temper. Strangely they hardly retaliated to my banter about their funny dress and hair which would have resulted in assault & battery the year before. Boys as always scratch their heads, stare emptily and drink the milk given by mom wondering what has become of their life. Slowly they too start developing funny symptoms of sexual dimorphism and begin to understand (slow…….ly) the reality. Now, envy is up in all its glory, sharing notes and helping your nearest academic rival becomes taboo, fear of a thing called future looms large, harmless giggles from girls carry a million imaginary meanings and comics are replaced by romantic novels. The first acid test comes in the form of 10th or shall we say SSLC (makes it sound more important). Then on life takes a singular course –score more than 90% select MPC with computer science or biology or commerce slog for a year in +2 jump into the BE, MBBS, Bcom bandwagon do an MBA/MS/MTech IT job, marriage, kids and death. In a nutshell cease to live, learn to survive!
Probably the only time in life I remained true to myself was my childhood i.e. upto 13 years old, when the world seemed a better place. And I fondly remember my last day in school. After a nice farewell party couple of my friends and me went around the school –smelling the trees, caressing the benches we sat as kids, savouring the moments we had in the auditorium, reliving every ounce of our 14 year school life. At the end of the journey there wasn’t a single dry eye! Many summers have come and gone. But still the boy in me yearns for those wonderful days of June, the harbinger of hope and unbridled excitement! I will carry it to the day I meet my maker!!
Those who are still trying to figure out the meaning of Hakuna Matata –watch The Lion King