Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Age of Innocence

The School Reunion

As we ambled up the drive way to the school on the auspices of a 35 year reunion, my mind was filled with a sense of nostalgia. The tall trees and the impressive building looked resplendent and yet not as intimidating as they used to back then.  As school children the buildings, the playgrounds and the entire campus loomed large. Those were times when one was timid. Times when one felt very small and vulnerable. This state of being diminutive  seemed to have magnified everything. Even minor indiscretions filled the young mind with  trepidation. The erudite priests in their cassocks lent an air of immorality to minor acts of truancy. They were  moral high priests who bestowed sanctity to the process of learning.
 Amidst this wave of nostalgia I was wondering why Schooling left such an indelible mark in my life? Was it the  because of the imposing structure and the ambience? Was it a residual  sense of pride of belonging to a tribe with a high  pedigree? Or carrying on the legacy of cult?
  As all batchmates started appearing for the occasion I could feel a surge of warmth coursing my blood. Time could only distort the container. The content was unchanged. Nicknames tumbled back into the memory as did the associated anecdotes. Those days of the languishing in the hot sun doing the most purposeless drills of mass PT, getting reprimanded for seemingly trivial acts of indiscipline played out as clearly as watching a movie.
I then realised that during those times my mind was so impressionable and absorbed each event like a sponge. It was not cluttered with any anxieties, worries about the future. There was an innocence that recorded each event without any bias. There was faith and trust that was totally malleable. A naivete that was pristine and unblemished.
Each event no matter how insignificant had a disproportionate impact. Not having completed the homework was an act of heresy. Failing in a test spelt doom.
 Happiness was popping a peppermint (bullls eye we used to call it) during class deftly avoiding the prying eyes of the teacher. Evil was restricted to pushing someone aside to get into the school bus, or fabricating a tale for not having completed the homework. Happiness was  sharing a snack from the 'dabba', reading Tintin in the lunch break, or even wearing a new pair of shoes to school.
Joy was unconditional. It was bereft of expectations, dependence. Friends were never categorised or stratified on basis of caste or creed. The mind was totally unbiased with an abysmally low threshold for contentment.
 As schoolmates we all shared these moments with an open mind filled only by a joy de vivre, fun and frolic. There wasn't a trace of malevolence or jealousy towards one another.
I quietly wondered when and how did my concept of happiness and joy mutate ? When did the recipe for  happiness become so complex?
 When did the scourge of status, position,wealth imperceptibly distort my perception? Did "maturity" mean losing my ability to find happiness in the smaller joys of life?
  As the evening progressed and the party livened up,a classmate slapped me on my back and everyone burst out in peals of laughter over a lewd joke.
I was rather rudely brought back to the present and although I painted my face with a sham smile, I gently turned away and wiped off that lonely tear. Probably homage paid on the  demise of "The age of innocence"


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