My sister came home recently and told me how my brother-in-law used to bunk his school and tuition classes and hang out at chaat corners. We ourselves reminisced about those golden school days. I was however surprised (and sad at the same time) that it has been just four years and I am already left with nothing but some hazy (but deeply cherished) memories from that period. And the more I try to remember, the more sketchy the details seem to be. However, there are a few incidents that are so finely etched in my mind that I can vividly recollect the entire incident as if I were looking in a pensieve.
I was in VIII grade when it happened. It was a rainy day, a cool breeze was blowing and nobody was in a mood to study. So the teacher instead tried to indulge us in a dumb charade game. Samta was acting out a movie’s name and I was in her team trying to guess it. But even after trying for two minutes, we were heading nowhere. Suddenly, almost on an impulse, I said, Titanic. She jumped, clapped excitedly and shouted Bingo. The game continued as earlier but something somewhere had changed. In the recess that afternoon, she came and shared her lunch with me. And we were soon ‘an item’ in the entire school before we eventually broke up a year later.
Ok, enough fiction, cut back to the real story.
I was in grade IV and (arrogant as it may sound) being the class topper for the last three years was the cynosure of every teacher’s eye. And as is usual in Indian schools, I was used as the perfect example of dedication, hard work, sincerity and what not by the teachers. Then there was this lad named Sagar (name changed) who was having a little trouble in keeping up with the studies. He performed terribly in the terminal exams and his notes were as always incomplete. The Maths teacher that day was in a quite a rage and was further infuriated by him not getting his report card signed by his parents. He was beaten black and blue(yeah, such things used to happen at that time in our school) and ordered to show her the completed notes by the end of the school that afternoon. Ofcourse, she gave her my notebook (and a lecture comparing the two of us) to do the work. I don’t know what possessed me at that time but in the recess while he had gone out to drink water, I went to his seat, took out his notebook and brought it to my desk. There I scratched out all the work he had done, tore out a few pages and made funny pictures all over.You don’t believe it? Neither do I. But this actually happened. He came back after a while and looked everywhere for his copy while I derived some sadist pleasure sitting on my desk and looking at his helpless figure.
The next period was again Maths. She asked him about the status of the work and he, crying hard, mortally afraid of what might follow, slowly told her that his copy was missing since the lunch break. Ironically, she asked me to check his desk and bag in case he was lying. No Mam, there is no Maths copy. I came back to my seat. He was again slapped twice for his carelessness. After much deliberations, the teacher decided that someone in the class must have taken the notebook, there was no other logical possibility. She threatened us with dire consequences to own up for our actions. I was sweating profusely. She said she would herself check every single desk. I almost wetted my pants. There is no doubt about the morality of the situation or what my action should have been but perhaps the fear of ignominy got the better of me. Pretending to throw some pencil flakes in the dustbin, I got off my seat and threw away the ‘jinxed’ notebook. I can’t really tell you how relieved I felt when she checked my desk almost carelessly and moved to the next one.
But my relief was short-lived. She found the copy in the dustbin. Again she threatened to boil every one of our souls’ in hot oil if someone didn’t own up. A boy stood up and said, ‘I saw Ashish going to the dustbin and throwing the notebook’.
Me? Me of all people? What would I get out of such an act? ME?
The chain of events that followed is immaterial. I was acquitted in the end because of my good academic record and unblemished past.
Come to think of it now, I really have come a long way. I have a much stronger moral fibre now and am much more likely to stand up for my mistakes. But somethings have not changed. I still am the same stupid impulsive guy with his own insecurities. I genuinely feel sorry for what I did to that poor lad and will remember this moment of truth, when I really failed myself, forever(and thinking of it now, perhaps cherish it as one of those moments of childish foolishness which actually define that period).