Posted by: Monideepa Tarafdar | August 27, 2009

And When Our School Days Ended Are…..

My SchoolWhat happens when one visits one’s school for the first time since one graduated, and after years and years? Or for that matter, what place does one’s school have in one’s adult life? Last week I went back to my school (St. Agnes’ Loreto Day School), where I had studied from kinder-garden (we used to call it “Prep”) to tenth grade, for the first time since I graduated from there, after 20 years or so. The school is one of many that the Loreto order has in India.

In all these years, I had clearly remembered the physical structures – the buildings, play-grounds, swings and classrooms. I also remembered the things we did – classes, art and craft, music, dance, morning and afternoon assembly,  SUPW – Socially Useful and Productive Work (i.e. community service), and an amazing and extremely fun array of Enid Blyton-esqe inter-house  competitions in debates, plays,  sports and quizzes.  What I did not recollect was what I had thought and felt during those years, and therefore could not understand how those thoughts and feelings connected to the things I do today. I found it puzzling and disturbing. It was like there was a link missing from the present to the past – that even though I could recall the spaces, the sounds and the faces, I did not fully understand the meanings of the stories they told.

As I walked in through the gates,  the years just went away. I  went to the spots  we would spend our time in – a favorite tree, a quiet corner, a busy hallway and corridor. I went to the assembly hall, the library, and to each classroom that I had sat in. There was an elocution class going on in one and a maths class in another. The children had frowns of concentration. The school uniform was exactly the same. The continuity felt solid and comforting. I met two of my teachers. They asked how I was and what all I had done since leaving school. I gave as  detailed an account as I could, nervous that if I did not, my “answer” would not be good enough, that marks would be deducted and I would not get a good grade for some invisible exam. I was a school girl again. My teachers smiled and said God Bless. I saw in their faces years of patience, dedication and  nurturing. That day, just as it was for all days,  they wished and willed the world for the girls they taught.

As I wandered through the hallways and the grounds, I realized that all the different things we had done in school  under the watchful and indeed unyielding eyes of our teachers were for teaching us  simple lessons –  be clean, be punctual, be kind, do your work on time, speak clearly, take responsibility, tell the truth, be quiet and calm when there is work to be done,  do as many things as you can and do them as well as you can, chase your dreams and have fun doing it. And when you are done with school, keep doing them for the rest of your life. Suddenly, I found the link that had been missing.

A music class was going on in one of the halls and I heard the words of a familiar song:

And when our school days ended are, and our varied paths divide

Oh may the ideals of our youth still ever be our guide

Ideals of purity, of duty and of truth

Learnt while we bore Loreto’s flag in the sunny days of youth

As I turned back before leaving, I saw  children laughing, playing and running around.  It occurred me that take away all these years, and I am among them. In those days, the world was our oyster – a place where innocence, wonder, happiness and can-do-anything-ness came together to create hope, purpose and determination . Thanks to Loreto, it still is.

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