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Saturday, 10 August 2013

The Liberation!

Gosh! Everything has changed. For the better! And how? Gone is the ramshackle hut masquerading as a school and instead replaced by a pucca RCC building. The refugee tents which were the classes have seen a metamorphosis and instead stood in their place concrete structures albeit with ceiling made of steel sheets. Not the ideal arrangement but a far better than the past. The porambokku land behind the main building has been fenced, cleaned of its shrubbery and stones and now looked as good a play ground as one can expect from a Govt school in the remote Kalladakurichi town. The shanty which was being used by the ayah for preparing the midday meal was now a proper kitchen. And surprise, surprise, proper toilets for the children and a separate one for girls too! Miracles never cease! Not to miss the freshly painted board bearing ‘Kalladakurichi Arasu Palli’ proudly announcing the presence of the school.

As I walked in my eyes searched for the one piece of furniture which I hoped had not been replaced. A dilapidated ‘Honours’ board right next to the head masters’ room. It was there! But as with all things in the school, replaced with a brand new board. As I glanced through the board, it was there! Right on top of the list. ‘Matriculation Exams- Session 1987, School 1st,Zaheera Banu’! They had not forgotten while replacing and repainting the board. I suddenly felt like a mini celebrity as I read my name again and a few more times. I was as the board informed, the ‘school 1st’ in its first ever batch writing the Matriculation examination. And what a proud moment it was for the school and for me. The school had overcome various obstacles from local politicians who were eyeing the prime land and were out to down shutters to the school. Add to it the perennial fund crunch which could not be overcome despite the subsidy from the Govt.  And survive; nay flourish. My story kept pace with that of my school. Born in a poor family which found it difficult to make ends meet, it was well nigh impossible to let a child ‘waste’ time studying instead of working in the fields of the local land owner and be an earning member. No amount of tears, anger, pleading, cajoling on my part would make my parents see reason and send me to school. They were of course illiterate themselves and any discussion on the benefits of a sound education was looked upon suspiciously.  As I was on the verge of giving up any hopes of a modern education, fortunes turned. The Govt. decided to introduce a midday meal for children attending school. My poor parents who like many other parents wanted to give their children at least one proper meal a day couldn’t refuse. No Parent would like to see their offspring suffer from hunger when a square meal was readily available. So what if they had to commit a social crime of sending their children to school to avail the one square meal a day. Where all my logical arguments about the benefits of education failed, elementary needs of survival won the day!

There was celebration all around the school. The students, teachers, support staff led by the Head Master were all smiles. The school had delivered 100% success in its very first board examinations.  Indeed a proud moment for all of us. The struggles of running the school had paid rich dividends. A batch of forty students had been recovered from farm work, menial jobs, possibly a life of a wastrel or a future criminal and bright minds eager and ready to take on the next challenges that life had in store were harvested. To mark of this excellence and to motivate the others in the school and the town somebody suggested the ‘ Honours Board’. During the farewell day function, the board duly came up, my name being the first on it! Friends and classmates deluged me with best wishes. Teachers counseled me on the future courses that I should/could pursue. The Headmaster blessed me with beaming smile and a word of encouragement on the path ahead. I was on seventh heaven! I had finally grown wings which would help me fly, compete against the best, conquer the obstacles and transform my life. Education was liberating me, empowering me! A lot of work remained. What to study next? Which stream to study? Which college? Will I be able to manage the daily trips to Tirunelveli town and back? I ran all the way home to share the news of my success with my parents. As I entered the home, I saw my father speaking to another man. He looked up at me with a happy smile, “Get ready Zaheera! You are getting married next month!” he said.

I woke up from my reverie! Rechecked the application form. Tightened my grip around my daughter’s hand.  Walked purposefully into the school, straight to the head Master’s room. “My daughter will not be denied the education that I was” I promised to myself. 



Poramboku : Unclaimed wasteland
Ayah: Maid
Arasu Palli: Government School

Sunday, 4 August 2013


Chalk and cheese, two sides of a coin, oil and water, and the twain shall never meet. I can go on and on with day and night, North Pole and South Pole, black and white but I presume you have already got the point. There are people who are just not same from any angle. While the phrase opposite attract each other is often true so is the fact that opposite are not compatible once the novelty wears off. The last phrase I am going to quote here is exceptions prove the rule.

This story of me and my friend had its beginning in the remote village of Keezhambur in the remote district of Tirunelveli in the remote state of Tamil Nadu. As immediate neighbours in the single street agraharam, we were best friends, sat in the same bench of the same class of the same school. Thick as thieves is a phrase which was bandied about by everyone in the village about us. We played together, played truant together, prayed together. The village routine was if you wanted to find one, you could as well hunt for the other. In short, inseparables. If all this seems routine then the similarity ends here and the oddities take over.

Our ideas, our views, our wants, our likes and dislikes, our habits and hobbies. Nothing matched, in fact were mostly the opposite. In school while I selected Tamil as second language he took up Hindi. My thaai mozhi to his rashtra bhasha. While I would be disciplined, well mannered, goody goody types who always did his homework and was the teacher’s pet, he was the naughty, unruly, teacher’s nightmare types. While I was the home-to-school-to home type, he would insist skipping school and do a ‘sight seeing’ trip to Tirunelveli town. While I could not raise my eyes to meet the same of my parents, he was the eternal rebel. His parents insisted that he should cultivate my habits while mine often threatened  to banish me from home should I continue in his company. The net score was while I almost always finished his homework too, took a lot of blame for his pranks, did his odd jobs during his ‘sight seeing’ trips, occasionally got belted by the villagers who when they couldn’t find him for his activities took their frustration out on me. This continued in high school, college and worklife.

Our principles, our ideologies, our tastes differed too. I was a firm believer of Marx, Das Kapital and “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”. He was a staunch proponent of Darwin’s “Survival of the fittest”. While I did rounds of the employment exchanges, wrote bank, railway exams, he did rounds of companies which offered PLI – Performance Linked Incentives.” No pay, only pension” was his oft repeated ridicule about ‘sarkaari naukri’. I would enjoy seeing those mushy love stories in Tamil films which were screened in the nearby town, he preferred to drag me all the way to Madurai or Madras to watch the latest Hollywood action packed blockbusters. While I enjoyed watching mass games like Kabaddi and football, he called them ‘oh so pattikkadu’ and followed Cricket. Liquor, cigarettes, pan masala were a sacrilege for me while he tingled in the pleasure these gave and the ‘high’ of doing it in spite of parental objections. As a result once again I paid the price of being a ‘non-smoker among smokers, teatottler among alcoholics’. And while his trips to offices of private sector giants continued, I had to foot his bills too as I had landed a clerical job with a local firm once I had been declared ‘reserved out’ of a  Govt job.

But nothing, just nothing came between us when it came to our friendship. It was almost like we were twins, the modern day Duryodhana-Karna, the Jay-n-Viru combo. Nothing, no one, no situation was capable of driving a wedge between us. We were the proverbial two bodies, one soul, till death does us apart kind. The kind about which pen wielders and poets have sung hossanahs. He lived his way and I bailed him out from every situation, every difficulty, and every problem as he struggled to realize his dreams, achieve his destiny, maximize his potential, his wish, his wants, his ambition. After all aren’t Friends like this only. I had faith in his abilities and his grit to strive and reach the level of excellence he was capable of.

Then the inevitable happened. It had to. All his single minded focus and efforts finally bore fruits. He landed a plum post with a leading MNC and rose through the floors in the swiftest elevators ever invented by man. And dragged me out of my clerical job and made me jump into his bandwagon. Every month, every day was a discovery of a new peak he would aim at and reach. All this was so exciting, so exhilarating. And it made me a very very happy friend. The exception had won, the friendship solid as ever. Every success celebrated mutually and at every new destination, together as always. The exception had just busted the rule. Opposites not only attract but can remain compatible even when the novelty wears off. We were the real examples of that. Nothing, just nothing has changed between us. Well on second thoughts, just one thing has changed between us. He is now the Managing Director of the company we work for, I am his Personal Secretary. I now call him SIR!     


Hope @Kingkrish94 is a happy friend now!


Agraharam: A street with predominantly Brahmin residents.
Thaai Mozhi: Mother Tongue
Rashtra Bhasha: National Language
Pattikkadu: (Literal) Barren forestland.(Simile) Villager/Paindu types, derogative.
Sarkaari Naukri: Government Job.