Friday, June 11, 2004

Mind over Alma Mater...

Thursday evenings in Abu Dhabi means going to church for the service at half past seven. Friday being the weekends it makes up for the Sunday services we normally go for back home. Stepping into the medium sized building I wonder how little has changed over the years. The church and the attached school flood me with so many memories I spend most of the service sitting and putting thoughts in order. I've been going there regularly and otherwise for over 23 years. Since I was two.

I still remember my first day ever. It took the teacher five minutes to make out that the confused looking kid was not meant to be in her class. She walked over looked at my badge and told me I was in the wrong class. I had gone to Senior Kindergarten instead of Junior. A child ahead of his times.

I finished last in class that year.

After mass I walk around in front of the red and white school building for a few minutes. While I dont have any friends to show for my years there I can immediately assign some memory to every inch of the building. The second window from the right on the first floor was the one I decorated last before leaving the school. We taped up streamers and tinsel before going home for the vacations.

The stage in front is a little bigger than before. Still white wood with black spotlight craning out from the school facade. I made my stage debut there when I was 5. Shepherd No. 3 for the Christmas play. I wore a white headress and a blue cloak. Most pansy memory indeed.

For the number of new buildings that have come up over the years and the prosperity the school sees nowadays it still has that little old blue on white nameboard. Utterly dwarfed by the huge building it stands to represent. I walk around the church, around the plants in the back, dark in shadow. That pay phone booth is still there. It still has that wood stain paint, but the door have been removed. I used to call dad to come and pick me up after weekend classes sometimes. Oh some 14 or 15 years ago. It still stands there flush against the east church wall. Exactly where I left it. Extreme nostalgia.

From where I stand between the off-white church building and the prayer grotto the view has not changed at all. I can just see the tops of the new KG block behind the old one. The exact same one where I walked into the wrong class on my first day of organized education. The wire fence is still there. To protect the children in kidergarten from the tennis ball throwing, cops and robbers addicted first and second graders. Those garish moulded benches will outlast all living species. And that swing in front is still the exact same aseptic colour.

That mysterious room always locked up half behind the school on the left is still there. During lunch breaks we used to weave wild stories about what went on inside. We had never seen it open you see. Indeed power transformer room seem less mysterious today.

I walk over the concrete squares. I wince when I think of the scrapes and cuts. And ripped shorts. Then theres the "Black Hole of 1:15". Recess break. Lunch boxes dissapeared without a trace. I still remember exactly where I last left a red Alladin box. Just near that plant under the school office there. Never seen since. Like hundreds after that no doubt.

But the church benches dont feel so good anymore. When I kneel and rest my elbows on the top I can't rest my face in my palms anymore. And the gates outsides and lights on top seem a lot lower. And have they moved the knee rests a mite inside?

No, of course not, they haven't changed at all. Nothing has. Except me of course. Roll No. L-147 is now a big big boy. He still likes Cheese Balls, Hot Dogs and Cola though. Sob.

(Excuse the rather self-centered posts. Will make ammends soon.)

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

and the wall on the left side of the third class from the first corner of the second building on fifth row, just behind the main building: its STILL there!!!!!!!!!! Am I glad or what?

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Sidin,
It's become quite a habit reading your columns. Ever since a friend forwarded the "Travails..." post to me. Have to hit up the blog at least once a day.

Like you I was raised in the Gulf as well. In Qatar actually. Went to an Indian school too. I'm not a south indian though. Went through your previous posts and man, they sure bring back a lot of memories. Food and otherwise. I guess life in ANY city in the Gulf isn't all that different, eh ? The humid sultry air, the smell of shawarmas on a warm summer evening. Ahh, memories.

Keep writing.
-Sachin

the blue do said...

All this time you were in Mumbai, I was staying just across the street, in Andrews' House. Still am, in fact, till the 15th of this month. Slaving from the Symbiosis Institute of International Business. I wouldn't be banal and mention just how much of a fan I have become of your writing, but the fact is it's just too good. Keep writing, and thanks a lot for sharing it with the rest of the world. A guy had posted your "The travails.." on the GO92.5 message board, and thankfully had been honest enough to say where had he picked it up from. UP WITH SIDIN!
Prakriti(yeah i am a guy, and then you thought only South Indians were blessed with 'beautiful' names)

Bindhu said...

Got hooked on to your blogspot after reading your 'Travails ....' Also once I realised you were RECT material and on top of that ex-U.A.E, I could not help relating to you 'cos I share a similar ancestory !!! When did you graduate from Trichy?