“That’s right” said the headmaster, with a slight chuckle, “We have no homework till the fifth standard”
The magic of this uttered spell refused to take any major effect on me. Not because I couldn’t understand what the sentence meant, but because, in very plain words-I refused to believe it. My cerebellum cringed at this outrageous lie. This man was clearly well versed in the art of untruths. Naturally however I couldn’t accuse the general of this army of perjury without sufficient proof. So, I attempted putting myself together, regrouped and pressed this delicate matter further, “So they do it all in school?”
“Haha, no, young man. Schoolwork is just whatever happens in classes every day. After the day ends, we have absolutely no homework at all. A unique feature, in fact about our institute”
And like the dramatic plot of Sholay , it all came crashing down. Headmaster R.P Singh was no Gabbar Singh. He was a true Jai and Veeru rolled in one. I couldn’t be in India, because this was most definitely-Utopia. Here was a man who honestly believed in E-D-U-C-A-T-I-N-G children. Not making them hamsters for the big, cruel, world. My mind flashed back to the painful years of my primary education. It didn’t require much strain to remember the sadistic pleasure the entire staff back home derived in making us work like mules at home. As if school wasn’t enough! The many hours of tennis, TV, PlayStation and cricket I had sacrificed for the evils of mathematics, geography and history.
The Trinity school, Kullu however had shattered this age-old tradition haunting the Indian school child since the age of British themselves. It was taking things in its own hands. Here, I was finally getting to view a uniquely different administration system.
My name is Sumedh. This year, my destiny and a rather stern compulsory internship led me to Himachal. I’ve been working here in My Himachal as an intern for over three weeks, been meeting the most fascinating people and seeing the most unusual places. Like I was promised, here was another place willing to surprise me beyond what I had expected. Trinity school followed a completely unorthodox pattern of teaching.
For starters, I have already presented their no homework policy. For main course, I give you No-textbooks –at-home. What do I make of this: pure genius. School for studies, home for fun. The policy of the school is simple. To burden children in the primary classes with hours of work is inhuman, but how do we ensure that the parents don’t take matters in their own hands? We simply don’t allow them to grab the text-books. The parent is given a transparent view of what happens in class. But barring what is being taught, the child has no extra workload. Homework starts from the sixth grade onwards, and by then the child understands exactly how he should study, which would mean a very independent way of thinking.
On a personal note, it felt brilliant being back in school again. Just walking through the corridors reminded me of my own school. To top it all I had the glorious privilege of being the headmasters’ guest of honour. As a special treat, I even got to attend a lecture. I felt a vindictive pleasure as some of the kids called me ‘sir’. What took the cake was, when the class stood up to chant a loud chorus of ‘Good morning, Mr Natu’ to make me feel more welcome.
Three years back, if I would have opted to even enter half a toe-nail in a classroom when it wasn’t absolutely necessary, I would have been raised on a stake by my classmates. Needless to say, that would have also been a clear indication that I was mentally ill.
Now, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The topic of discussion was William Shakespeare and his eternal classic-As You Like It. I went back to MY tenth. I still remember the day I read Shakespeare for the first time and refused to accept that this strange language was English. I even laughed hysterically when I found out that people in the seventeenth century actually spoke that way. Today, in college, literature is my favourite subject. It makes one smile, what just a thousand days between school and college can do to a person. It seemed so strange that I was listening in rapt attention and the job of throwing paper balls in class, pinching the neighbour to pass off time, scribbling on the desk and making noises for absolutely no reason at all belonged to someone else. The headmaster was a fantastic teacher, no doubt. Being on the receiving end of a lecture was quite an honour.
My purpose of visiting the institution had been slightly different. A year back, My Himachal had enrolled three lucky children from Giyagi village through a scholarship program in Trinity. I personally wanted to interview them and find out how they were doing.
I think all three had a minor cardiac arrest at being summoned by the headmaster. After we were introduced, and I had assured them they had done nothing wrong, we talked for quite a while. All three seemed so simple. The very thought that they were actually in a place like Trinity seemed unbelievable to them. Just through those twenty minutes, I could see that they had adjusted to the place brilliantly since the past year.
Once victims of strict rural traditions, superstitions and even the caste system, all it had taken them was four-hundred days of a new environment to change the way they lived and thought.
Now all three were ardent Chennai Super Kings Supporters(I need to have a talk with the sports department), liked Himesh Reshamiya(I most definitely need to have a talk with the music department) and yet, were so different. Sangeeta wanted to be a doctor, Vinay-a scientist and Rakesh, a teacher.
English naturally had been a problem for them, but then, they were coping.
I asked them what they liked the most about the school, and all three voted unanimously. Saturday!!!
What was so special about Saturday? Well, the school keeps Saturdays only for extra-curriculars and no prep. Fun-day, they said.
It seems sad that we realize what a paradise school was only when we get out of it.
In college, it’s a matter of pride to declare how many subjects we’ve failed in. You study; it’s just not ‘cool’. I’d never think twice before demanding my mother to sign the backlog forms and declare the need for thousands of rupees to give in fines. If my mother asked me to study, I’d tell her to mind her own business and try and convince myself that she didn’t understand what college is like. We’d look for opportunities to bunk classes. A successful proxy equates to a bank robbery done ‘smooth’.
There’s a bloke in my batch with 99 per cent attendance. I’ve never been able to understand how he does it. To counter my inability to emulate his record, I’ve passed him off as a loser and kept it at that.
I guess I’m just one of those thousands who cannot understand how lucky I am to have my education served to me on a platter, complete with knives and forks. Maybe I never will.
And now that I think, I realize that maybe…and my apologies to those who feel offended by the liberal use of American four letter slang, that maybe it doesn’t require a pair of b*l*s to bunk classes whenever one feels like. Anyone and everyone can do that.
But it probably does require a very big pair of them to be able to attend those 99 out of the set 100 classes each year, especially when everyone around you loaths you for doing the right thing.
Maybe that’s the way the beer gets chugged…
Till next time…
The writer is an Intern with My Himachal from Symbiosis Institute of Media & Communication, Pune.