Moonlit nights

In 'school without walls', there is a sense of belonging and permanence.

From the terrace the starlit night sky looked like scattered diamonds. Our only companions were peace and a solitary stray dog which had followed us. While we were students here, we had taken our surroundings for granted; but now when we returned as old students we realised how fortunate we were to have grown up in these tranquil environs. My friend Radha said, “I could even read by moonlight.” I remembered the moonlight dinners when we enacted skits and sang songs. 

Every batch that passes out of a boarding school feels that the school belongs to them. The same feeling engulfed me when I saw the familiar hills, the tamarind trees and the dried up stream under first bridge, and all seemed to be asking, “Where were you for so long?” When I joined the school I was barely six years old and was blissfully unaware of which class I was in because the senior students would whisk me away to their classrooms! 

Later, based on our ability levels in various subjects, we were sent to different classrooms; those days this was  considered a very radical approach to teaching as it was more child-centric and other schools were wary of adopting this method. But now this is being practiced in many schools and is termed “Activity Based Learning.” 

The next day we visited the classrooms and looked out of the same windows – the view was unchanged. The students, in keeping with the times and parental expectations had become more studious and competitive. “We were too laidback,” commented my friend. In the hostels we stayed in dormitories which had rows of cement cots; but now there are only four in a room and each child has a study table and some degree of privacy. The basketball courts and cricket pitch brought back memories of my boisterous brother and my eyes became misty. Breaking the reverie my nephew said that his housemaster would like to meet me. 

When I was young and was told that school days are the best years of one’s life, I used to think that a parent dragging an unwilling child to school must’ve said that! Children are always in a hurry to finish school and grow up. During our times we used to talk about how exciting college life would be; and now they talk about preparing for entrance exams to go abroad for their graduation. I want them to stop and watch the swaying tendrils of the banyan tree under which we staged mythological dance-dramas. The dancers who whisked us into a magical world are now babysitting their grandchildren! Between then and now so much has transpired in all our lives – some good and some tragic. But in the ‘school without walls,’ where children are encouraged to think, explore and understand there is a sense of belonging and permanence. Batch after batch will complete their education here, and when they look back they will also think of it as ‘my school,’ knit with their own escapades, first loves and moonlit nights.

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