I was walking tensed. An unknown, yet very strangely, familiar sensation was running through my body, only I did not know to put a name to it. I was walking through the high ceilinged corridors. It was dark, you could see light at the end of the tunnel-like dark pathway on either ends, confirming that it was day time. Suddenly it began to rain and strangely enough my shoes and the hemline of my pants were dripping wet. I hate the sensation. No, not that I don’t love the rains, I hate the feeling of wet socks. It makes me squirm uncomfortably wherever I sit.
I walked towards my classroom without knowing where it is. But I knew that the direction I was taking is correct. Leaving a trail of water droplets which eventually get mangled with my muddy foot print, I climbed up a few stairs. The stairs were a story in themselves as one would wonder if they were built in the Elizabethan ages of England. Tall , made of stones, dark at the places where they twist and turn , enough to demand a light bulb, if not an ancient torch of flame, the stairs made a perfect piece of antique.
I reached the corridor where my classes were held, and started walking a bit more. I hate walking this long. I remember how, last year, the class room was at the ground floor and much walking need not be done. With all this body weight, this daily journey to my class room will become quite cumbersome. But then, it will be some sort of an exercise. Who knows, I may grow thin in an year or so.
When I approached my classroom I could sense that the door was not yet opened, for a large number of students were standing outside. Some, with their raincoat, which covered their hefty school bags, giving them a silhouette of a crooked man from those fairy tales we read, on. Some were on the process of folding these synthetic beauties into their covers, and a few, complaining how the rain had spoiled the shine of their new note book by seeping through their bright new multi-coloured bags.
I was stunned, if not shocked to see Prasad there. It is impossible. Where am I? This is not the way thing are supposed to happen. Time spans have mixed themselves up graciously, to give a very absurd picture. I am not supposed to meet Prasad for another 3 or 4 years I guess. Yet there he was, in all his ever commonplace unassuming simple normal presence. That’s the one thing I like about him. He used to be this ever pervasive irritating git. But 4, sorry, 5 years of college education has changed the boy into something I could never dislike at all.
I looked around and could see not a single familiar face other than that of my high school friend’s. Apprehensive of the strange majority, I rushed towards the only known person there. But Prasad, it seems, is not recognizing me. Is he feigning ignorance? He introduced himself to be Vinod or Santosh or some crackpot name. I did not deny. I did not even tell him that he looked like Prasad. I accepted his name and shook hands as if we were meeting for the first time, not without a reason. The boy, who looks like Prasad, he is different. He talks different. No, the way he walks is the same. His gestures are different though. May be. I did not notice his gestures. But I sensed that he is not Prasad.
I went inside, and I saw a huge class room, enormous one, having many benches and desks. Each can hold 3 students. Usually I rush t o get the front bench. But I was lost in the sea of benches and desks. I did not notice which side faces the the black board, hence I was not able to pin point which is the first bench. Of course the students were facing west side of my view, which means, that is where the raised platform should be. But still, something was strange, that is not the place I should sit.
I was suddenly reminded of my bus journey while coming to the school. The bus driver was a Chinese. He was not Chinese, how stupid of me. He was having mongoloid features. I guess he was from north east. But I felt that he was from Philippines. Don’t ask me why, I have no answers. The bus driver was manoeuvring the vehicle with extreme expertise or so I would like to believe.
He twisted and turned the steering like it was some feather touch, flying broomstick we hear about in the Harry Potter series. He was riding through a flyover, and what a flyover it was! It was as if , all the fly over-s in the world had come together for a symposium and blended into each other and reshaped themselves to form one mega flyover with lot of paths around a central circular path.
The Philippine twisted the bus, turned it vigorously left and right. It was a close shave when he accurately drove the bus into the narrowest of the flyover path. One small shift in position, the entire bus would have collided into the wall. Strangely I did not feel the physical movement of the bus. The inertia was not in action. Physics was immaterial.
Like in a roller coaster, the bus started moving down along a steeply sloped roadway. There were lot of turnings too. Finally he reached an underground space, where all the vehicles – cars , bikes, cycles and buses – were parked. I fail to recall how I had reached from that place to my class room. I am not dripping now, but the wet socks are still a disturbance.
I was not sure if I had entered the correct class room. For one, How is it that I don’t even know a single person in my own school? That is impossible. And to top it, a Prasad look-alike is also here. Something is very strange. I searched for Prasad, he was there, sitting with another guy on his left a girl to his right. I cursed him mentally for not accompanying me. But he doesn’t recognise me. He is not Prasad, he is not bound to be with me. Duh!
I went out of the room since I felt suffocated. I saw Anita Surendran teacher enter the class room through a door at the front. I realized then, that the class room had two doors – one at the front and another at the back. She entered and started speaking something, but I was out by that time. Strange, are they teaching Malayalam in Tamil Nadu? And the number of students here, to study Malayalam, is also unbelievable high. Very strange.
I walked from one end of the corridor to the other. I caught a glimpse of the staff room, where I used to enter freely, as if I owned the place. I felt nothing now. Nil.
Then I decided to enter the class room. I could see that she is talking something, but I can’t hear her. Her voice is like some echo, which has faded away but is still lingering. When I ask her to excuse me for being late and enter the class room, she stops talking and ask me to come near her.
“Do you know that this is the first day of this year? Even I have a son. He goes to the classes on time, if not early. Why can’t ….” The voice drifted away. I can see her talking, I am unable to listen to her. She keeps her book on the table. It is curved because she had been holding it as if it is some stupid cylinder. I hate it, when people do that. Books are rectangular. Don’t treat them like cylinders. They would be hurt.
The bell rings, she is out even before I know it, so are the students. I see Prasad, he has gone away. There are still some students who are strangers here. I don’t feel like talking to any of them. I start crying. No it is not some desperate drama-esque crying. I felt like crying. So I am. Also, I have read somewhere that crying is good for eyes as it removes the impurities. If it’s true, at least something good is happening.
First Published in – Let The Sleeping Dragons Lie