I still remember my first day at the Little Flower Convent
in Chittoor. I was about seven years old. I had heard a
lot from my friends about how dreadful that place was. The
auto-rickshaw pulled over to a jerky stop, and mom and dad
gave me that 'Here you go!' expression. I got down, trying
to keep my jittery nerves under control.
The school had a huge, imposing iron-gate, which had a
small door within it. And there was this old man - a watchman
- standing by the small door. He had a bushy moustache and
a long, unkempt beard. He had deep-set eyes, but the funny
thing about him was his conspicuous indifference to the
things around him. He stood there, calm and composed, but
his body language more than suggested that he did not give
a damn about my entering the school compound. As for my
family and I, it was a big day. Little Flower Convent, in
those days was not just a school; it was a status symbol.
But for the kids, it was an entirely different ball game
When I entered the school, the first thing that hit me
was the noise. Kids were running all over the place, screaming
and howling, and there were these nuns, clad in white robes,
with a cross dangling from their necks. Dad nudged me to
move forward and I walked into the headmistress' office.
The headmistress was a lady in her late fifties. She had
a pair of oval-shaped spectacles perched on her nose, and
she had a very cold look. A look of someone so stuck to
a routine of a life. She snapped, "What is your name,
"S-sunnu," I Stuttered.
"What is your father?" she shot back.
"He works as a superintendent" I said, somehow
pronouncing the word right. Dad trained me a million hours
on ‘superintendent’ alone.
She gestured to me to come over to her desk. I obliged.
I could sense the proud smiles on my parents' faces as she
touched my head.
"Are you a good boy or a bad boy?" she asked
Back then I really didn’t care, but hey that was ‘no-question’.
Try asking, say, Carlos the assassin the same question.
Anyway, as we are forced to co-exist among people with lesser
IQ, I answered her silly question.
"Yes I am a good boy."
"Do you like chocolates?" she asked me.
What else do kids like? Bricks? So I blurted out, "Yes"
and so it went on for about five minutes. And then suddenly,
the expression on her face changed. She banged the bell
on her table. I was startled and turned around and my parents
had vanished; yet another victim of that dirty trick.
"Rajam!" the headmistress shouted and as if she
was waiting for that call all her life, Sister Rajam appeared
from out of nowhere.
I hated my folks. How could they do this to me? Leaving
without telling me? Before I realised what was happening,
I was whisked away by an ayah and was put in a classroom
with an assortment of kids, some crying and some staring
into empty spaces with a forlorn look in their eyes. Some
kids were already in action, tugging at ponytails and making
faces at unsuspecting victims. My life as a student thus
began in Little Flower Convent, in second standard, section
If not for Ms Isabel, our moral science teacher I would
have run away from school the very next day. She floated
into our classroom like an angel, and attended to all the
sissies who were still crying for their mom and dad and
hey presto, they stopped crying. I still remember Ms. Isabel
talking to me for the first time in her husky voice.
"So, Sunnu, what do you want to be when you grow up?"
"I want to be a dragonfly", I told her with all
the conviction in my voice.
She let out a throaty chuckle, held my baby face and gave
me a peck. Now, I never allow any ladies, other than my
mom to touch me. But Ms Isabel was different. I wanted to
complain about this behaviour to my mom, but then I didn't
want to discuss my personal life with her. So I left it
The guy who was sat next to me in the class was Trishanker,
a tall, lean kid. He had a big nose and his nostrils were
always looking skywards. We became good friends. We even
shared my candy that came along with the lunch- delivered
by Leela, our maid. Trishanker had an extraordinary talent
for story telling as he had a wonderful imagination. That
talent of his was going to help us in a big way in the days
I used to go to school in a bullock cart, as there were
no buses. We had to travel for about two kilometres to get
to school and it used to take thirty minutes by this cart.
I hated the idea, simply because I could not stand the sight
of the bull dragging a load of thirty kids. Apart from the
weight, the kids made a racket and the poor bull was jittery
all the time. He used to puff and pant and whenever he paused
to rest Venkatesh would crack his whip. I would cry and
refuse to commute in the cart.
After a few days, my dad said, "It's the cart or you
walk, every day."
That was so compassionate of my dad. "Fine!"
I said, and regretted it the very first day.
To get to Little Flower Convent, I had to pass the municipal
school. The municipal school was run by the town's administration
and it was not an ‘English-medium’ school. The school was
a free school. The students of this school had a nasty reputation
of ragging our school kids whenever they got a chance and
I was ignorant of this crucial detail.