30 September, 2008

Variants of Punishments & Genes of mischief

Born and brought up in the midst of rubber plantation, where educational institutions were far and few, I was packed off to the boarding school as early as five years old. My first alma mater was a famous convent school in Kochi where boys only of the safe age group of five to ten were allowed.
Rest of my school years were with the Carmelite fathers of Mary Immaculate, pioneers in running educational institutions like military garrisons. One evening the rector stormed into the study hall holding a small packet, which a mischief monger had stealthily put in his room. None of the boys would own up responsibility as immediate expulsion would be the consequence. The academic year came to a close and there was a purge, all suspects were asked to find other schools to complete their further studies. Though not remotely connected with the mischief I too was disgracefully discharged from the school. For a eighth grader it was equivalent to capital punishment. With pull and push I managed to get admission and complete the rest of my schooling in another school of the same congregation though at a different location.

As living surroundings hadn’t changed much, I too admitted my son to a co-educational boarding school in the first standard itself. It was a smooth passage from the first to the seventh, the so called safe phase. While in class eight he slipped out of the hostel at night to buy snacks for his friends and himself. He was caught by the matron while sneaking back and reported to the principal. Naturally the principal send for me. I arrived a bit apprehensively thinking, “Like father like son”, he too will be dismissed from the school. On reaching the school my younger son casually asked me, “Dad in which class were you when you were compulsorily sent off”. The import of his query was apparent; yes I too was in the eighth. However the punishment my elder one got was, thanks to the changed times, cancellation of day out for the rest of the term.

Couple of years passed without further incidents. One day I was again summoned by the principal. He was caught for bullying his juniors. As the matter was serious and since I too disapproved of his behaviour, I agreed with the principal to take any punitive action that she considered appropriate. I was praying silently that the punishment should be anything but dismissal, since new admission in the tenth class was very difficult to obtain.

Incredibly the punishment he got for bullying the boys in the junior dormitory was to stay in the girls’ dormitory for a week. To be politically correct I pretended to be annoyed. Surreptitiously I thought “A few more years and he’ll wish for more of the same kind of punishment”.

Had he known that his paternal and maternal Grand fathers were college mates at St. Philomina’s, Mysore and that both of them were packed off from college, he would have said “ Dad don’t blame me, blame it on the genes.”

28 September, 2008

Man proposes God disposes

I must have been twenty two when late one night my father woke me up. My maternal grandfather and great grandfather had arrived at that unearthly hour and wanted me to accompany them to vellore urgently. They wanted my services as an expert driver.
Word had come from CMC hospital that grandmother’s sister, who was admitted there critically ill, was sinking. Grandfather who had a Willy’s station wagon immediately set out proposing to take the patient’s father, his own father-in law, to see the dying daughter once more for the last time and also to bring back the body as soon as the inevitable occurred.
I changed in a jiffy and we set out earnestly on the 400kms journey. The diesel vehicle wouldn’t move as fast as the present day turbo charged engines and there weren’t a patch of four lanes in all of India those days. As we wanted to reach before she passed away, we drove non stop except for a brief while for tea and reached Vellore after about sixteen hours on the road.
Grandmother’s sister was in a very serious condition and the doctors gave her a maximum of 24 hours. Planning started immediately for the return journey with the body by the next day evening. Since there won’t be room for great grandfather to accompany us along with the body on the journey back, he was to be taken to Madras early the next morning and put on a flight to Cochin. That too was entrusted to me and we left after getting a wink of sleep.
At the airport while waiting for the boarding pass I told the person standing next in the queue that great grandfather was travelling alone and to be of assistance should the need arises. Probably feeling a bit scared seeing the old man, he asked me whether he can go the toilet by himself. Great grandfather was a little hard of hearing otherwise he would have been offended.
We the advance party of undertakers waited for the eventuality which never occurred the next day nor four days after defying all the doctor’s conclusions. So we returned rather uneventfully.
A couple of months passed and the patient was discharged from the hospital not because she was cured but because the doctors said there was nothing more to be done. She was brought home and was bedridden for the rest of her days.
Meanwhile grandfather developed a chest pain and was referred to a famous cardiologist at Trivandrum. On the day he was given appointment he took along with him for company, a retired doctor friend. At Trivandrum at the prodding of grandfather his doctor friend too underwent investigations and when the findings were announced, grandfather’s heart was pumping well but his friend the doctor who accompanied him just for the heck of it was found to have a cardiac snag. They were prescribed medicines and sent back by the cardiologist. On the way back grandfather dropped his friend at his house and asked his wife to take good care of him since it was revealed that her husband had a heart problem.
Two days later my grandfather who was all of 63 years passed away in his sleep. His sister-in law whom he had gone to vellore to bring back dead, breathed her last only a week after him. The doctor friend who accompanied him just to pass time but was found to have a heart condition lived for another eighteen more years. And Great grandfather out lived all of them to the ripe old age of103. Man proposes God disposes.