My first experience at a residential school

In the summer of 1994, I was 10 years old. My dad had just taken a long leave from work. We had shifted to our native village after my school closed for the summer. My parents were constantly discussing various residential school options that were available for me. I was scared and excited altogether. With these mixed emotions, whenever prompted by my parents, I was revising my lessons. Most schools conduct entrance examinations to admit students. My parents wanted me to be prepared. Though I did not like to revise my lessons, I did sit and study at times.

After clearing the entrance exams, I joined a residential school. My brother was very excited to see all the outdoor play things like swing, merry go round, slide etc. He was only 5 years then. But seeing his excitement, my dad enrolled him too. I was tensed at the prospect of learning to tend to myself and take care of him in a different environment.

After some days, my brother created a lot of fuss in the school and hence my parents shifted him out. I still remember writing to my parents every time asking them to take him back. He used to be home sick and cry a lot.

For me, the first few days went by adjusting to the new environment. After the initial excitement and new found independence died down, I hated the life at residential school. I was missing my parents, home. I waited impatiently for a chance to go home. I longingly looked at the day scholars who go home everyday.

At the school, everyday at 5 in the morning, a bell rings to wake us up. Some students rush to bath, some study, some continue to sleep until 6 O’ clock. But from the time the first bell rings until 6 O clock, a series of hindu spiritual songs are played in the loud speaker of all the dormitories. Ayarpadi Maaligaiyil is one of the first songs that is played. It is a lovely lullaby rendered for Lord Krishna in my mother tongue, Tamil.

Everyday when the bell goes off in the morning, it used to bring me to tears. Unknown fear would grip me. I used to think about the ever scowling teachers, some mean students and a lot of things that usually finds place in a terribly home sick 10 year old’s mind. These emotions were particularly intense if I had just returned to school after a short break at home for festivals, vacation etc. The song is actually a lullaby sung for Lord Krishna by his mother. Needless to say, early in the morning, I would be home sick. Thus I began associating these memories with this song.

After putting up with the school for a year, I left at the end of 6th grade. But the stress I experienced there continued to stay with me. Every time, my brother or I hear that song play in the radio, television etc, we simply could not stand it. One of us would run to switch it off. For us, it would remind us of the difficulties we experienced at that school. It would take us back to that world we did not want to belong to. My brother hardly stayed there for a month and despite being very young, his memories of the school stayed afresh.

Now, it is nearly 20 years since I associated my sufferings to this song. There is absolutely nothing in the song that could make anyone sad (except may be people who are longing for mom’s lullaby), but it haunted me for almost 20 years. Only recently, I started listening to this song without getting depressed. I am fascinated at how some things like these are etched in our mind. They say “Time heals” and in my case it has, even though it took 20 years.

This post is in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge: Moved by Music dated 4th November 2013 at The Daily Post.

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2 thoughts on “My first experience at a residential school

  1. I loved reading your experience in a residential school. I taught in one,I was ready to quit after ten days,the kids were wonderful,but I found the principal of the school very mean. He yelled at the teachers in front of the kids.I handed in my resignation after ten days,he did not accept it.I stayed for little over two years. I received a scholarship,so they could not stop me.
    I am Ranu,my blog name is sabethville,would like to see you there.

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