Sunday, January 27, 2008

The whole boarding school way of life was still quite Brit at that time (remember it was only 13 years after Independence). I was there only for 2 years. I went in in the 4th standard(grade) and was moved to the 5th in the middle of the year (what was called a double-promotion). When I moved to the 6th it was the 1st Form(yes, as in Enid Blyton & the England of those days).
I remember among my chosen extra-curricular activities were ballet and riding. I like watching ballet and love ballet music, but I realised, pretty early, that I was too clumsy to be good at it.
But riding I loved, more because I love animals I think. We were taught on sturdy ponies, who had all been used to having green kids, try to control them. So they were very gentle. I so loved their horsey smell and the brushing them afterwards. I remember once, as a special treat, I was allowed to ride our instructor's horse, a beautiful big, black horse and the thrill of it. Incidentally, our riding instructor was an English woman, one of those who had decided to stay on. There were quite a few of them in Ooty, and the horse was her own. All the ponies were for hire from the men who kept them for tourists near Ooty Lake. Of course, after leaving Ooty there's been no chance to ride.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I went off to Boarding school in Ooty when I was 8, which should make it '60 January. I can't remember the logic for being sent off to boarding school except that both my elder brothers had been in boarding school--in Ooty. There was also the fact that my mother probably found it difficult to manage the 3 of us younger children together. Anyway, whatever the reasons, I went.
I remember getting together all the requisite clothes and my mother getting name tags--my name, machine stitched on a tape roll kind of thing. It was pretty easy to get something like that done in Bombay of that time. Then my mother took me to the book store in Flora Fountain and brought me 'The Naughtiest Girl in School' by Enid Blyton and a sequel, writing on the inside cover 'I hope you won't be the naughtiest girl'. [I loved the book and the character, but I was never like the heroine, being the sort who almost always followed rules and was rebellious only in my mind!]
The next most important thing was getting one's tuck box ready. For that, one was expected to have a box, into which all the food items from home were to be packed. These were then given into the custody of the nun who was one of those associated with the dining room & kitchens. What I remember most was a raspberry shaped sweet (like the orange shaped ones), pink in colour and sour-sweet, which I loved. There were certainly some of these in the tuck box. Any medicines that were needed were also to be specified. I was, in general, a healthy 8 year old. But it was usual to be given a multi-vitamin tonic and the in one in those days was Feradol, a sort of malty concoction. In the cooler weather of Ooty it got thick and was somehow much tastier and so almost and addition to the tuck box :).
I remember the day I was to leave, all of us girls who were part of the Bombay party, had to assemble at the Villa Theresa convent and all our luggage--box of clothes, tuck box and bedroll, given to the nuns. After that we all headed for the station, where there was a whole first class carriage reserved for us. I think I was one of the very few South Indians. Most of the other girls were Parsis. Anyway, we were all asked to take our places in our assigned compartments, after saying our good byes. Now my mother, having been brought up as a good Anglican, was very stiff-upper-lip, in the old Brit style. So she shed not a tear, which made me also hold my tears in. Besides this whole 'travelling in a gang' thing was exciting. I was fine through the 3 day journey. I enjoyed every bit of it---the carriage being shunted into a lay-by at Madras station, the day trip out to Madras, the changing of trains at Mettupalayam for the small Nilgiris Blue Train, the putting on of cardigans as the weather grew cooler at the higher altitudes--were all new and interesting experiences. I didn't cry even on the first night after getting to school. What finally did me in was when after about 3 days I woke up in the night to hear one of our school nannies snoring in exactly the same tone as my mother's snore! That brought the tears in earnest and I cried enough to make up for the past week I think. I can say I settled down and was very happy. But that's not really true. I stuck it out in a fairly well adjusted manner, but I was deeply homesick. Luckily it was only for 2 years. More on that later.