To get started, Sherwood College is a boarding school located in Nainital, Uttranchal, India. The school started in 1869 by Robert Milman and has two wings: Horsman Wing (junior school, classes 3 to 5) and Dixon Wing (senior school, classes 6 to 12). In brief, Horsman Wing is where you are the protected little kiddies who look upto Dixon Wing in the same manner that a convict would look out of his cell at the free world. You are constantly brooded over by teachers, matrons and aayahs. Your every action is monitored and you don’t have many opportunities to do things that boarding schools are generally famous for. A bit of fighting, lots of tuck (goodies like biscuits, chocolates jam and tomato ketchup) followed by severe bouts of diarrhea. Sports are introduced early on (in my school before Sherwood, till class 7 you were only allowed to play carrom, ludo or chess maybe) and competition is cut throat (something that continues right till you pass out in class 12).
In Horsman Wing (‘horsy’ from now on), the first time you venture towards the small swimming pool, you expect lots of fun with splashing and screaming. Big blow to your expectations and happiness, the swimming coach is standing there with a 8 foot long stick shouting at a random kid to try and swim along the sides in an anti clockwise direction. The more adventurous and daring little brats were rewarded with a whack on the back, and all adventure and enthusiasm evaporated combined with an opening of the sphincter muscles. Of course, very rarely did one come to know about a boy peeing in the small pool, but going by the number of times I did it (mainly because I was didn’t want to miss out on the action by going to the toilets), I reckon 3 to 4 did it every time we were in there.
Horsy also involved a lot of fighting, some detective work (you tried to figure out who crapped in XYZ’s shoe in the night, and who ate ABC’s chocolates) and a lot of bickering over the most trivial of issues (I can say that only now, at the time they seemed to be of more importance than anything else on earth). The heroes and champs of the class would be those who were good at sports, seconded by the teachers’ favourites; these two groups invariable landed the plum jobs of class monitor and dorm monitor (positions of great importance, mind you, you got privy to staff politics, were allowed to come in late for dinner after locking the class rooms, and one word from you could earn an erring kid a sharp reprimand).
In class 5, our Math teacher, who was also the Junior School Headmistress, started a ‘Star Chart’. There was a big chart on the notice board with the entire class’s name written in alphabetical order, with space to put in the ‘stars’. If you did something good, like answered a difficult question, good behaviour or did your homework very well, you got a silver star. If you did something outstanding, like topped a difficult test, solved a problem which no one else could, or something similar, you got a much coveted gold star. Now the most important part, if you screwed up in class, you earned a black star. These would be awarded if you used used foul language (‘bloody’ was the foulest it got, and none knew what the word meant), if you scored poorly in a test, were caught talking or dreaming and couldn’t answer a question in class. Now, I don’t mean to blow my own trumpet, but the guy with the highest number of black stars in 1996 was me, with a grand total of 45 black stars. The nearest competitor, Rohit Yadav was on 43, and we left the rest of the field behind, the third highest being something like 21. The yellow star holders were, obviously, immaterial.
A tale involving Horsman Wing cannot be complete without ‘Smiley Man’. We never got to know his real name, but this particular gent had been coming to Sherwood for almost the past 20 years (a very conservative estimate). With him he brought a box which contained packets of daal, candy, various namkeens and his famous smile. We’d get pocket money (a princely sum of 10 rupees) twice a week and his arrival was always eagerly awaited by almost 120 little boys. The chappus, who were the teachers-ass-licker types looked forward to the ‘Fruit Man’ s visits. They’d buy a bunch of flowers and gift it to Ma’am XYZ, ensuring a place in her good books.
The day I joined Sherwood, I got the roll number that would identify me for the rest of my stay there. Your name is not as important as your roll number. It is what you are know as and I was ‘roll number 318’. Even today if someone were to shout out that phrase, I’d instinctively respond, just like you do when your name is called out in a large gathering. I also got allotted a house – Little John (L. J. for short), our colour was yellow. For the next eight years, I cheered for the the LJ cricket, atheletics, badminton teams and was part of the LJ football, hockey and table tennis teams.
Horsman Wing also made me an adept practitioner of the freestyle martial arts. I was constantly getting into fights and remember cutting open a classmate’s forehead by banging his face on the serrated edge of a large tin can. Knocking out another fellow (or at least he acted “knocked out”) got me my first “Yellow Card” in class 4. Three Yellow Cards = 1 Red Card = Explusion from the school.
A regular feature of the first year in school was diarrhea. It struck everyone and brought us to shame at one point or the other. My first “loosies” experience was basically a ninja attack. Went in the morning to the bogs to pee; farted while peeing, and there it was in my pyjamas. I had no idea why I’d just crapped my pants, specially since the previous night, I’d felt none of the impending signs in the form of anal discomfort. Anyway, what was done was done, and now the most important job was to save face. So I walked back the most “normal walk” a seven year who has wet shit flowing down his thighs can walk. Once I got back to my dorm, I slyly took off the soiled stuff and tried to hide it in my dirty-clothes bag.
Unfortunately, that didn’t work. If my memory serves me right, it was Saurabh Chawla, from two beds away, who smelt something shitty; saw the fugitive look on my face; put two and two together and made a mad dash to our Matron’s office. Asshole, it was okay if he’d just run and informed her, but for added effect he first shouted “Chee, Deswal has done kaka in his pyjama”. So there I was, standing next to my bed, adorned in shame, the entire dorm giving me the dirtiest looks that a collective of seven year olds can give, while I waited for the Matron to come.
She came, she smelt, she screwed her face in to a scowl, she pulled out her bamboo stick and used it to pick up the pyjama. Then she held it up, as if she were Sherlock Holmes who’d just found the final piece of the puzzle and was displaying it to the awestruck bystanders, and dumped the thing on the floor in front of my bed. I tell you, dear reader, I can feel the blood rush to my ears right now. The memory of that incident still makes me go red.
AND THEN THERE WAS THIS ONE TIME, WHEN THIS HAPPENED.
Yup, another bout of diarrhea. On this occasion, I knew it was coming. And this was right after lunch. So I ran to the Infirmary. Unfortunately, I still didn’t know what the loosies were actually called. So I told the Sister “my stomach’s hurting”. She gave me a pill and told me to gulp it down with water.
Dear reader, piece of advice: water does not induce immediate relief to a shaky anal opening, because water has no electrolytes. Therefore, don’t drink water when you’re fighting the crappy battle in public.
Continuing with my tale of shit, well, I ran to the dorms from the Infirmary. I was wearing shorts. I lost the battle within seconds of ingesting the water. I left a trail of crap. Am going red right now. Seriously.