Sunday, September 11, 2016

Tender Beginnings

By Sunaina Patnaik at Sunday, September 11, 2016

(A twelve-year-old boy goes to study in a different city from his village and writes a letter to his mother.)


I know, I know it has been a week since I reached and I should have written you earlier. In between settling down and making new friends, writing to you slipped my mind. Finally, I sat down to tell you all that I’ve been meaning to tell you ever since I reached here.

It is 9:30 PM now. I have eaten my dinner. I am sure you must be sleeping now. Sister too must be sleeping beside you, holding one end of your saree. If I were there, I would have definitely woken you up in the middle of the night for biscuits. I miss how she would play with me every evening and the moonlit nights when you'd feed us our dinner. I think of you both often and I miss home. I’ve never imagined settling down at a new place would be this hard and tiring. But I remember dad's words, that it's important for me to pursue higher education as a part of growing up. Now, I really don't understand why I wanted to grow up.

Our school hostel is very huge. The first thing I noticed after getting down the carriage was its height. I felt so small in front of it, but I was also in awe of its size. It is an ancient building, probably 75-years-old. I have been told that the Maharaja of this town donated his house to a school to build a hostel for the boys many years ago. The branches and the leaves of the trees in the garden gently caress the lofty red walls of the building, and in the evenings, it is a true delight to sit under these trees. The playground here is vast, ma. I cannot see its end, it's that vast. There is a different and much nicer ground beside the garden where the senior boys play tennis. The world here is different and I am adapting to it, quickly.

Our warden, Mukesh ji, is an aged man and is often mistaken to be weak. But he does not entertain any funny business. He is very particular about cleanliness and checks our dirty shoes and nails each time we enter the dormitory. He wakes us at 5 AM and makes us run at least 10 times around the ground. Later, we are sent to the canteen to drink a glass of peppered milk. Then the boys take turns to shower and reach the canteen again for breakfast. The food here does not taste as good as the food you make at home. Our cook has a grumpy face and if we put his cooking skills to a test, it would be rated as something you eat to survive only. His soup is rather watery, and his potatoes lack flavour. This reminds me of the aroma of the food you cook. I remember the number of times you let me grind spices in the mortar and pestle that grandma passed on to you. Our cook’s food is barely edible, maybe I will get used to it soon. However, he makes delicious samosas and chutney in the evenings. We devour them with another glass of milk before we head out to the library. This brings me to the library -- the giant walls of it are adorned with the photographs of the Maharaja and his ancestors, who donated this building. I have discovered a lot of books here, ma. I spend most of my evenings reading Enid Blyton and Nancy Drew. The librarian told me that Tagore and Conrad are for senior boys and that I still have to wait. I have to wait to grow older for the books that have no readers in the school. What a strange world, ma!

My classes will begin in another week and I am particularly looking forward to the geography class as we'll be taught maps. I already got a globe for the dormitory and I spend several hours locating cities and countries on it. Ma, did you know that Australia is down below India and around 7,800 kilometers away from us? But on the globe, it is a one-finger distance away. My dorm mates are kind and sometimes mischievous. I've made two friends - Nakul and Nandan. Nakul is the silent one and Nandan is the funny one. Although it's been only a week, it does seem like I've known them for years. We lose the track of time when we are together. Under the apple trees, we spend hours. It reminds me of the Summer afternoons when you feed me the pickled rice under our trees.

I wish you were here so that I could come home to you and tell you everything instead of sending you a letter. But I promise to write more often and study well. I will wait for your letter. For now, I take your leave.

- Arjun



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