The School days- leaf 4

Flash back. I go almost 36 years behind.

Madurai, 1979

St. Josephs Girls Higher Secondary School, Near Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal.

This school has given me wonderful memories and surely will play a major role sprouting these leaves.

One event that was very exciting and that is still fresh in my memory, was the walk back home from Mahal (school) to SS colony (home)near Arasaradi; a distance of about 6 to 8 kms-I am not sure.

It was the more daring act we did during those times. Imagine, all girls from a somewhat conservative family walking back from school on the main roads of the city! Though not unusual, it was definitely unheard of in our families and society to say the least.

Routinely we take bus 8D from S.S. Colony to Mahal stop every day, for school and back home.

We catch the morning 8:20 bus and reach school by 9:00 am and catch the 3:40 bus to reach home by 4:30 pm.

That particular day, we were given an early off by 3:00 pm, owing to one of the sister’s demise at the school belonging to Congregation of St. Lyons.

We did not create an opportunity for ourselves by not taking the bus on regular school days. Such thoughts never entered our minds. We were ingrained a certain degree of discipline. But when an opportunity presented itself, instead of waiting 40 minutes, we thought we could walk the distance and be home at the regular time.

An experience very ordinary and yet thrilling for us.

Who were these we?

Akila, Kayalvizhi and myself.

As soon as we stepped out of the massive school gate, we found small peddlers on the road selling sweetmeats. Our bus fare was 25 paise each, one way. We pooled our bus money; a total of 75 paise. Wow! what a bonus!

We purchased ginger toffees, peppermint toffees, and dry roasted peanuts to munch our way home.

We began the journey. Indeed, it was one.

I don’t remember every step back home save a few clear moments, but the feeling of joy that enveloped all three remains strong till date.

We were in a magical bubble. The entire world around us, the city, its traffic and people all faded away. One after the other our feet moved forward and we took the bus route to get back home.

Undisturbed by any other distractions such as mobile phones, we connected with each other; talking away each step and towards home we set off.

What we spoke, I do not remember. It did not matter then and even now it does not matter. What mattered was our togetherness.

Our school bag was no back pack, but a shoulder bag made of cloth hanging on our shoulders and moving with us rhythmically.

I can picture us- all three in white school uniform (skirt, blouse and half saree draped) with double plaits tied with white ribbon, walking abreast with no worries.

Akila was the tallest among us and Kayal and myself of the same height. I remember vaguely, Akila holding my hand during road crossings.

When we finished the little eatables, we purchased, I have no clue, but we continued happily.

One place enroute, I remember clearly, was the ‘Mempalam’ – the main bridge, that runs over the railway tracks. We stood there for few minutes and wondered at the mere aspect of standing at a height and looking down at the railway tracks and the tracks appearing small as toys.

We were filled with inexplicable joy. Then, conscious of the time we need to make, we proceeded.

It was an unhurried, magical trek back home.

We reached SS Colony in time. First came my house; we lingered for few minutes at the turning saying good byes and I sent Kayal and Akila off on their way.

Next, at a corner further, Kayal would have done the same and Akila would have proceeded to her home.

We were very content in the knowledge that we all will meet again the next day in 8D bus and relive our happiness of walking home from school the previous day.

No whatsApp follow ups, no phone calls. An exciting afternoon ended with contentment and plain old trust and faith in our times and ourselves.

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