I rode on my dreams that summer. Walked over an invisible threshold and walked into a new life. The air, the conversation, the dal were foreign.

I was collecting a new trajectory of experiences, passing them one by one with great care and hoping to collate them one day to write my story, a story that belonged to no other. A story that would in time and age mellow and become rich like vintage wine.

But before long, belonging gained mammoth proportions. It grew gradually, millimeter by millimeter sinking its teeth into my head, blood racing in its veins. It wanted me to be part of the crowd and not stand out in it. And I followed the piper’s tune.

Until, I wrote a song one evening and found new friends. (Never wondered if I had forgotten the old ones — they weren’t immediate, and yet erasing them from memory was unimaginably unimaginable.

As it happened, college willed me to follow doddering old tradition and I basked in it’s borrowed, faceless, mass glory. Alone and independent I now rode on new dreams; bigger, brighter, urban metro dreams that Uncle Freud with a cudgel would have had a field day in.

But somewhere there lay pin-holed images –images of a grotto and black leather shoes lined outside the chapel, of red shorts with white piping, of cross stitch gone all cross, of the moss covered tree at the gate, of morning assembly, of winter blooms, of Santa on a motorbike, of singing classes in the rains, of a thousand limbs in motion, marching to the drums — fleet-footed images of all things big and small; tangible and intangible.

I often swam amidst faces too — kind faces in white habits, chalk dust smeared faces of once we feared and loved with a vengeance and little faces contorted in concentration of the Lord’s Prayer. Our Father in heaven, Holy be Thy name...chanting the chant, humming when the bell rang and cheering full throated for fellow crusaders in kabaddi. Counting colours of my rainbow...

I belonged in what I had left behind. And I carried in me sights, sounds and smells of that yellow building that time or newness cannot erode.

I was angry and irritable when I found out that with the sights, sounds and smells, school had also grafted other things under my skin. I hadn’t been taught to cheat, to lie, to kill another’s spirit for gain. I did learn to lie later but my lies weren’t good enough in a place where survival of the fittest meant just that. But I did survive. And I owe it to my grafted self.

Of the 60 summers that school lived through, wooing the winters all along with its roses, I made 14 years mine and I shared it too.

Once upon a time I went to school and sang and danced and wrote and recited walked in joy and held a tear in my palm. Somewhere along the line I found identity and lived happily ever after.

Soity Banerjee
Ex-student, 2002


As published in the Sacred Heart Convent School Diamond Jubilee Souvenir, 2005