Folks from Kerala who ask me where I went to school are sometimes surprised when I say I went to a school in Meenchanda. Because Meenchanda in Malayalam means fish market. There are some funny guys who respond back and say “Yes, we knew that from the moment we know you, you could not have gone anywhere else”
Well that being said, my school days at NSS High School Meenchanda were one of the best times of my life. This was during 1984 to 1987. I joined there from a school (Presentation High School) nearer my home Chevayoor to where I was transplanted from Dubai during the last few months of my seventh grade. More on my life at presentation school in a later post. But now it was all about the school that changed me from being a kid to a college goer.
Some of the best moments are the time spend with friends many of whom (thanks to Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook) I have been able to find and connect again. It feels like a reunion when I chat or comment on their wall. The school NSS, Meenchanda (where Meenchanda happens to be the name of the place ) resided in a probably hundred plus years old palace that belonged to the Zamorins who ruled over the Calicut area before. When I say palace please don’t get mixed up with the huge extravagant (aptly palatial) build ups in Jaipur and Mysore. This was an old but huge house that did not really give the glory of its past years and definitely was not made of mirrors or gold.
Most of the classrooms we studied had a small opening on the roof which takes you to an attic area and the only use we found for this place was to throw up the B and C grade magazines that we read in between classes before the teachers came in. If any of my classmates from that time is reading this post, they would know what I mean and I am sure many of them should be remembering the lustful stories in those magazines that tingled our craving to reach adulthood.
I also remember a few classes where there was a store room kind of place that some even had a few swords that had transformed themselves into unusable metal pieces yet did not leave out our excitement when we first found them. I also remember that some guys took one home though not sure what purpose it served. That was a time when everyone wanted to do something that would keep you apart from the crowd. The uniform had made us all look so identical and monotonous enough to lose our individual identity. These were all fun activities to prove ourselves that we were not machines being trained for becoming something bigger than us.
The worst aspect of the school times was having to wear a tie and though a few gentle men born guys used to tie them properly, the majority of us depended on the ready to use ties that were tied to an elastic and often forcibly hung on the neck as a ritual. The most dreaded period for the tie haters were the assembly when the teachers could easily spot the guy without a tie and grant him a punishment. The day we forget our ties we would try to hide ourselves behind others and save the embarrassment, if I had a tie, my bulky body would easily provide shelter to at least two other guys. But if I was the one without a tie that day then I would surely get caught because finding a guy fatter than me was a tough proposition.
We used to get our uniform stitched from the tailor and in those days there was a fashion that a belt with a buckle was also stitched along with the trousers. This for many proved a great substitute for a tie. When people who forgot theirs they would search for kids who had a similar blue cloth belt and use that as a tie concealing the metal buckle on it. Many always had somekind of piece of cloth blue in color in their pocket that they would somehow implant on their neck every time they pass any teacher who has the additional responsibility of discipline in the school.
Well tie was one thing we happily threw away after the tenth grade, only to be forced to be worn when many of us stepped into the corporate (corporal) realities of making a living. But we did much more with our shirts during the last day of school every single year when it closes for holidays. Since we were not allowed to use Ball point pens and every one carried a fountain pen and some more studious guys even carried an ink bottle. Though Holi was not popular in Calicut this was our chance to play with color (I say color because we only had one color, blue). We would be running around and shaking the pen and the ink drops would imprint on the white shirts. How creative! Many would have removed their shirt and some would cry for the punishment they would get back home for ruining the shirt.
If you had a younger brother at home except your underwear and baniyan (sleeveless undershirts) everything of yours would by default go to him. If you are the youngest you understand what you would be getting as new cloths and school stuff every year. But chances are less that anyone would escape the color of blue. Even those who never held a pen the whole year would be seen walking around with one. The studious guys with the inkbottles would also invariably loose it during the last period of the last day.
Games as in any school were big time and craze was on cricket and football. Since I wanted to avoid the running I always opted for cricket and our pitch was near an old tomb in the ground that also became the unmovable default batsman side wicket. And the bats as it was popular those days were either the bark of a coconut tree or a piece of wood that someone would have painfully made into a crude bat like shape. Tennis and rubber balls replaced the costlier cricket balls as was the trend all over India in those days. We would play long matches staggered over days, weeks and even months using the small and large recess times we had resuming the next day from where we left. Fights over not being out was the parallel entertainment. Though I don’t remember any of my friends making to the Indian team we were all stars in our own small world.
Another popular sport was tennis. Don’t get hyped thinking we had tennis bats. Yes we had tennis balls and our small hands served the bat. We would switch between tennis and cricket depending on what was on air at that time Wimbledon or a cricket match.
Well I could go on and on and may be a whole lifetime telling how life was at Meenchanda. It was really a Meenchanda or a fish market with a few exception, we were fishes full of life and we were free to swim through the whole place without the fear of being bought or sold. Today when I see my friends from school I wonder if we ever knew how life would take us forward. That we also would be involved in buying and selling to make a living. I guess when we played and lived inside that school we never thought we would ever leave it. We belonged there and I think when I look back I still feel I belong there.
May be I will write more incidents some other time, but I hope better incidents will come as comments from my own old friends.
The pictures used here are courtsey of my friend Pramod who recently went their and genrously shared it with us. Thanks to him for reviving many memories and helping me pen this.