Rishi Valley was one of the best things to have happened to me and the experience sure taught me a lot.There are too many lessons learnt and too many memories taken from the place and its people. It would be untrue to say that all the memories were good, but still, even the bad ones helped me become who I am today. But the times have changed and I am no longer the person I was in school. Change is a constant and accepting that was hard but something the experience at school allowed me to do. It taught me how to be strong while allowing myself to feel weak sometimes, how to be independent but to also let some people in who one can depend on. It made me see friends in teachers, beauty in Nature, simplicity in living. But most of all, it made me believe in myself.
The world is one big masquerade ball and everyone uses it as an excuse to pretend, disguise, deceive. As long as you can walk out of there as the same person who entered, you’re safe.
I still remember my first day there. Sarita Akka, the Houseparent of Green House, in her loud and jolly way welcomed my mother and me. She helped bring in the suitcase and showed me around the house. A while later, Priya walked into the house with her parents and gave me a confused and lost smile. We were the two fresher girls in class 9 and we would have to stick up for each other in this new way of life=
The new way of life was not bad at all. I had Trisha for my ‘headside partner’ and the two of us turned our heads to each other and hit it off the first night itself. She did surprise me in the morning though, when I found her sleeping on the ‘cool’ floor because it had been too hot to sleep on the bed. Every time I think about her, Casablanca’s ‘I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship’ come to mind. Over time, others went from ‘acquaintances’ to finding out that they were ‘classmates’ and eventually, became ‘friends’. Boarding schools have a strong feeling of a community. Teachers become friends, friends become family, boys become girls. If you were wondering, the last part of that sentence implies that one can’t differentiate between a guy friend and a girl friend because you treat them both as just ‘friends’, regardless of the gender. Of course, the hostels are well demarcated between the two genders, and that keeps things under control.
One thing that cannot be controlled is the paper chatting during boring classes and during Prep, an hour of supervised studies every evening before dinner. Someone writes something down, nudges the neighbour and asks to pass it to the receiver, who is usually sitting quite far away from the receiver. The middlemen get annoyed quite fast and the paper chatting comes to a halt. A little secret: some people would hide the grub that parents brought during visits in their desks, which they would unlock during Prep and munch away at the back of class. Those were the best Preps and such risks were taken only when a not-so-strict Supervisor was in charge.
Sports was one of the biggest things I had going for me during my time in school. After the first few weeks of complaining, I got used to waking up for PT at 6 in the morning and jogging for long distances. It didn’t help that in my previous school, I had done no stamina building activity. I would just be pleased that I could make it back to the field in one piece after each jog. Handball season was around the corner and they needed players. I gave it a shot and it turned out that being a ‘wing’ was my forte! In my four years there, the games ground became a place I loved being at, be it while playing tennis with Marker on the tennis courts, being goalie for 4th standard kids trying to play football, playing volleyball with a bunch of teachers and juniors, or even for sipping on hot tea and watching the basketball matches against the big uncles from nearby ‘schools’. Before Sports Day, my Economics teacher and I would go jogging round the 200 m path, in preparation for the 5 km jog that we intended to take part in. I came 2nd in girls for two consecutive years in that event thanks to the practice sessions with Rajan. Another big help in bringing out the runner in me that I discovered in class 11 were the stamina building sessions with Siddhartha Mennon, my English teacher/Class Teacher/Stamina Building Coach. Because of the compulsion to partake in sports in the school, I gave every sport offered by the school a shot. I even tried basketball despite my useless height and would be overjoyed when I was not picked last. A spirit of sportsmanship was developed and nurtured, which can now only be fed by going to a gym. The football field, the volleyball courts, the jogging paths, the uphill runs faded away and the gym, its make-do ‘replacement’ did not even earn itself a comparison to the pleasures of those open air, beautiful sports arenas...