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Comfest 2018 International School Award

—Raghav Gupta

An age-long question has always intrigued me: what moulds the sum total of an individual’s personality? In other words, the quintessential debate of nature versus nurture. Is it the former, i.e. the internal, the genes, the hereditary information that a person is born with, the natural tendencies or is it the latter, the external, being the environment, the upbringing, the social fabric that a person grows in?

On closer introspection, one also realizes that while nature embodies largely the traits one is born with, and is hence static, nurture is a more dynamic variable, continuously changing and thus impacting the overall evolution of an individual’s behaviour and outlook.

Yet asking “nature or nurture?” is falling for a self-made trap, giving the impression that it is an “either-or” situation i.e. it is automatically assumed that there must necessarily be a mutually exclusive solution. However in my experience so far, the simplest answer to the question is “both.”

Yet, how much one or the other influences the individual, paradoxically, depends a lot on the individual itself. Thus, one may attribute the genetic make up for defining what that person is or one may choose to allocate his personality traits to the environment.

School, and hence early education, is one of the most important environments one goes through. It is a complex institution that contributes in so many ways, and plays a crucial formative role,which can more often than not, be appreciatedonly retrospectively. For instance, me wearing a tie to school, and coming back home, with it still reasonably intact was something I never knew would have a bearing on me and yet I still wear a tie to office every day. Who would have known that this would be a habit which would just subconsciously bury itself then and manifest itself so routinely now?There are countless examples in each of our lives.

Looking back, SAJS has given me a plethora of experiences which I cannot possibly list out. It has helped me grow in so many aspects and cultivate so many passions in my life that an eternal gratitude remains for the Jaipuria School family. All existing vocabulary is in fact restrictive to expressing the deluge of memories which I endearingly carry. But I must try and revisit some unforgettable remembrances…

I remember vividly, getting new books just before the school opened, cutting the string which bound them in a bunch and hating that some books would be dented because of it.An excitement to see what waited in the coming year: the smell of the books, the fresh ink, the untouched pages, the registers, the notebooks and of course, my mother’s impeccable manner of putting brown coverson each book and inscribing my name, class and section with a black marker(my roll number would be scribbled later by me, in my starkly contrasting, untidy handwriting!).

And of course I remember the excitement for the summer vacation. The beautiful, long, but not never-ending, summer vacation!When the last working day couldn’t get over sooner! The pending science projects (with the maroon-brown folders and green lace), the mathematics and cursive handwriting exercises, all to be completed during the vacation and how some of it (rather, most of it!) was done in the last week, the dreaded last week!

Besides these, I miss so many things about school and only some can be mentioned here, perhaps those too, only by means of a poem:

 

I miss the school diary with daily noting

Of homework and tests and remarks,

Of houses and songs and hymns,

And a hand-written time-table at the last.

Waiting for Anand Samwad to come out,

And to check if my poem figured there,

Or climb aboard the book-van

Which came from St. Paul’s or somewhere.

Poetry recitations and vocal music tests,

When teachers would usually go roll-wise,

But sometimes would reverse the order,

Or call out randomly much to our surprise.

The library, where books were

Handed over to us on long tables,

And thereafter the senior classes,

When we could chooseour own titles.

Using fountain ink-pens for the first time,

And soiling fingers black or blue,

Changing into games-dress in the classroom,

And endless jokes which ensued.

The bugle and the band and the fields,

The tedious PT and march-past practices;

Music rehearsals in music rooms;

Doing assignments in carpentry classes!

The smell of ammonia (or H2S?) from Chemistry lab,

Lab-coat torn and test tubes broken;

The metallic bad geaffixed on my blazer

Which scratched my fingers ever so often!

Eagerly opening my tiffin during break-time,

Only to find it half-empty,

And the not-so-subtle hints from the culprits

Who laughed while patting their tummies!

Asking for the most extra sheets during exam time,

And getting looks from fellow classmates,

Making ComFest something to remember,

While choosing events and sponsors and dates!

As Founder’s Day practices filled the evenings,

All rooms and halls were readied for the grand exhibition:

Charts and art, clay and craft, gizmos and models,

And all possible human creations!

News of the day at morning assembly,

And echoes of the daily prayer.

But sometimes, I bunked (quiz classes, you see),

And others, I sang in the choir.

Basketball dunks or creaking swings

Or Sun, moon, stars on the stairs.

Gulmohar blooms or Jollyor Jinx,

Solemn oaths were “mother swears”!

Windows with yellow grill and frames,

Brown desks with pencil graffiti,

The canteen and the flag post were key rendezvous,

The Book Stop had favourite stationery!

School trips to new places,

And a couple of fun picnics.

Or camping in the school fields,

And Christmas carols in western music.

Some days an extra loud “Good morning sir,”

Was offered with melody and snickers.

Other days, actual chocolates were distributed

For a good old birthday cheer!

Waiting for the morning bus with mom and dad,

(laterli’l Rasika joined and waited too!)

Jumping out from the bus at noon, relieved,

Hungry, tired after a day at school!

The gong going off when school got over,

Still rings clear and brings me joy.

Such was my school, my home,

Who told the boy in me to dream, to fly!

 

Epilogue:

 

I was homesick in Class I, and Aloma ma’am, the angel that she is, impersonated Michael Jackson (I was a huge fan) during the lunch break. I still remember smiling through my tears. And then suddenly, all was not so bad after all. Then I also remember, entering her classroom twelve years later, (of course, having visited her several times in between), when I was in the last year at school: grinning, grown-up,gregarious. Yet my eyes tried to find a young, lost version of me somewhere in the benches; a shy, timid boy, who has 12 beautiful years to look forward to, to nurture him, and to make him what he is today…

 

(The writer passed out from Seth Anandram Jaipuria School, Kanpur in 2005, completed B.Sc. from St. Stephen’s College, University of Delhi in 2009 and then did Masters in Taxation in Business Laws (MTBL) from NALSAR University, Hyderabad in 2017. He is a civil servant in the Indian Revenue Service (IRS) of 2012 Batch and is currently posted in Mumbai. He recently completed his Advanced Diploma in International Taxation (ADIT) from Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT), UK in 2019. His interests include astronomy, Egyptology, music, poetry, travel, wildlife photography and teaching.)

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