Memories: assholes in kindergarten

Dindigul in the mid 80s was a big town that boasted a handful decent English medium schools and a dozen or so Tamil medium schools of which some were well known even in the neighbouring districts.

My schooling started in JK Matriculation Higher Secondary School, popularly referred to as 'public school' (I know, doesn't make any sense). My school was started in the late 70s, I think. It had pretty decent facilities and had some decent teachers working for it [1]. We even had an old white lady as the principal for a few years. But it truly was public and unremarkable otherwise. The students were from a wide range of backgrounds, from the fairly poor to the really rich. Skin tone composition must have been: a lot of dark brown, some light brown, some darker and a few Kamal Hassan-level light skinned.


Ramu came from what seemed like a poor family. Dark skinned, runny nose, messy hair and looked out of place (yes, even for this 'unremarkable' school). We all wore the same uniform but his shirts and shorts had buttons missing, safety pins taking their place. Shirt almost never tucked in because the trousers were too loose without the button or the belt. His shoes were barely together and his socks remained loosely curled around his ankles. Just remembering his appearance makes me want to cry. It's an image that has haunted me for over 30 years. Every school I went to had kids that fit a version of this mould.

Manoj did not strike of anything in an obvious way. He was light brown, thin, not too tall and do not recall him being overtly rich. Only thing that struck was that he already had a posse. There were at least 3 other kids who followed him around and was definitely the most vicious among the bullies.

Manoj subjected Ramu to some of the worst bullying I had ever seen (it did not stop until Ramu left the school in grade 4). Among the many deplorable things that Ramu endured the worst must have been the one in which I participated. Manoj once picked up Ramu's water bottle and had more than half the classroom pee into it. I don't know where the teacher was, but the water bottle was passed along under the desk and each boy took his turn peeing in. I don't know if some refused. I remember thinking about it briefly before obliging. I think I wanted to appear favourable to Manoj more than I felt bad for Ramu. The most distressing thing about the incident was that Ramu just sat at his bench in the back as always and did not protest or cry. He just appeared detached and his eyes seemed to say "well, I don't know expect any better from you little assholes".

It was a class about 30, ~20 boys and ~10 girls no one reported it to the teachers. We were just 4 year old kids, right?


1.  My faintly informed theory is that it was a time when college graduates who spoke good English only did slightly better than their counterparts who spoke poor English. So a school that paid Rs 600/month to a 3rd grade maths (and science) teacher in 1988 still managed to retain someone who spoke really good English. Of course they were predominantly female and in their 20s. Also I don't mean to equate their skill level in English to their competency as a teacher. It's just that when I look back, that's pretty much the only thing I picked from junior-middle school that has contributed to my life in any meaningful way.


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