I’ve officially reached the stage of my life, where I start thinking of past events and then I get reminded of how much time has passed. And just the other day, I was reminded that its been almost a decade since I completed high school. While yes, it does that seem like I’ve lived an entire era in the one decade since I graduated high school, paradoxically, it seems just yesterday that I was getting on and off my yellow school bus. Living life in classes, and tuitions, and elocution contests, and prefect meetings and homework. Waiting desperately to get out into the world, only to want to go back to the haven you’ve called school. Because a slice of the real world is enough to make you realize that you’d much rather worry about exams and assignments than paychecks. C’est la vie!
I look back to the version of myself that I was in school, and I wonder. Would that chirpy, bubbly, vivacious girl have ever known that in the next decade to came, she will embark on a journey of self discovery, exploration and learning? That her curiosity will be her companion for life, and passion her North Star. That she will do multiple things, live across cities, countries and continents, and meet people from more walks of life than she’d ever imagined. But everything starts somewhere. And for her, so many of her chapters of life, will have their beginnings within the Heritage School walls.
I consider myself doubly fortunate here.
First, because I went to school. In a country where a majority of children don’t get to go to school, I feel this extraordinary sense of gratitude for the opportunity I got, purely by accident.
And second, because I went to a good school. A very good one, in fact.
The Heritage School, the institution I had the good fortune of attending was a haven in itself. Miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city, a little paradise tucked away in the outskirts of cacophonous, chaotic, crowded Calcutta, we were one lucky cohort who went here. Because when you have a place in Calcutta that is quiet and huge and has greenery all at the same time, you know you’re lucky. I spent seven years of my life, spoiled by the environment here. Studying, playing, mischief making, friending, (fortunate enough to call my friends from The Heritage still my closest ones), and yes, complaining about the food served (only to miss it when you leave. Yes, the food too!). Not knowing that when you’ve been part of this system for a while, The Heritage stops becoming a place. It becomes a feeling, one that is fuzzy, warm, nostalgic and bittersweet, at the same time.
And subconsciously, I carry so many of these bigs and smalls with me. When I see the fad that yoga is the west, I remember how we were introduced to it in school, and regret we never valued the practice that today is a gazillion dollar business here. Each time I commit the grammatical sin of saying “I and XYZ”, I hear Anuradha ma’am whisper into my ear “Only donkeys say I first!”. Basabi ma’am teaching me that the kidney shape is technically called ‘reniform’ and not ‘bean shaped’. Mona ma’am’s mathematics, where after a point even the walls could recite algebraic equations. Koel ma’am’s history lessons, where even the silliest of questions were dutifully answered. Runa ma’am’s office, that had the solution to every single problem. And of course, when you went to an institution headed by two fantabulous women, Mrs Atal and Mrs Sapru, you learnt the art of glass ceiling breaking at a young age itself.
But if there’s anything that has stuck with me more than anything else, it’s the school motto. ‘Be your own Light‘. Time and again, this invaluable adage, one that was plastered on the walls, has come to me in moments where life has gotten me down. Your own, unique, flame. The one you light. The one that flickers, wavers, even diminishes, occasionally, to come back on, brighter than before. One of hope, compassion, and faith. The one that is yours. Only yours. Uniquely yours. The world can dim it. But it’s your responsibility to never let it go out. Because if you don’t, no one else will.
If there’s one thing the past decade of being out in the world has taught me, it’s that school teaches you lessons. Life takes the exams. Some we flunk, other we pass with flying color. And while every life experience, good and bad, makes you branch out, your roots remain where and what they always have been. And in my case, I’d say some part of me still lives within those yellow buildings on 107 Chowbaga Road.