Previous Episode: Gurukul – Let’s Pray
I couldn’t understand what was going on during my first days at the Gurukul. It took me few days to get used to the routines.
I would wake up early, reluctantly rising to the continuous ringing of a bell in the early morning hours. The darkness would still be there, with no sign of birds chorus as it was too soon to the dawn. The students would get dressed quickly for the morning exercise hour, while the head boy rushed the students to assemble on the grounds. Cnu and me would follow the rest, with no clue of what we would do for the next one hour. The students would assemble quickly, do their warm up exercises, and then complete thirty minutes of running under the supervision of our PE teacher. I would get breathless during the run and I often took small breaks between the minutes. The PE teacher was young, athletic, rough to talk to, and ferocious, like someone you wouldn’t want to mess with. He would make sure the students attended the morning sessions without fail. Those who defaulted were severely punished. He designed an intense session that would cover exercises from head to toe; in addition, he taught us how to practice a Sun Salutation, a popular Yoga warm up routine. He also coordinated the morning and evening assembly prayers and sports hour after studies, and he would undertake the vigilance of the nightly study hours.
After morning exercise hour, we would be left with an hour to get freshened up, finish our breakfast, and assemble for the morning prayer by 7:45. The time we had to get ready to attend curriculum classes was 90 minutes. With a great relief of completion of the hardest PE hour in the beginning of the day, I would follow my friends to the nearby Sarada river to get freshened up. Even though our school compound was fully equipped with water taps to supply water for both drinking and regular usage, we would go to the river to save time. Moreover, it was fun to get into the water stream. The river water was clean and warm, the flow wasn’t aggressive at all, and hardly we could get water up to our waist deep at certain places. In those beginning days, everywhere Cnu and I went, the senior students would stop us to ask about us. It wasn’t exactly the ragging but for me it was a bit annoying.
Our food menu for three-times per day and seven days of the week was predefined. Although there was a different item in breakfast each day, many of us loved the khichdi – a popular dish made of lentils, rice and vegetables. We would carry our lunch sets given to us by the kitchen for every meal, clean them after meal, and keep them safe for the next turn. Breakfast would be served as soon as one finishes the PE. However, there would be a big rush at the kitchen as we approach the school time.
We would assemble as per the class and sections in a symmetrical queue in front of the school dais always in uniform, with an exception on Saturdays. As the school was shaped in H, the echo we made during the prayer would echo in high volume. The prayer consisted of – our Indian national song, national pledge, and one religious scripture defined each day from one particular religion that varied from Hindu, Christian, Muslim to Buddhism. Being the new joinees, we were given a copy of these scriptures to learn by heart, in order to avoid the wrong pronunciations. Classes would start by 8AM.
Each class had their own time-table with various subject periods, and each session lasted for forty-five minutes. These time tables were made in such a way that more complex subjects, such as math and science, were often the first subjects of the day whereas art, craft, library reading and design periods were at the end of the day. The classes after lunch would mainly focus on getting our learning tested with various assignments, short tests, or simply providing us time to study. The sitting arrangement in each of our classes was interesting; often, we would be shuffled to avoid the continuously to be a back bencher or sometimes in the rows of parabolic shape so to view the teacher at any given point of time. Every day before disperse of the school, an hour of extra curricular activities was conducted with teams randomly selected among the students from each section from beginners, juniors, and senior categories. These activities consisted of general quiz competitions, elocution, essay writing, theme-based or spontaneous painting, or simply vocal music. All these initiatives were taken care of by the assigned class teacher as an additional responsibility to his teaching.
In the evening, there was one hour of sports where students had to be be involved in one sport of his choice. This was the period where we would enjoy our liberty to wander around instead of playing. Some of us would go to the river banks to play in the sand, and some of us would have little adventures like mischievously picking crops from the fields, such as ground nuts, sweet potatoes, Cassava, and sugarcane. Poor farmers had a tough time because there was no other way to deal with us except to complain to our principal. He,in turn, would nominate our PE teacher to find the culprits each time when there was such a situation. This one hour of sports period and then another one hour of leisure was all the luxury we had for ourselves before we were served our dinner, followed by two hours of a study period eventually.
The chefs of our kitchen would work hard all through the day to serve us three hot meals per day. The efforts they had put in were noteworthy, because the chef’s team would do all the activities manually, from chopping the vegetables to cleaning the dishes. Dinner was served at sunset. We would hurriedly get ready after a quick shower and we would sit on the open grounds instead of the dining room, where we sat in small, independent groups. Often, we would sit there chatting, or laughing over a poor joke, while the dusk was slowly taken over by the darkness. The last schedule of the day was often difficult for us because the night study hour was also conducted within the school. After dinner, many of us would get sleepy – especially the fifth and sixth graders. Often,we would take naps for short periods of time while one of our best friends stood guard, so as not to be caught. During this hour, two teachers per floor would watch over us to make sure we studied instead of sleeping. However, the teachers would never force us to study a particular subject; rather, the decision was left up to us, in order to encourage independent thinking and to improve our self-consciousness by organizing our own learning. As soon as the clock struck nine o’clock, our night watchman would ring the bell to disperse the study hour. That was the moment we would feel relaxed for the day. We would head to dormitory and hit the bed in total exhaustion.
Our stay in school was totally scheduled to help us in getting accustomed to few of the best practices of life – be it early to bed and early to rise, or systematic study hours. Gurukul benefited us in many ways like regulating our habits, building a positive attitude, joy of sharing, dignity of labor and most importantly making the most from every single moment of the day. Only now I realize why we would need such a discipline to lead a healthy life. Unfortunately, when I grew up, I developed the irregular food habits and gave up physical exercise, which made me lazy. The good lessons learnt from such an important period of my life were forgotten. Nevertheless, I realize now I should get back to my roots in order to lead a healthy life. Better late than never.