Saturday, July 29, 2006

& then there are some...

the night before last, i just lay in my bed unable to sleep...maybe it was the 'Khichu' i had for dinner...in any case it was one of those nights when sleep is the most elusive of things & all you can do is lay in bed with eyes wide open, listening to the clock in the living room tick away in the silence of the night. i always find the silence most conducive to my thoughts. yes, the regular ticking of the clock soon fades away into the background as your mind takes over and plunges you into the deep recesses that only it can possess. and as you are falling you see glimpses of your own life...
sunny days spent lazing around in the grass at the University...nights of incessant fun and dialogues with friends on the porch...the day out at McDonald's with the gang after the HSC exam...the night time visits to the 'chai wala' during those exams...the games that i played with the cousins during the summer holidays...my mother's smile every time i ran into the kitchen saying i was hungry only cause i wanted a piece of the cake she had just baked
...they all flash by in your fall.
yes, that night i just lay there in my bed falling.
but then there were these three images that for a moment stopped my free-fall and held me there suspended in mid air while i relived them. images of 3 very distinct people. images from 3 very distinct phases of my life. a life that i had left behind...but one that i lived each day in the memories from those moments.

the first of these images were that of Brother Thomas. Brother Thomas came into my life when i moved to Jamnagar with dad when he got transferred there. mom was still making her career in fashion and hence she did not move with us. she lived in Ahmedabad and visited regularly from time to time, but for most parts it was just me, my sister and dad.

the Jamnagar days are reminiscent of my time as a Xavierite and the echo of those days still dwell in the halls and grounds of St. Xavier's...or maybe just in our classroom of 5-B, Brother Thomas's class. for a boy at the age of 10 everything is a source of immense destructive joy and chaos. so just try and imagine 60 such individuals put together in a room...ahh, sweet memories. i still remember, 5th grade was the grade in which we stopped using pencils and picked up our first pens. now, it is very essential that a child's first pen-handling experience be that of an ink/fountain pen. it does wonders to the child's handwriting and comes highly recommended by the missionaries at St. Xavier's Jamnagar...but handwriting-shandwriting sheemish...
ink pens are also the source of raging ink throwing battles, stained walls and desks, books that resemble blotting paper, white shirts that will never be white again and ink stained hands that go in the mouth and you end up with blue teeth grinning back at the teacher
...and amongst all that, stood the towering Brother Thomas. Brother Thomas (brother since he vehemently refused to be called a father like we called the other teachers), must have easily topped 6 feet tall. most likely he was 6'4" or something. somewhere in his late twenties...but for us 10 year old boys he was the tallest man ever. our heads almost fell off every time we tried to look up at him while standing in front of him. he was the English teacher in addition to being the class teacher. i still remember him as the tall and dark Brother Thomas, dressed in white, the gentle smile on his lips as he spoke of grammar and diction in his smooth voice. he demanded strict discipline from all his students with the same smile and voice. one that we all were only too eager to provide in fear of the frown that never was there, but always a threatened to surface. still he always taught in the same mellow tone. in fact i can never remember him as being flustered or angry about us not understanding, i guessed that even he realised that all we cared about was when the recess bell would sound and who would climb the tree and who would fall and what was in out lunch boxes. English grammar was the last thing in our minds. still he persisted with his teaching. always patient and persistent. that was Brother Thomas.

but the one memory of him that i remember most vividly is that of Christmas. or more specifically, of Christmas Eve. i still remember, we boys had stayed back in school that day. we had all taken special permission from our parent's to do that. we all wanted to help decorate the school hall for Christmas. we ran around following orders from the older boys, carrying stuff and holding chairs and ladders as the older boys worked at the real decorating. we carried the straw for the crib of Baby Jesus and we dragged the props for the Christmas play. oh, we all put in our own 10 year old's worth of effort. and then, someone asked for Brother Thomas. and so Akhil (or was it Priyank) & I, were promptly dispatched to the residential quarters of the teachers at the very end of the campus to go tell Brother Thomas that he was needed. i still remember the long walk across the grounds. it was forbidden territory that we were about to step into. we were about to trespass on Brother Thomas's privacy. no student was allowed to do that. he couldn't have been more clear in that matter when he strictly forbade us to disturb him or any other teacher after school hours on the very first day.

but it was Christmas Eve, and so when we told the watchman that we were there to tell Brother Thomas that he was needed, he just waved us in and in passing said, "don't bother going up to his room and knocking. in the evenings you'll find him down in the garden with his rabbits." RABBITS!! we couldn't believe our ears and our feet hurried across the grass to the other end of the garden, & sure enough, there was the figure of Brother Thomas crouched over a cage. he had a little bucket next to him. i still remember how we just stood back, neither of us having the courage to walk up to him. we just stood there and called out to him. he turned. saw us and smiled. and then asked what was the matter. we told him that he was needed and that so-and-so had sent us to fetch him all in one breath. he just nodded, still smiling. and then he spoke, "Ok, we shall go. but first, don't you want to see the rabbits? there is this baby rabbit you know."
that minute he stopped being a young missionary who refused to be called a father and whose duty was to teach his students grammar. the discipline demanding, distant, mysterious and awe-inspiring figure of Brother Thomas no longer existed. he was Brother Thomas. just Brother Thomas.
...a simple man of God who loved teaching children & who loved his rabbits. that's the image of Brother Thomas that i cherish the most...

and that's where i start to fall again...i really can't remember much about Brother Thomas since he never really spoke very openly about his own life to the students. i remember he once mentioned that he had grown up in Kerala. but that was all. and then i moved. i stayed in Jamnagar only for a year, or maybe a little less before i moved back to Ahmedabad. i lost touch with everything that i had left behind...but one thing remained. the image of Brother Thomas, always patient and persistent whether it be in his duty of imparting knowledge to his students or caring for his rabbits...
oh, there are many that we encounter in this journey of life. some are forgotten with the next step. some linger on for a while and some become milestones in our journey. the one's we remember for being that 'extra' bit special. the one's who mark a definitive point in our journey and the one's on whom we look back with fond memories.
...and then there are some...and they are the one's like Brother Thomas...

(my free falling continues and then once again i am stopped in mid-air...but that story's for another time)

10 comments:

suemamma said...

'something touched me deep inside'...
Very moving post.

Gordon van den Heever said...

Hey Nachi,

Good one.....It is always nice to look back and remember those people who had an impact in your life once before. It is sometimes difficult to remember their names, but definately not their actions.

I believe that people cross our path to teach us something. You will be a fool if you let it slip away.

I think at the end it is our sole purpose to live a good life and it is not necesaarily a wealthy one in terms of money.

Don't worry, you are a great bloke and people will always remember you as a genuine person.

Ciao

PS: They will remember you as a KAK BBQ-man as well.

Beks said...

Like Suemamma said, very touching post and I just noticed your email is nachi.the great...was it always that?

Nachi said...

Suemamma: some people just manage to touch our lives and change it forever.

Bru: kak BBQ-man eh?? you always burnt the meat and sometimes yourself as well...i guess that individually we are just mere mortals. but together we are the Braai Gods!! (ok i over-stepped a bit here) ;)

Beks: *sigh*...i know. i am such an unrepentant narcissist/egoist. my mind can't see two feet beyond me!! ah well, we are all allowed our own little indulgences and vices... :)

Ghost Particle said...

superb man! its always someone in the past who acts as a legen d when we rewind back the time to teach us a thing or two. Hopefully, these memories linges till the end of time.

Bindu said...

It is interesting how we meet some people in life. We won't know them much. BUt we will remember them for life! Nice post

SCRIBBLEZ TO WAKEUP said...

Hey..First "immense destructive joy and chaos" is just the set of words to describe us at that age and I too was taken to my 5th standard days and the fountain pen and trying to show off with Hero Pen and the ink rag used to wipe the ink tht spilled everywehre...i had a very cute rag just for show off u c....

Your last para is stunning....There r people who leave thier footprints in their own special way which only few special people can reminsce....

Manushi R. said...

the post was touching, reallii.. for a moment or two, i drifted off to a space of my past, all the memories rushing back... all are too clear, but remembering them, brings tears to my eyes...

U RULE BRO!!

Gordon van den Heever said...

Hey Nachi,

Bru, just fucking change the topics on your postings.....This site is really getting weird with men start crying....

Something in the region of hot Deutsche medchiens on the F&F beach with PHOENIX, coconuts, mine frites, bacquette et fromage, Green Island and maybe a night at Buddah or Kenzi....Bru, do it for the team

Eish, Eikona bru

Ciao

Kishley said...

i feel so happy after reading ur post :)
so many nice memories of my childhood came rushing back :) i always hated spilling the ink.. and there was one naughty boy who loved to create chaos.. he wd always threaten me with his ink pen and i wd always make faces in disgust.. :)

and rabbits, there was a pair of them with my frens and though i was never really fond of playing with them, but loved to see them doing their own things.. they were so amusing for me then :D