Sunday, August 15, 2010

Memories of school days

Fall term for Fayette County schools commences tomorrow. I was at Target yesterday and found the aisles full of clamoring, excited kids picking out their school supplies. Harried-looking parents were trying to hunt for the best deals while also satisfying their children's demands.

"Mom, I want that lunch box", said a pouting little boy.

"You already have two lunch boxes, honey"

"None of them have Spiderman though and Carey has a box with Spiderman on it!"

Back in my school days, my brother and I had the ever-faithful, stainless steel tiffin carriers for lunch as did most of my friends. Tiffin carriers were the best suited to satisfy the Indian propensity for having a full fledged meal at noon - sambhar rice, curd rice and a sabzi. Only a select few who always had sandwiches for lunch got the fancy, plastic tiffin boxes. And most of us didn't feel that competing for fancy tiffin boxes was worth the sacrifice of curd rice..:)

No, my consumerist tendencies were directed toward pencil cases. There was the ordinary, plastic pencil box. Then there were the cool ones with dividers for erasers and sharpeners. After that came the really fancy double deckered ones - a top container for pencils and stuff you wanted everyone to see and a secret bottom compartment to house one's really treasured possessions. The really, really cool ones -- the ones all of us wanted -- were the beautiful Disney themed, double-deckered pencil cases with a padded, cushioned cover and a magnetic lock. I was in fifth grade when someone got this to school for the first time. It had the rest of us salivating and pretty soon, the class filled up with these. 

This model had all sorts of secret compartments springing up out of nowhere. There were compartments that would pop out on the side for erasers etc..And of course, the so-called secret bottom compartment to house the most vaunted possessions. In my class, there was an unspoken rule that while everyone's pencil cases was shared property, you couldn't touch the bottom compartment without asking permission first. Fights broke out when people opened up this area without askance. Most of us kept our lucky fountain pens in there. 

Fountain pens are almost extinct now. But back then, I went through so many pens to find the pen - the One Pen that would flow beautifully, producing exquisite calligraphy in the hands of the right owner and fetch the most marks from teachers. We would scratch the tip of the nib on the floor to make it smooth and produce thicker writing. Of course, we damaged a lot of beautiful pens in this process. Only a few would escape the damage and actually manage to survive. When someone got a Hero pen -- the pinnacle of all pens, all their friends would take turns at writing with it. 

Then came our obsessions with glossy notebook covers. When I had gotten to the 9th or 10th grade, the soft-cover, glossy front & backed notebooks with pictures of celebrities were the rage. Guys mostly stuck with Sachin Tendulkar and other cricketing greats. Girls had a wider variety to pick from -- Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Hum Aap ke Hain Koun themed covers, DDLJ-themed covers, cricket hunks and what not. The first day of school, everyone would compare their notebooks and go "awww.." over the most novel, beautiful notebooks. 

Looking back at those days, it seems whimsical. But it also feels endearingly innocent, a reminder of days when our fancies and thoughts were occupied with silly, simple things. We didn't aspire to anything great like being dropped by a fancy car or having one's own, separate study room -- things I am told kids boast about these days. Give us a cool pencil case and a notebook with Anil Kumble on it and most of us would've been in Ninth Heaven. 


RS said...

Ahhh...pencil boxes. k doesn't understand why I stand and gawk at the stationery section in Kroger each time -- still love pencil boxes :)

The Doodler said...

ahaaa, me too! S always drags me away from the stationery section before I decide to buy something cute and completely useless..:p

Ramakrishnan said...

the detail on the pencil box with magnet to keep it locked - took me back to my priced Tom and Jerry pencil box...awesomeness