द्वा सुपर्णा सयुजा सखाया समानं वृक्षं परिषस्वजाते ।
तयोरन्यः पिप्पलं स्वाद्वत्त्यनश्नन्नन्यो अभिचाकशीति ॥ १ ॥
Two inseparable companions of fine plumage perch on the self-same tree. One of the two feeds on the delicious fruit. The other not tasting of it looks on. The other is the higher nature of the same self – Mundaka Upanishad.
The school was different this time.
The sounds and packed morning assembly did not bother me anymore. It was common sight to see children climb over each other and roll all around. At times this turned into aggressive behaviour and serious fight.
I was doing watching.
The classroom was another experience. The teacher looked animatic with her droning voice, and I watched in amusement. I do not recollect the attention I paid to her lessons.
Six months passed.
The school had a short recess break daily in the morning. The students would rush to use the toilet at this hour. I would generally follow them. A thought flashed in my mind during one such recess break. I wanted to get out to the nature, the landscapes, the wind, the birds, and the views. This thought was overpowering. It was instant and I had the urge to leave.
I ran away from school.
This time I decided to take a new route. I skipped the Kalyani and temple. I choose the lake in Ulsoor. My home was midway between the school and the beautiful lake. The Ulsoor lake was the ideal place and a convenient location from home. During pre-independence era, the British had setup the Bangalore cantonment and Ulsoor lake was important to the cantonment. Prominent landmarks were built around the lake that continue to exist to this day.
The lake and the surrounding streets were generally quiet. The Kensington Road adjacent to the lake hardly had traffic except during the peak hour. Only the public sector buses filled Kensington Road during peak hour. The roads were nearly empty most of the time. The lake had a lovely garden with rich variety of flora and fauna. The garden had fountains that were switched on in the evenings. Birds descended on the lake and was a sight to watch. The islands in the lake added to the beauty.
Over the hillock on the banks of the lake stood a tower built by Kempe Gowda. This marked one of the boundaries of Bangalore during his days. Giant bounders surrounded the tower. One could sit on the boulders and see the entire lake.
The boulders became my favourite spot to sit. I would sit and simply watch. I had the awareness of the quietness of the surrounding, the calling of the birds, the wind moving through the branches of the trees and the water cascading on the bank. I watched for hours. In between I took a stroll in the adjoining gardens.
One may call this solitude or nature connection. It was only during the later stages in my life I understood the importance and power of solitude.
This became my new routine. I would spend all my time in Ulsoor lake during the school hours.
A month had passed.
One day when I was taking a stroll in the lake gardens, I was shaken by a shrill voice. This was my animated teacher and her droning voice. Apparently, she was walking home on that day from the school and found me loitering in the lake gardens. I did not wait a moment and ran helter-skelter.
More trouble followed me the next day evening while accompanying my father to the local market. Here is when my luck ran out. A school mate spotted me in the market. He awfully complained about my absence from school as though I should be run down.
Again, all hell loose broke.
It was instant shouting and smacking for not keeping up my earlier promise. I was trying my best to control my laughter. A small curious crowd gathered at the scene to enquire. A bystander came up with an idea that sounded like a new year resolution. He said I should be taken to the nearest temple for a pledge before the presiding deity to promise that the offence will not be repeated.
I was taken to the temple, the same one behind the bus station. It felt as though the presiding deity was angry and had summed me for choosing Ulsoor lake as my destination against his wishes.
I thought about the pledge in my mind. Life provides you with abundant choices in any situation. I had to choose between bunking the school or not in future. I took the pledge in silence. I will not tell you, my pledge. I knew it would be blasphemy if broken. I stuck to the pledge for the rest of my student life.
Thou shalt not take the name of the lord thy God in vain; for the lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
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A summer has floated me here. Memory unbubbles. I am dropped like a stone, commissioned to ride a boulder far upstream. Sketchbook pages too bright to draw my line of sight. Idle finger pleased to hatch upon near curling water. For a moment, war’s swift shadow, the Jaguar seems almost within reach. Then gone, pursued by engine thunder. [Field Trip to Duddon Valley, UK (1985)] – Thank you. Your writing stirs images for me, vivid, insistently causal, as walking into Northern rain.