Sunday, August 12, 2012

Lessons from Dehradun

Dehradun Railway Station
Age has not withered my willingness for learning new lessons in life. That was the real reason why I agreed to take two of my students for a debate competition to a school in Dehradun.

It was my first trip to the place whose railway station reminds us of the colonial days. The British building does not seem to have undergone much change, except that a new wing was added later for reservation of tickets. When we landed there at 5.40 in the morning (very punctually by the timing printed on the ticket!), the railway station looked sleepy and deserted. I attributed it to the time – too early for a small town to wake up. I wondered, though, how the capital of a state in India could afford to be as sleepy as that when the sun had already started smiling gently.

When we returned to the railway station at 3 in the afternoon, after our competition, the railway station did not look much busier. It was then I noticed the metre gauge train that was ticking on platform number 2. Platforms 1 (which is broad gauge) and 2 belonged to the days of the British Raj, probably. Our own train, the Shatabdi Express, stood majestically on platform number 3, though it was to leave at 5 only. Dehradun was indeed a cool place, I thought.

My conversations with two of the teachers, elderly male English teachers like me, who had “escorted” (the technical term used in Public Schools for teachers who take students for programmes like this) their students, hinted that Dehradun might not be much different from Delhi when it came to education. One of the teachers said, “There’s a saying now among the teachers here. If you want to talk to the parents of a child, slap the child. There’s no other way of getting to meet the parents.” Parents pamper the children as much in Dehradun as in Delhi. Consequently the children are no different in the two places. The teacher who made this remark taught in a famous public school in Delhi. He was too sick of the Delhi ways to continue beyond three months. “Dehradun is not much different now,” he concluded.

Platforms 1 and 2
 At least the auto rickshaw drivers in Dehradun are not much different from their counterparts in Delhi. They knew how to identify strangers and fleece them. But the restaurant where we had lunch gave us a surprise: a delicious lunch for one third of the price that Delhi would have charged.

I liked the streets and roads in the town, most of them flanked by tall and green trees. Of course, I was able to see only a small number of streets and roads. I wished all the roads and streets in our country were like them. Wishes come free of charge, anyway.

One wish I killed mercilessly was for a bathroom in the school. My students and I were taken to one of the hostel rooms so that we could wash ourselves and change our dress. Standing in the bath hall – yeah, it was a hall with a row of taps and showers on a wall – for the first time in my life I longed for a little more privacy while taking bath. Mercifully, all the students had left the hostel for their classes and my own students had finished their bath too. So I took bath standing in the largest bathroom that my life has ever afforded me.

I met in the school a person who had been associated with my life for a few years in Delhi. As my students and I were preparing to leave the school, he said he wanted to give me something. As I followed him to his office, he said patting one of his diminutive buttocks, “It does pain much.” Earlier, before the competition began, he had told me that he was leaving his present job because of some health problem. He mentioned the problem as some pain in the back. I had not noticed, however, the part of the back that his hand was trying to touch as he spoke it. But the parting shot was quite clear: “You are a pain…” – yeah, right down there! I might have been one back in those days when we both worked in the same institution. But now, when he and I had nothing to do with each other? “I still have good relationships with so and so,” he condescended to explain. I understood the message: I am still a pain in the posterior of certain people who are important to him. That’s the real lesson I learnt from Dehradun.

As I stood in the Delhi metro train travelling from Chattarpur to New Delhi railway station at 10.30 in the night of our journey to Dehradun, a totally unexpected SMS landed in my mobile phone. I deleted the message as soon as I read it with a grin. The message asked/invited me to attend a “night vigil” at a Catholic ashram in Faridabad and make my confession. I don’t know who had given my number to the ashram. I don’t know this person on whose posterior too I might have inflicted some pain! I know, however, that I’ve had no official relationships with any Catholic for over a decade.

How to stop being a pain in the posterior of people? I have already placed the order for Rhonda Byrne’s latest book, Magic.


  1. "Standing in the bath hall – yeah, it was a hall with a row of taps and showers on a wall – for the first time in my life I longed for a little more privacy while taking bath." - Oh, Matheikal, you Malayalees swim only in a river! I have enough experience swimming in swimming pools and there it is always non-private showers; in the US it is almost required (peer pressure) to go fully naked. At IIT, Kanpur it was with the briefs on.


    1. Swimming is absolutely different from taking a bath (please note that I'm not saying 'bathing'). I love a bath after any journey. My perversion, maybe.

      But your comment is interesting. I didn't know that bathroom exhibitionism is in fashion. The school I visited is a relatively new one. So you've given me a new insight. Well... I now have to study why homosexuality is not bred by rivers in Kerala!

  2. Nice one!
    (I've been taking community showers since my boyhood to date, in hostels, pools and nature cure me it's cool, just be!!)

    1. Amit, I used to bathe and swim in the river near my home in Kerala along with other boys of family and neighbourhood. It was fun. But after the leaving the village at the age of 15, no such experience. Maybe, that's why I don't understand the thrill of it!

  3. To be considered a pain in the posterior of certain persons should be considered as a compliment, in not equivalent to Padamshree award! :)

  4. Sir, regarding the privacy thing - I'll urge you to visit your own school's hostel showers then. They are as ridiculous as they can get. SA regards to what Raghu sir said, US is like that, it's more than an open society, open as in :D ....

    1. Interesting, Sid. I've not visited the toilets of my own school's dorms except that I've seen them from outside and they gave me the impression that they were quite ok. Now you've given me a reason to visit them and I definitely will.

    2. please note that even when ours have half-doors, most of them dont have latches and the one which do - in my time we were not supposed to lock them

  5. Interesting. I agree that kids these days are very much pampered by their parents. Though I would not prefer slapping anyone.. :)

    The confession sms is hilarious. :)

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