By Suchitra Devi Potsangbam
As the X and XII Board Examinations knock again, wishes and prayers fill the heart most part of the days. The journey always really begins from here. For me, who had trodden the path years ago, this has every year been a time of reminiscing and somewhere always weighing between Now and Then. This is partly because I am an elder and loves chewing the cud of my youth, especially my school days, but more so because I am now a Teacher whose minutes and hours revolve round the lives and activities of the students.
There are many things among the memories of school life that revisit my silent thoughts often. How can I ever forget those many years, 12 years precisely, in Little Flower School, Imphal! Those 12 years had already sealed my future, I realised in later years. I had lived the rhymes, the thoughts and the prayers learned then. “Pieces of paper lying on the ground/ Make the place untidy/ Pick them up, throw them out” was not simply a rhyme learned for some test, we were taught to live the lines – one of the memorable things learned at the tender age of four and made to practice throughout our stay at school. Every avenue of learning was open for us in such manner. At many places, under varied circumstances have I thanked, in my thoughts, my Teachers and Sisters of Little Flower School. Invariably, a silent prayer would leave my lips as I was deported back to my classrooms, the corridors and the playgrounds where I learned the values of honesty, loyalty, friendship and sense of responsibility through the day’s activities.
The week-wise House duty to sweep and mop our own classroom; dust the desks, benches and the book racks; clean the blackboard and leave it with a thought for the next day every day after school ended at 3 pm was the beginning of learning self-discipline and taking care of the self. Some friends and I went to school on our own by bicycle. But other friends in our ‘bicycle team’ belonging to other Houses would wait for us till we completed our task and we did the same when it was our turn. Likewise, others who were dropped and picked by parents or those who were ferried by the school auto-rickshaws did the same. When I think about it now in retrospect, an interesting realization dawns on me, something I could not discern at my young age because then it was simply serious House competition. I realise that what we had actually exhibited then was collective responsibility at all levels.
I remember afresh the numerous programmes at school we participated in, the functions we celebrated – Parent’s Day, Teacher’s Day, Children’s Day, Gratitude Day and the many Saints’ Days. However, I do not remember having to compromise with my scholastic studies because of such participation. What pride and joy it was to be selected, when we were in Primary classes, for school dramas that were taught by our seniors of Class X. And when in High School, what thrill it was to be part of the contingent representing the School in the State Republic Day Parade. The last time we represented the School was in Class X, about one and half months ahead of our X Board Examinations. Our Teachers trusted us and we trusted that our Teachers would always guide us the right way!
Another lasting imprint was a visit to the Central Jail, Imphal as member of a cultural troupe from the School, when in High School, for some missionary purpose we did not understand quite well then. We were taken by the Sisters to perform some entertainment programmes for the inmates of the Jail. We spent the day there and also interacted with some of them. Whatever be the purpose of the organisers, the significance of such experience unfolded for me only in my later life.
Such memories fill me over and again with love, honour and gratitude for my Teachers and my School. I feel blessed that my Teachers did not take the Teaching Profession as a stop-gap measure when waiting for some other job with more attractive perks. Consequently, we rarely had new Teachers every new session or in between a session. There is no memory of Teachers teaching us to gain experience and to keep in touch with school text books so that they could write ‘competitive examinations’. They remained our Mentors and Guides for those years of our school life. Thank you, my Teachers!
At such time every year, when the pressure and the tension and the stress among the students seem to outreach everyone, everywhere; when all and sundry inadvertently help in building up the tension and the stress and the pressure even as they try to create a study congenial environment for the students, I am visited by the memories of those student days. Class X and XII Board Examinations can never be remembered in isolation without the memories of Yaosang which almost always fell before or during the Examinations. This has always been the case. Was Yaosang and its colourful festivities a nuisance or the Board Examinations a nuisance to the fun and frolic of the Spring Festival was a question I had never really tried to answer. The only thing relevant to me was what decision I made during the two significant Yaosangs of my life – before or during my X and XII Board Examinations. It was my fortune that I was made to make my own choice, the choice to prioritize my activities with timely training and counselling of my Parent and Teachers. I was counselled in time that Yaosangs would come every year of my life but my Board Examinations were for only once. I feel fortunate that I was shown the ways but made to make my own choice. Yes, I was fortunate that no one stood up for me and silenced the world around me so that I could concentrate on my studies, but that I was taught to concentrate on my studies and became deaf and blind to the noise and hues of the world around me. I feel fortunate now that no one laid the path clear for me so that I could tread on without tumbling down. Since Life hardly treats us with so much care and more often than not, each one of us has to lay our own path.
Therefore, my thoughts and prayers at this moment are for all the precious students of X and XII in the CBSE, State Board and Council who are writing their Big Examinations this year. God be with you all! But remember also, my dear students, the BIGGEST EXAMINATION is LIFE itself and no preparatory leave or date sheets are given for this. My wish for you is that you had brought along with you from your Teachers and Schools much more than the explanations and notes on the lessons in your school text books and that you had made concerted efforts to spend quality time with your parents. May God grant you the courage and wisdom to face this Examination called LIFE the best way always!
(The writer is Principal, Maria Montessori Senior Secondary School, Koirengei)