High School Matho – a week of what I can only describe as pure joy.
A week is all it was, yet to me it felt like a lifetime. It felt as though I had known these children all my life, as though they were mine. When I look back at everything that transpired in just that week, my heart simultaneously swells with joy and aches with the desire to go back to those very moments in time.
I don’t think I even knew how to feel a happiness so pure and unadulterated before High School Matho.
Last summer I helped set up one of the playgrounds I had raised funds for. Every morning I would walk into school and peer into the deep holes in the ground and wonder how much deeper we would have to dig, and during some free periods I would lend a helping hand in setting up the swings, tightening bolts, attaching pieces together – anything that was achievable by someone with my physical capacity.
Before I could even get my head around how fast time was flying by, before me stood a beautiful playground, a delight for all the children. The smiles on their faces are still etched into my memory, and I can still recall them bursting into peals of innocent laughter when they marveled at the joys of a simple slide.
We painted ourselves into the whole Solar System, we created a Human Body of our own, we made crosswords based on stories we read and tried to see which team could crack it first. I brought to Matho two of my fondest memories from my first trip to Ladakh: ‘Sringeri Srinivas’, complete with the painted on moustaches, except this time in English, and the ‘Ladakhi Song that Wasn’t’. The corridors echoed with the songs from our games of antaakshari1, and I familiarized myself with every nook and cranny of the school through our games of hide and seek.
On one of the days, we read a very special story, called Subbu the Signal. The story follows a little traffic signal post named Subbu who gets tired of standing in the same spot his whole life and embarks on a journey to find somewhere he is happier. As he travels from North to South, East to West, Subbu meets park benches and post boxes who all repeat the same thing to him – that they are happy because they are home, and that he should return too, which he eventually does. The children were utterly thrilled by the idea of a travelling signal, and mapped out his journey with great enthusiasm and a lot of colours.
The day I was to leave Matho, a few children gathered around me crying. Seeing them cry almost broke my heart, and they gave me what I remember as the fondest and warmest hug. Just as I was about to leave, they extracted a promise from me that I would return within the next year, and implored me to keep my promise, because no one else seemed to have kept that promise.
Maybe that was what took me back this year. The fact that I knew I could never break that promise.
I wanted the children to believe in the promises they were made; I wanted them to be children for a while longer.
I know it was partly that, but I also know that I wouldn’t have been able to stay away.
Just as Subbu the Signal did, I too have journeyed to many places in search of happiness, and just as he was led home, so was I. That was my home, the grounds where we laughed and danced and sang, where my children dressed me up in ornaments of leaves to prepare me for being a bride in the childish games they imagined up. Just as Subbu the Signal came back to where he belonged, where he was happy, so did I.
High School Matho – home.
- Antakshari – a singing game in which two teams compete, each taking turns to sing songs beginning with the alphabet that the other team’s song ends on.