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The Incongruous Basterds

March 23, 2010

My school was one of those colonial-era establishments which pride themselves on their unrelenting refusal to abandon medival means of torture as instruments of discipline.

Our school anthem even had had us extol our teachers’ methods, singing “They spare no pains/Nor yet the rod/ To see our tasks well done”. “Tasks” being in this case, presumably, taking  us pre-pubescent barbarians and thrashing us until we became civilized.

(On a side-note, the similarity in the methods of the British Colonial Empire and British Colonial Schools is striking!)

One of the more unhappy consequences of this civilising process was the slow erosion of any pesky individualism in us students that might have stood in the way of the “tasks”.

By a winning combination of latent tribal tendencies (a la Lord of the Flies) and a well-substantiated fear of non-conformity, students soon learnt to sort themselves into available and acceptable “types” that the school could then deal with through available and acceptable types of establishmentarian violence.

This made “our tasks” far easier on everybody and allegedly produced better young-citizens than those rare sissy-schools who considered whacking 10-year olds with dusters and rulers to be “too-much”. Pansies.

Sooner or later, willingly or under protest, everybody in my school became a “type” of person: the strutting Jock who played 5 different team sports and got his ass kicked by the Don Bosco B-team in all of them, the hair-oiled-flat Nerd whose revulsion-factor fluctuated at an inverse proportion to the proximity of term exams, the Yo!-types who said things like “my bad” and used cell phones at a time when other students’ parents were still kicked about their pagers, the new-age Leftists who got their supercilious attitude and worldliness from the same shadowy institution that distributed commie lit. to 14 year olds, the overly responsible mamma’s boys who were terrified of “getting corrupted” with bad words and short skirts and the Vernac who could have obtained a good education but decided to acquire a victim mentality instead.

As for me, I found myself wedged in a decidedly down-market position somewhere between non-creepy-Loser and semi-Nerd. It was not the worst thing to be, but it wasn’t exactly a boost to the self esteem either.

On bad days I was convinced that my hatred for this school level caste-ification was so intense that it eclipsed even my hatred for lungdi sessions in the compulsory PT period, and that’s saying a lot! (Friggin hated those lungdi sessions)

But on my good days, I braved the rigours of an uncool reputation by adopting a philosophical attitude towards my lot. I was bound in the nutshell of my school and I had best be content to count myself as a petty courtier of its infinite space, I told myself  (maybe not in those exact words).

I tumbled out of school still fatalistic and with my lack of a reputation completely intact.

However, this blissful state of karmic self-acceptance was not to be. Within a few short months I gave the ‘ol ok-ta-ta-bye-bye to my peace of mind as I looked forward to the re-caste-ification process of college!

You see, what college does is it takes the comparative freewheeling filppancy of school identities and applies a Samurai-like discipline and sophistication to it till everybody from college-ka-don down to college-ke-chaprasi-ka-peon is duly identified, announced, marked and filed away according to the Dewey-Decimal system.

From what I saw of Bombay’s colleges, they introduced such rigour, technique and subtlety into their divisions as would put any respectable Iyengar Brahmin priest to shame. Their customs were positively tribal; their rules non-negotiable.

Being a bookish Dadar-boy with a hopelessly cash-poor personal economy, a feeble command over non-ghaati dance moves and a debilitating incapacity to drink any alcohol that wasn’t of the persuation of a certain geriatric clergical personality, I was firmly shunned by the cool crowd.

This was when I finally decided to jettison any notions of ever becoming “cool” in this lifetime. (Of course everybody I had ever met till then had already decided that about me a long time ago, but still). It was the best decision of my life.

What followed was a rapid series of utterly-predictable-if-this-was-a-teen-flick events which had me suddenly meet and befriend some of the weirdest, craziest, different-est, funniest, deep-down-nice-est and all the other -est people, in a breakthtakingly short time.

Many of these were chaps from my much-vaunted penitentiary-like colonial school who, after similar liberating/humiliating experiences also abandoned the mad scramble for cool-giri. Some were folks I met in junior college; others were at law school with me.

I can say with a fair bit of confidence that they form probably the most diverse and incongrous bunch of yahoos you can capture in one photo frame. Personally/intelluctually/how-many-drinks-it-takes-them-to-start-singing-Rafi-lly they are so radically different that our peaceful co-existence and stubborn getting-along-ness is probably worth some sociological research experiment.

I can’t think of them fitting in with any one else or even (at a theoretic level) with each other. But they do. I don’t know how, but somehow it works.

What was the point of this post?

Ah, yes! It seems I finally found my “type”. Now, don’t ask me what that type is because I can’t define it. These chaps seem to defy any but the broadest joint-catgorisations. Still, if I had to, very broadly, with no subtlety, only generally, I’d say its somewhere between non-creepy Losers and semi-Nerds.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Savitri permalink
    March 23, 2010 10:27 pm

    ‘….debilitating incapacity to drink any alcohol that wasn’t of the persuation of a certain geriatric clergical personality…’hahahaaha…The blog is great! Though after reading your blog I realised you should specifically mention 1 more thing to your type…’the ‘ecclesiastical, halitosis’ type words using’ boy!

  2. Anupama Banwasi permalink
    March 27, 2010 9:58 pm

    “college-ke-chaprasi-ka-peon” NICEE..SWEEEEEET… Sarvariiiiiii!!
    that has to be the lowest of the lows dude..!

    Cant agree more with Saviii..though im certain, your school will not be very proud of their unaccomplished goal.. considering that youve managed to gain full control over the..’incapacity to drink any alcohol … ‘ wala faculty.


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