One of my neighbours informed me that he was shifting his residence to a place closer to his son’s school. He said his son would be in the ninth standard next year and the boy would have to concentrate more on his studies. I said, “The school bus is picking him up at our street corner and dropping him back in the afternoon. Why are you shifting your residence?”
He replied that his son spent about an hour each in the morning and afternoon commuting in the bus which he could utilise for studies if they lived close to the school. I remembered my school days. I had studied in various schools in different towns. I had commuted miles by walk, bus, bullock cart and bicycle to reach my schools which were never near my house.
In fact, I wrote my school final exams cycling three miles one way under the scorching summer sun. My parents used to comfort me saying that some of my cousins walked seven miles to school and college and they all settled down well in life later because they grew up in hardship.
I was in high school when my younger brother entered first standard in an elementary school. We travelled seven miles since there was no school in the village where my father worked. My brother's elementary school was a little away from my school. He was too young to wash his hands and eat his lunch by himself. So I used to carry his lunch with me. His lunch bell rang at 12.45 pm and he would walk and stand at the locked gate of my school till 1 o’clock when my lunch break started.
I would bring him to my classroom, wash his hands and make him eat his lunch without spilling food on his dress. After washing his hands and mouth, I would escort him to his school and get back to my class.
Once, I went to the gate at lunch time to bring him to my class, but he was not there. Worried, I went in search of him. Luckily, I found him in tears at a wrong road junction. The poor child had lost his way.
On another occasion, my brother’s school closed earlier and he was playing with some boys waiting to be picked up. He dashed against a speeding bicycle and got a gash near his eye. Some kind teachers and the cyclist took him to a hospital. The wound required a few stitches. When the child came home with a bandage, my father was aghast. He directed his ire at the elder brother for not taking good care of the younger brother. Those were days when we children never argued with our parents even if they were unreasonable.