Backpack – Cluttered Remembrance

I opened the doors and screamed in terror, expecting an echo if not a reply from the other end. Feeling marooned, I started shouting to myself, until the darkness loomed larger than one could sustain. Then with a thud, something fell on my head, its weight grew every moment and I ultimately succumbed. The hands which cuddled and pampered and rocked the cradle, the eyes which would turn wet at every little bruise of mine could neither see nor feel my pain. Years later when I resurfaced I looked into the mirror, checked once and checked again. “Is it me? Huh?” The dark circles below the rounded frame, the precocious wrinkles, the receding hairline- they all begged to differ. But somewhere in there I knew I was the same.

“Ought to be,” I checked my identity card to confirm.

“Yes its still says the same,” I chuckled and then mused again.

“Why did I need an identity card to establish my identity? Couldn’t my soul be vouched for it?”

“No!” it scowled spitting from beneath. “I have long lost my veracity, don’t you know?”

For all of you, who are still reading this, I can see those freckles on your forehead. Now drop your hands off your head, enough of head-scratching, don’t lose those strands they are indeed valuable. Don’t believe me? Ask Dr. Batra.

A gimmick intended to flood posts in a popular Facebook community reminded me how lives are led. Here, I am talking about a mere school bag, a yellowish, reddish stuff I saw above 600 odd posts in that community. It sat pretty, gleaming from up there, already fat belly pumping out more with rhapsodies.

“Classy stuff,”

“Oh! I so miss those days, I envy these kids,”

“Moderator, you threw me back to nostalgic lane”.

“A bag, it is not a Rolls Royce,” I had to re-assure myself. Still for me it was more than a bag, a commodity which burdened my whole childhood, the shackles which bound my innocent soul, the ghost from the past had come alive.

The bag used to have color pencils- which stole my colors, Geometry box- which ruined my shape, Books on various subjects- whose names I could never pronounce.

I remember my very first day in school. My parents held my hands, took me inside the principal’s room and then the ayah came and smoothly I was snatched away. I learnt how ‘A stood for Apple’ and ‘B stood for Ball’, how numbers followed set sequences and then added to form even bigger numbers. The teacher, through gestures would convey how stars twinkled and then I would return home and plead before the shooting star to allow me next day’s leave. Days passed, I pouted, whined and somehow survived a whole year. Results were announced and too my surprise I stood first.

“First meant one, right? One being a lesser number isn’t it a reason to be disappointed?”

I couldn’t figure out why they were celebrating. Anyways I got my gift and was chuffed as usual, unaware of the forthcoming. Years came and went and grew the burden on my back. I never stand, forget standing first again and even got caned a few times for that; finally my parents gave up seeing no further hope.

I grew and again the rat race followed. Quotas, seats, peer-pressure- new terms of a new phase of life, I thought. I competed and failed and again rose up to compete but could never emulate Napoleon. Then I gave up and they said, “You are not fit enough to survive here”.

Like a sinew smoke would caress the sky
I set my feet and prepared to fly.

Numb feet, on which I had to rely
Refused to take steps, let alone fly.

I fell down, bent on my thigh
Crumpling under those hopes held high.

Again I felt the wind passing by
It wiped tears off the teary eye.

I held my wings and gave another try
Finally realized, No I can’t fly.

Though borrowed wings, didn’t deny.
Yet identity does begin with ‘I’?

It is said that R.K. Narayan, in this 6 years tenure, in Rajya Sabha (upper house) spoke only once and his speech was:

“The school bag has become an inevitable burden for the child. I am now pleading for abolition of the school bag, as a national policy, by an ordinance if necessary. I have investigated and found that an average child carries strapped to his back, like a pack-mule, not less than six to eight kilograms of books, note books and other paraphernalia of modern education in addition to lunch box and water bottle…”

But could the man, touted to be children’s best friend, in context of Indian literature, make any difference?

Debojit Dutta

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