Date: 5th April 2011
Section 2: Creative Writing
As I walked over the bridge, I saw what I had dreaded. They had closed the gates. They had forgotten me. I was locked inside the one place I loved, yet could not bear to be alone in – my school.
From the bridge I had an 180° view of everything. On my right was the cheeku tree, vast and looming, while beyond it lay the Junior section of the school. The world had somehow turned silent. I could no longer hear the traffic outside. It seemed that some external force had come and placed us all in a vacuum, knowing very well that sound cannot travel in vacuum. Except there was no “us”, it was just me and the concrete buildings.
“Let this be a dream,” I begged to the sky above, not knowing if it could hear me.
“You’ve become ingrained with this place. It’s like you’re a part of it and it’s a part of you. Like soul-mates or something. It’s crazy,” said Faryal shaking her head disapprovingly. She had wound up her hair in a neat bun.
That was the way with her – she believed everything had a particular place to belong to. She classified everything into boxes of all kinds, “Used”, “To be Used”, “Should Not Be Used”, “Give As Charity” etc. Even people sometimes came into these boxes, and she hated when anyone toppled them over.
For her, I was pure chaos. There was no box for me. That is why she preferred I be with her as much as possible, dangling like a purse on her arm, until she could figure out what to do with me.
“Look. I only have to go to school for a couple of hours. My farewell is tomorrow, I’ve told you a billion times already, I need to go put up this poster. Then I’ll be back before you know it,” I explained, pleadingly, while zipping up my schoolbag.
“It is seven in the evening and she wants to go school. Talk about madness,” she spoke to her reflection in the mirror.
A couple of minutes later, she pulled the car out of the driveway and we set off somewhere between the middle of nowhere and halfway across the city.
Talib Lala was not there, but they had kept the doors open. Faryal dropped me off in the side lane and the car screeched away. I entered through the red gates and it struck me how peaceful everything seemed. There were no noisy children, nor any exhausted parents and teachers. I smiled, imagining them there.
Rummaging through my things, I cursed silently because I could not find my phone. It was either on my bookshelf at home or in Faryal’s car. Oh well, she would be back in an hour. I wouldn’t need it anyway.
Besides, I comforted myself, this was my school. I don’t need anything else here.
45 minutes later.
My work was almost done. I had pinned the tapestry to the wall of the Senior Section. It was a soft cloth, stitched with our memories – there were pictures from back then, words, drawings and bits of what we had preserved from fieldtrips or long excursions in class and outside class.
No one from my class knew I was here. This was to be a surprise. They could hate and love me for it, but oh well, I was used to that.
I had tried entering the classrooms to borrow markers but the doors to all offices and rooms were locked. Talib Lala had extended permission only till the hallways and it was here I worked in peace humming songs from Disney classics – songs of my childhood.
I tacked the hanging up firmly. Glancing back once when leaving the Senior building almost made me cry. It was beautiful. No, they were beautiful.
The red gates would not budge.
“Come on. Don’t do this to me!” I murmured, tapping at the metal with my free hand. There was no response. There usually isn’t any from inanimate objects.
I could not enter the offices nor access the telephones as they were all locked up inside. Great, just great. I remembered how much I admired the secure feeling my school provided and extended even to strangers. I could sense some irony to it, standing there with the silence only broken by the hum of traffic and the melody of the mynahs, yet I ignored it.
The hour was up and Faryal had not come. I could try scaling the walls but did not wish to miss my own farewell on account of injury caused by falling.
Flopping myself onto the nearest bench, I resigned myself to fate.
“I don’t want to leave!” I wailed, tears rolling down endlessly.
“You’ll come back soon enough,” my teacher promised. Her eyes were shining with tears; I could see myself reflected in them.
I tried very hard to believe her words. I was a child and this was my school. I loved it, not just the building but everything in it. It had given me so much and I had not given back. All worries would vanish when I was here. It was like being in a lovely, mad world. Like Wonderland. Except I must leave. She was telling me I should go. Alice, go home.
“You’ll come back some day,” she promised. I found myself believing her.
I found myself.
When Faryal got the red gates to open, I was crying. It wasn’t from fear, as she later on teased. It was something else. Just something else.