Monday, January 07, 2008

Taare Zameen Par

At long last, after the rest of the world has already finished watching and praising the movie, I watched Taare Zameen Par (TZP). I liked the movie. I thought the first half of the movie was very well made: it was natural and powerful. Most of the second-half however took on a somewhat larger-than-life hue. Still the movie overall made a very decent watch. Do watch it if you already haven't!

But this post is not about TZP. This post is about boarding schools (or hostels, the more common terminology), memories of which were evoked while watching TZP. In the movie, the protagonist, eight-year-old Ishaan (an aside: the child playing Ishaan in the movie is simply brilliant in the role), is informed that he is going to be put in a boarding school so that he will be forced to work harder. Ishaan reacts to this news with horror and pleads with his mom to let him stay at home.

I wondered how I would have reacted to such news at a similar age. It is hard to say for sure, but I kinda guess, my reaction would have been: glee. You see, when we were kids, my sister and me were brought up on a diet of Enid Blyton's Malory Towers and St. Clare's books. Each of the books in these series featured boarding schools where the young residents seemed to have a ball of a time pretty much all the time: having midnight parties, playing tricks on teachers, hanging out with friends - the works.

In all, sis and me got the impression that boarding school was some kind of heaven where children got to do all kinds of fun stuff with minimal adult supervision (we conveniently forgot the teachers, matrons and so on who also appeared in these books).

Besides, in the Enid Blyton (and other books by western authors) books we read, the kids featured in all the stories invariably went to boarding schools, typically coming home only for the "summer" or for the "holidays". Going to boarding school seemed like a very normal part of childhood. So much so that we were sometimes secretly disappointed that we had to remain day-scholars!

My sister finally got her dream of going to a boarding-school fulfilled in high school. From all accounts, the first few months were pure hell. She quickly disabused me of my romanticized notions of boarding schools and I dimly began to comprehend how lucky I was to be able to go to school from home. But being in the hostel grew on her and she went on to create quite a lot of wonderful memories there.

My first chance to stay in a hostel came during my first year of undergrad. My college was located in Chennai whereas my dad was working in a different city. While I was nervous about staying away from home, I was also excited. Midnight parties and fun times, here I come! The excitement lasted till the time I shopped for new things, met my future room-mates and most importantly, was still with my parents. Finally, it was time to say adieu.

The car was in front of my hostel. The last of my packages had safely been deposited in my hostel room. The hostel watchman watched while I said goodbye to my mom and dad. I was grinning weakly. Then, all of a sudden, the tears simply tumbled from my eyes. And just wouldn't stop no matter how hard I tried. Darn - all those stupid books about fun times in the hostel never described just how hard it is to wave good-bye to the dearest and most loved people in your life. Even if the good-bye and the separation is only temporary.

And I stood there and cried and cried as though my heart would break (had I known any better, I would have shut up and done my howling in private. Parents get so upset by their children's tears). At long last, the watchman intervened. He advised me to go inside, saying kindly, "Don't worry, child. Before you know it, four years will be up." To my parents he added, "We will take good care of her. The students here are very busy studying and barely have the time to miss home. Please don't worry." And with heavy hearts, the final farewells were said.

All this happened when I was a wise seventeen years old. I could only imagine just how much more terrible eight-year-old Ishaan in TZP would have felt. Which was why I could barely hold back my tears when I watched this song and listened to the lyrics:

Kudos to the director!

Though being away from home was initially very difficult, I haven't regretted staying in the hostel. Being the youngest person in my house, I was babied a lot while at home. Hostel made me more independent. But that was just a fringe benefit. What I remember the most: midnight parties with cakes and dancing, all night gossip sessions, champion-eater competitions, movie-watching marathons, hair-cutting cum beautification sessions, surreptitious omlette making in the room, concocting plausible excuses for arriving after curfew again, buying chai at midnight for "studying" .... and doing a million other fun things with hostel-mates, some of whom have become friends for life. All this in between our "busy studying" schedules. Hostel was fun!

The hostel stay also prepared me for coming abroad. I think I adjusted much faster to being so far away from home than the poor souls who were doing that for the very first time in their lives. After all, I had already had a peek at the brighter side and knew that no matter how bleak the world looked at the time of farewell, it would not end and could only get better from there!

This is the best (according to me) picturized song from TZP. You can feel the child's wonder.



Joy said...

"After all, I had already had a peek at the brighter side and knew that no matter how bleak the world looked at the time of farewell, it would not end and could only get better from there!"

Very well said. I have never lived in a hostel and have fantasiced about it. And I would give the credit to Enid Blyton only. Though my bro has live in a hostel and told me a realistic pic, I would have definitely liked to experience it myself.

Have you watched Rockford? A nice movie on a boy in a boarding school. BTW you are not the last one, I still have to watch TZP.

Cacophoenix said...

I grew up on fat too romanticized versions of boarding schools thanks to the books you mentioned. I also wanted to be the top ranker and the school prep and paly lacrosse...and all this while I lived 10 mins from school in a little town in tamilnadu. I guess I am the traveller who travelled a lot sitting on my grandpa's chair.

I enjoy reading your posts...It isn't anything new or refreshing, and that is perhaps why I enjoy reading them so much.

SK said...

Hey Archana,
Beautifully written! :--)
I am sure hostellers enjoyed college life so much better and made much stronger bonds than dayscholars, after the initial hiccup.
The first song is heart wrenching.
Too many recos for the movie, have to watch it soon. ;--)

vishesh said...

i loved the movie....pure amazing and the kids acting and amirs acting are damn good...

i have never stayed away from home...but well i think i will adjust....i would just prefer being alone...

btw,ever heard of Rasipuram school? those are torture houses for students....

Saumya said...

Hey archana,

I grew up in a boarding school, and yes it was loads of fun. Well..I was a day scholar in a boarding school, so I thought I would be well prepared when I went to hostel.

I was so good, I was consoling everybody else, and waved goodbye to my parents smiling. For 4 days, I was the chief consoler, till one morning I saw rava uppuma on my plate. It was so terrible, that the dam broke that morning. The rivers of my sobbing all carried the same story - oh lord! what have I done? I turned away from amma's rava uppuma - only now do I realise how badly this dish can be made *sob, sob*

But yes, hostel was great fun! You have the knack of rekindling old memories!

Sumana said...

Yet to watch the movie. Thanks for giving a heads up. Now i personally will do anything to watch the movie. I have never stayed in a hostel, but from your experience sounds like fun.

rads said...

Loved your post :)

I am jealous of folks who've lived away from home doing undergrad. makes them more worldly wise, and not a naive gullible bozo like u know who :)

Shall watch the movie soon :)

kurrodu said...

Sounds like a good movie. Saw few clips, the kid's acting is very natural.
Good post on boarding school!

Archana said...

Joy - thank you :-)! I have seen Rockford - nice movie. I guess staying in a hostel is a good experience to have if only to say "I have stayed in a hostel, you know" ;-)!

Cacophoenix - Welcome aboard! Ah, looks like all of us had those dreams during childhood :-)!

It isn't anything new or refreshing, and that is perhaps why I enjoy reading them so much.

I have still not made up mind as to whether it is a compliment or a brickbat :-|!

SK - thank you :-)! Hostel life was fun in its own way!

Vishesh - Ah, you might be surprised by your actual reaction at the first moment of realization that you *are* going to be away from home :-).

Saumya - wow, day scholar in boarding school!!! Nice! Man, tell me about the upma - when I had to return back to hostel in my final year, it was the hostel upma which drove me to complete homesickness! Thank you :-)!

Sumana - welcome aboard! It is fun :-)!

Rads - thank you :-)! Worldly-wise pathi ellam theriyathu - but definitely made me more independent. Dont worry, you are doing awesome fine as it is :-)!

Kurrodu - do watch it! Thank you :-)!

Sumana said...

Hey archana,
I have something related:

Preethi said...

First time here.. a very well written post... I haven't watched the movie yet.. maybe soon.. but your description of the first time away from parents is so vivid and well described.. I have never lived in a hostel.. and I fantasized too thanks to Malory towers and st clairs!!! I finally moved out of home only when I started working.. and still felt the separation!!!

Shilpa said...

I loved TZP too...esp the kid's acting. I too grew up with Enid Blyton and Malory Towers and wanted to study in a hostel....I used to beg my parents to send and somehow that never happened.

My first chance away from home was when I came to study here :-)

Archana Bahuguna said...

Heard a lot about this movie. And got great reviews. Your review has given me enough inspiration to watch it asap. Thanks. Its Aamir Khan after all! I have been waiting for him to come back ...

Archana said...

Sumana - what you say is true! But it is possible that the child might feel abandoned abandoned if the parents don't visit, is it not?

Preethi - thanks :-)! First time separation is always the hardest! Welcome aboard :-)!

Shilpa - hehehe :-)!

Archana - do watch it, it is worth your time. Psst - I must confess though, I did not like Aamir too much in the movie :-)!

Rohit Tripathi said...

bit long.... but enjoyed reading this

New Post - Titanic : The hottest love has the coldest end

Divya said...

Wow... I always dreaded the thought of boarding school... though i did grow upon Mallory Towers and St Claires, it was like a standard threat parents used to make their kids (me included) to get back in line... Get good marks or ur off to boarding school... it was scary! Now that I am away from home, it's actually just like the books.. complete with midnight feasts, sneaking out, all the frills... we have our share of matrons too.. But life could not be more fun...

and what a sweet watchman :)