Chapter 5: Getting in to Adolescence

getting in to adolescence

A new school and a new life all. My mother joined a new school as the physical education teacher, so I too was forced to change schools – Prince Matriculation Hr. Sec. School in Nanganallur, one of the most renowned schools around Nanganallur and Madipakkam. The transformation was drastic, from a school with few rooms and less competitive people, to an organized jungle with with extremely competitive students and strict teachers. The worst thing though was, having to study Hindi as a subject. I was not even aware of the Hindi alphabets, but Hindi was a compulsory subject there.

I always believed that I belonged to the top 5 percentile of  students wherever I went, but I started doubting myself in that school. I have to dedicate all my energy in learning Hindi. I learned the alphabets quickly, and started transliterating Hindi in to English to memorized the lessons. I would then put everything back in Hindi during the exams resulting in several spelling mistakes. While I was good at all other subjects and be in the top three, even passing the Hindi exams became a pain. It was very hard to accept the fact that I could not be in the top 3, despite all my efforts I ended up getting 15th rank.

There was another big setback, I started getting in to a shell, because it was compulsory to communicate only in English, and those didn’t would be punished. The elite group comprising of Maria Leema (She went on to become the state topper during 10th Standard), Mridula and Sampath communicated fluently in English. It is not that they were indifferent to me, they were good guys and they tried to interact with me, but then I did not want to interact with them. I always liked the backbenchers; I was at ease with them. I could connect easily with people who were not confident of themselves. English was just a reason for not interacting with the elite but the actual reason was I was not confident enough to interact with them.

getting in to adolescenceThough my name was Ajith, my father always addressed me as an Idiot (in tamil). It went so much in to my head that, even if someone in the road called someone else by that term, I would turn around to see if someone is addressing me. I can forgive my father for all that he did to me, except for this. It killed my confidence; I started doubting my ability everywhere. It went so much in to my head that I started considering myself inferior. That was the reason why I stayed away from smart people. Instead of blaming myself, I started blaming on the attitude of those smart people.

That was the time I started watching cricket, thanks to a friend named John Camilus, he was very pathetic with his studies but his mother taught Hindi. I went to his house using that as an excuse.  His parents were really awesome; all they wanted from Camilus was to go to the Church on Sundays. We enjoyed a lot, I taught him all the subjects but did not want to learn Hindi as that would eat up the precious time. We started watching cricket a lot, I used to listen to commentary so keenly and I picked up all the technical terms.

Half yearly exams were over and I went back to my native. This time I was so keen in telling and teaching my friends about cricket and about Sachin Tendulkar. I formed a team of hopeless players and wherever we went we lost. There is great joy in even losing, after a long tired day after chasing the ball all around the ground we used to sit back and discuss about the match and the areas for improvement (we never improved). We then went and joined our cricket club of Mayiladuthurai named as Blue Diamond. I used to go there regularly and acted as a ball boy, my dream then was to just represent the club. After the sunset in the dark, the seniors there would ask the ball boys and volunteers to bowl and bat. I used to try my best to impress them with correct shots, but then whenever you try very hard you would fail. The same bowlers whom I had handled with ease would suddenly become unplayable bowler and my hands would become heavy. That made me to remain in the fringes.

The holidays got over and I went back to Chennai, no antics this time around. The school began and it was hell again, I would just stare at the watches of my classmates and would run a countdown for 40 mins (the duration of a period). I always loved Maths and Science, however I could not handle the teachers. I look at and learn things in a different way, I see patterns and designs in everything, I could recollect the entire periodic table in  a jiffy, and even without memorizing I could predict how a chemical reaction would happen. However the problem was I hated the teaching methodology and the quality of the teachers.

Math enthusiasts in that area conducted a yearly Maths Talent Test with an average participation of 400 students (usually the toppers) from different schools. I never gave myself a chance; I was not competitive back then, I always wanted to learn a lot but never wanted to compete. Competitions weakened me, I was unable able to perform to my potential whenever I competed with someone for something. The pressure got in to my head and I was sure that I would not win the prize (but deep inside I felt that I deserved it more than anyone else).

The test began and I was very cool as I was not expecting to win the prize and I completed the test with over 15 minutes to spare. I never had the habit of checking my answers again, so I gave the paper and left the hall. The results were announced 3 hours later, and I got the first prize. I was shocked, that incident created a sea change in my attitude. I felt like being liberated from a curse, I proved myself not to others, but to myself.

Back in the school, there was a marked change in the attitude of teachers towards me. It was a bit uneasy as the expectations raised. That was when I started having severe stomach aches. I ignored it, as even if I tell my parents they would not take me to a doctor. The condition worsened and I told my mother about my pain, she ignored it saying that it was just some gastric problem. I could not tolerate the pain that day, and did not go to school. There was a cricket match that day and I watched the whole match sitting at home. My mother realized that I skipped the classes only later that day. She came home and did not ask me anything. The moment my father came home she told him that I skipped the classes because of cricket. My father was never bothered about schools, exams, marks or attendance, he was busy packing his things for a trip. He went off; despite my stomach ache I was very happy as I could be free for a week.

My mother went to school for some sports training and I was alone in our house. My stomach ache worsened and I could not bear the pain. With severe dizziness and not knowing what to do, I locked the house and went to my aunt’s (my mother’s sister in law) place. Though our families were not in talking terms,  I had no other place to go, she gave me some food and went to the grocery store nearby. When she came back I was on the floor unconscious. She took me to a hospital nearby. After running the diagnostics, they told us that it was a severe case of Appendicitis and it required an immediate surgery. She informed my mom through the school phone, and my mom asked her to carry on with the procedures and she would come to the hospital in the evening.

My aunt signed all the documents and I was taken to the operation theater. I was given the anesthesia and I feared that I might die as I slowly lost consciousness despite the best of my efforts to stay awake.  I was awake the next day and the pain was gone. The doctors told me that my case was very severe and I was very fortunate to get to the hospital at the right time. I never thanked my aunt for that, but I am deeply indebted to her. Our families were not in talking terms for a long time, but I always respected her and greeted her wherever I met her. You can name it as divine intervention, an act of God, karma or pure accident, despite all the misfortune I always had someone to help me at the right moment.

The annual exams commenced but my mother quit that school as she had some issues with another teacher, so I too was forced to quit that school without taking the final exams. I was again admitted to my old school, Besant LVR, as that school did not have any requirements while admitting new students. Technically I joined the 8th grade without even completing my 7th grade. The told strength of the school reduced to 45, and in the 8th grade there were only two of us. The other person was a girl named Charumathi. I went to school just for the sake of it.

One fine day after school, I forgot to clean the house and left home to see my friend Camilus. While I came back, my father was waiting at home to trash me. He kicked me out of the home, (literally kicked me) he expected me to plead him to allow me inside the house. I wanted to retaliate that day, not knowing what to do I left home. I listed down all the options I had, but nothing seemed viable. I thought of running away to some other state to start a new life but later changed my mind. Unlike western countries the only option for an orphan kid in India during those days was to beg. A child cannot survive on its own in India. The only logical option to get rid of my parents was to die, so I made up my mind, however none of the options seemed painless. Finally I decided to jump in front of a running train, as I thought that would be relatively less painful as the person could die within a few seconds.

Barefoot, I started walking to Pazhavanthangal Railway Station (the one close to Nanganallur). Extremely hungry and without a single penny, I started walking on the railway track. Fear of death over powered me, so I postponed the act, and walked along the railway track.  There were people around and wanted solitude and hence I kept walking all the way to Tambaram.  Beyond Tambaram there would be very few people, so I kept walking. When I was about the cross the railway station, there was an announcement of the departure of Kamban express to Mayiladuthurai (my native). I have always been impulsive in my life (it has always worked for me). I was barefoot and looked clumsy, with sweat and dirt accumulated over a long walk. I boarded the train and went inside a toilet and latched it, I stood there for around 3 hours. Assuming that the ticket checker would have left, I came out and lied down near the door. I was very tired and slept immediately. I woke up and saw the Ticket Collector standing next to me and was waking me up and asking why I am inside the train, I was shocked and did not know what to say. He asked me where I was going. I told him that I was going to Mayiladuthurai. He said that he would leave me, but wanted me to get down right away (in a place called Chidambaram), I begged him to permit me to travel in that train till Mayiladuthurai. A person sitting next to the window asked him to permit me to travel as I was just a kid. Then the Ticket Collector warned me and left me. I could not sleep after that. I got down at Mayiladuthurai, and a smile returned to my face.

I was feeling very weak and tired; I walked all the way to my home and knocked the door. My grandmother was shocked to see me and started crying after looking at my attire and condition. I asked her for food, and that was first time I have ever asked her for food, as she would usually stock me up with food and snacks round the clock whenever I stayed there. I asked her not to tell my parents about any of that, but she told my aunt and the message was conveyed the next day to my father.

He did not come down to take me again, but my aunt asked her son-in-law to take me to Chennai. My second attempt to escape from hell also ended up unsuccessful.