Born to a family with as many uncles and aunts you can number, my sixth birthday, like the one before that (not that I remember much about it as I was only 5 back then) was filled with joy and happiness. If one put me to the ground, there would be another pair of open arms to lift me up again. Sometimes they would throw me high up in the air and gurgling with fun, I would watch the crowd below, slowly falling and landing happily on yet another pair of strong arms. They would swing me up again and it would continue until they would sight my father nearby.
About a week later, my father and grandpa started to pack their bags as well as mine. I was overcome with joy because backpacks always led to a visit, to some relatives, somewhere in some other village, somewhere in between big trees and beautiful valleys.
There was only one vehicle which took the villagers to the nearby town and the same vehicle returned in the evening, with mostly the same people. This required the travelers to wake up quite early. I did not grudge much about that because the thickness of the travel bag told me we would not be returning any time soon. I could not help but be excited thinking about the new adventures and more loving people who were probably waiting to hold me and swing me high up in the sky.
This time the journey was even better because we took yet another vehicle from the town to reach a city, not just a city but “the Capital city”. It was the first time I was introduced to “Uncle Chips”, the tastiest potato chips ever and the forever young mango drink, “Frooti.”
After getting down from the vehicle, we walked some distance by road and then climbed uphill to reach a place lined with red roofed cottages. This cluster of around 6 trimmed cottages, barricaded with barbed wires, had a small creaky gate which opened to a wide playground to the right, a beautiful garden to the left and the cottages were lined straight up ahead. I was overjoyed to see kids playing on the ground. Despite the huff and puff I felt like rushing there and joining them.
But I was still a little shy and awkward so silently made way with my father and grandpa towards one of the cottages lying in the front. It felt different there. I had asked about the place to my grandpa during the climb uphill and he told me that it was where I would be meeting my new uncles, aunts and cousins.
We entered the cottage to encounter a thin man sitting behind a huge desk. I do not remember how exactly I felt about the books and bookshelves, the thick leather chairs and the enormous desk, the light glowing bulb and the partly drawn curtains in that room but I was suddenly scared, anxious, worried all at the same time. The exchange of greetings between my family and the man, the conversation between them, the forms that were getting filled, everything happened for me in a split of time.
Soon I saw a strange look on my father and my grandpa. I knew something was coming, something not good, something which would hurt me and in defense I started to cry, howl and scream. My grandpa took me in his arms, but the thin man snatched me from him and whatever followed next is not so clear in my memory, just a faded image of my grandpa and father rushing out the door, moving away and gone through that creaky gate.
I left Marigold after 5 years, the boarding school where I learned discipline, received quality education, earned love and respect from my teachers and especially from the thin man I met on my first day, our beloved principal. I spent a large part of my childhood at Marigold. I badly missed my family and I missed those arms which used to swing me up and down. Nevertheless, Marigold taught me a lot; at a very young age it taught me that there can be no gain without pain!!