It was 2015 and I had just graduated from the 8th standard. Since there weren’t any good schools near our township, my mom and dad decided to send me to a boarding school. Not that they didn’t ask me or I didn’t want to go, but yes, I had never imagined myself being away from home. Finally, when the day came, we drove 6 hours straight to reach the school. Its campus was sprawling. It was even more beautiful than I thought it’d be. A ward boy, Shaktimaan, helped me with my bags. I don’t know why they called him that even though he’d run out of breath carrying just one bag up the flight. It was my first time outside the home. I had to stand up on my feet, as my mom wasn’t gonna be around to fuss and help me get my work done. I was a good, innocent kid. I had no idea that the Ritvik going in would not be the same when he walked out of this hostel for the last time.
On the first night there, I met all the other kids who were also new there. I think they were being nice because even they had the same cocktail of anxiety and fear in themselves as I did. The first week at the new school went away with me just giving my introduction to teachers.
The second week came and all of it was about to start. Days were tiring because of the packed timetable and the 2-hour play break that we used to get in the evening. We’d usually just crash onto our beds and pass out. One night, I could hear anxious footsteps and a weird rumbling sound out in the corridor. But that was normal. I assumed it to be either the seniors up to some mischief to piss off the warden or my batchmates doing something. Just as I dug my head deeper into the warmth of the blanket, and could feel myself losing track of the noises outside, my dorm door burst open and before I could make sense out of anything, I felt the blows landing over all of my body. The stark, pinching pain had almost made me numb. All of it happened so fast, I couldn’t compute. I couldn’t sleep after that. The only thing echoing in my mind was their guffawing as they ran out of my room.
The next morning I found my body covered in patches of blue and green. Little did I know, that what I had thought to be a one-time sick joke was nothing compared to what I was going to go through next. A bunch of the new kids and I were ragged every day. Seniors and our classmates would beat us, burn our skin with deodorants and throw hot water straight out of the geyser at us, all while they laughed. No one reported it. Personally, I couldn’t do it because I knew how hard it was for my mom and dad to put me in that school both emotionally and financially. They had always done more than they could. I would cry my guts out in the laundry room because it usually was always empty. I was too afraid to sleep at night.
Friends were a blessing in my time at the school. With everything that had happened, they helped me to overcome all the hurdles I had built myself in my head. One guy changed everything that had been going on at the hostel with me, Ritik. He usually didn’t take much interest in matters that didn’t concern him. We became friends when he took a stand against a bully who was bothering me. He taught me to not let the world undermine me. I understood why it’s important to stand up for myself and not to surrender just because I was afraid. He persuaded me to opt for sports to channel my anger, frustration and anxiety. I used to scribble at the back of my registers because I kept most of the emotional baggage inside rather than talking about any of it with anyone. One of my friends noticed those and encouraged me to write out all my afflictions on paper.
My class teacher, Gurjit ma’am, would hear me out and help me with the writing part. I would share with her my dreams, how I always wanted a bike, to travel full time. She’d always encourage me, inspire me to strive for the best.
It’s said we gain exposure to living independently, away from the comfort of our homes. I am pretty sure I had enough of that. Over my school years, I realized and learned a lot of important things. You cannot always be alone, you need people to talk to, you need to trust them, share things, as having somebody who listens to you makes everything easy. It is very difficult to take the world on alone. Most of Generation Z doesn’t really understand what our parents sacrifice for us, how much they go through, only to provide us with everything that never had when they were our age. We’ve always taken them for granted. The whole world could be against us, but our folks will always be right there with us.
Now, when I look back in time I regret not sharing anything with my parents. Most of it could’ve been avoided. When you grow up, you discern that regret eats you up. It hammers down on your self-esteem and fuels self-doubt. But I am happy that I have been through all of it. It has only made me stronger emotionally, mentally and physically. I have made peace with myself.
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