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Out-of-home fantasies

Recently, a former classmate of my husband called on us. He lives in Lagos, and while on a short trip to India he made it a point to track us down. He was meeting my husband after a decade, and the two eagerly exchanged reminiscences of their lives and times at boarding school.

Listening to their animated conversation, I was wafted back in memory to my childhood, when I had longed to be a boarder. That deep-seated desire was not based on any factual knowledge of residential educational institutions. It stemmed, instead, from my avid admiration for a certain writer.

While I relished Enid Blyton’s tales of mystery and adventure, her school stories held me spellbound. As I devoured the exploits of students at Malory Towers and St Clare’s, I blithely believed that, like their fortunate fictional counterparts, boarders around the globe inhabited a rarefied realm. It was a wonderful world where academics took a back seat to fun, fellowship and just as exciting food!

Inspired by the midnight feasts so vividly described by my favourite author, I was determined to snack in secret. During the summer holidays, my brother and I would sneak out after dark, accompanied by visiting cousins.

Our nocturnal excursions were by no means as pleasurable as those featured in Blyton’s books. After hours of daylight exertion in the city heat, we were disinclined to leave our beds at night. When the clock struck 12, the four of us would rise reluctantly and, with feigned enthusiasm, make our way sleepily to a nearby park. Seated in silence, we would listlessly munch on insipid edibles.

Nothing could match the delicious fare consumed by Blyton’s boarders. Indeed, nothing could equal their enjoyable existence. How I yearned to go to boarding school! I repeatedly begged to be allowed to stay and study elsewhere, but my pleas fell on deaf ears. My parents, who usually indulged my whims and fancies, flatly denied me permission to leave home.

They had a reason for their refusal. I was allergic to a particular injection, which was generally administered if one sustained an open wound. My parents, from whom I had inherited my imaginative propensities, pictured me falling down, hurting myself and succumbing to the fatal jab. “We don’t want to lose you,” they said tenderly.

“Since I know I shouldn’t take that anti-tetanus shot,” I replied persuasively, “I will stop any doctor or nurse from giving it to me.”

My parents shook their heads sombrely. “You may not be able to do that,” they said. “What if you are unconscious?”

Vanquished by that unassailable piece of logic, I never made it to the paradisiacal place of my dreams. However, I did the next best thing. I married someone who had spent several happy years at a boarding school in this city!

sunita.monga1980@yahoo.com

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Printable version | Jun 3, 2020 10:58:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/out-of-home-fantasies/article24780852.ece

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