MIDWAY: I want to break free

Dipesh Parajuli

I want to break free." That is what I shot back at a teacher six years ago when he asked me what I wanted to do in the future. He balked at it and his initial reaction was a mix of surprise and scowl. As was the trend, he would have expected me to say a doctor, an engineer or a pilot. He ruminated for a while, smiled, and said, "Good luck son, break free soon."

My answer was a spontaneous one. It just occurred to me that moment, and out it tumbled. However misleading my answer appeared, it was a humble answer. Only that I was tired of going to school and quite keen to "break free."

There is no doubt that my school was great. It was probable that 13 long years at having adjusted to a routine made me say so. Right from the nursery classes until I was a young lad of 16. Wake up groggy, spend two terrible study hours (in front of dad), put on the same dress, hurry for lunch and speed back to make it to the afternoon class. Playing truant would invite unwarranted complications from ever vigilant Mr Adolf Hitler, staring down at every soul on the gate.

Then came the assembly hour, always dreaded by us. As though incomplete homework and illegible handwritings were not enough to irritate them, the teachers would always keep a wary eye on those of us shooting at girls with paper planes. Needless to say that I beat all others on this list. Indeed, I was "outstanding." Outside the class, that is.

Boundless joy used to engulf me when the last bell of the day chimed. I now know that my house is within fifteen mi-nutes of the walking distance. But throughout the 13 years, I seldom reached home before an hour. I and my friends trudged back as thou-gh we were tired warriors, returning from war. No use saying that we gossiped on every topic under the sun — movies, songs, sports, love, lust and beyond.

Home was not a home, or so I felt then. Tea heralded homework time as usual — and care had to be taken that my handwriting did not invite the teachers flak; "Crow droppings are a lot legible," he would retort in front of others. In the bed, I used to make a list of things I thought I was missing due to the school. It was quite a lengthy list. I thought I was missing everything! But I was innocent not to know what I was learning was so invaluable. I was learning various expects of life; knowledge and discipline, among others.

Today, after seven years after finishing school, I am but left to wonder if I have "broken free." Whatever it be, had those 13 years not been the way they were, I would have broken free a lot earlier — but certainly not for good.