Chapter 1/ Arriving in the hostel
On the fifteenth day of April 1968, Mugugesan’s mother took him to the boarding school. He was nine years old. He was a silent boy who obeyed his mother’s words. The boarding school conducted an examination to select the students. He was there to write the test. The dress worn by the teachers consisted of white kurtha and white dhoti, made in thick khadi cloth. It looked odd. They were very diffierent from the teachers whom he had seen so far. He did not know that khadi half-trouser in blue and half-sleeve kurta in white khadi would be his uniform for the next six years. He had to wear it day and night for whole duration of his stay in hostel and school. Hostel dormitories and the school class rooms were in the same areas and only time and ringing of the school bell determined the place where he would be present. All persons looked strangers and there was a swamiji in saffron clothes. Murugesan felt very uneasy but would speak little. He nodded when his anxious mother asked whether he found this place good and would it be fine.
Mother and Murugesan waited for the results of the admission test. At 3 in the evening they were called. The teacher incharge of the admission to class VI told his mother that M could be admitted in the category II which meant that they could only avail fifty percent concession in holtel and school fees. They had applied for availing of hundred per cent concesion in boarding and school fees. His mother explained their financial constraints and handed a letter of reference from an old student of that school pleading desperately for concession. Ultimately, she had to relent. There were only very limited seats for 100% concession and they have already been filled. Though the amount of fees was very small she could not afford to pay such a huge part of her yearly income for educating her son. She had a daughter too to look after.
After admitting the boys, they were told to come after 5 days. As the town from which Murugesan hailed was 500 KM away from the boarding school his mother went to the nearby city and purchased a metal trunk and plate, tumbler and other articles of daily use for her son. They stayed with a family of another boy admitted in the school. They could not afford to stay in a lodge or hotel. He knew that his mother had no money left except for travel to the hometown.
Next morning M was left at the school by his mother who returned to the home town. One of the teachers told him to play in the swing. He has never played in the swing so far. It was very high. For a long time to come he never went near the swing. It was only when he was in 9th class he could sit on the swing. He aimlessly roamed around the school. Other boys admitted to the Class VI were scheduled to join the school after 5 days. M was told to sit alongwith the boys of Class VII for a week. He felt very ackward in the class of seniors. Mostly he remained quiet. He was slowly tuning to the hostel and school life in the absence of his parents. He was not aware as to when he would be able to see his parents and sister. There was a bronze bell ringing of which indicated each activity in the school and the hostel. For the rest of his life, most of his activities were determined by ringing of the bell in the inner corridors of his consciousness. Even at the age of 50 he heard the school bell ringing at five in the morning, the time he woke up almost everyday, wherever he slept. At eight in the morning the bell would ring in the stomach. It took another five years and a wife and children to discipline him in order to wake him only after six in the morning and have his breakfast only at eight thirty.
On the fifth day boys admitted to Class VI came to the school and there was more new faces. Some children cried when their parents took leave of them. Some boys had to be physically separated from their parents. M also felt like crying. His eyes were full of tears but no one noticed his tears. Even if some one noticed, none came near. He thought of his mother. She would be away in her work. Would she care to remember? He wanted to ask. Nobody would give him the only answer he knew.