It was five in the morning and the rain wouldn’t stop beating. It had been going on for a few days and no one could see himself doing anything constructive without being drenched. It overwhelmed everything about life here for a while. Even the classes started a while later than usual. The sports timings were shifted now and again. The teachers were tired and their voices were unceremoniously drowned out by the loud outpour. It took a while for everyone to get used to it. Not unusually, everyone thought that the rain was anomalous. Little did we know that it would rain for a long time afterward and we would continue to do all our things against the backdrop of an incessant beating of droplets on tin-roofs.
It was the last day of school and we were all packed up to leave for home. The evening was crowded with the formalities of departure. We had to put our trunks back into the sequestered trunk room behind Manas, bring all our extra luggage into the linen-room for safe-keeping, tidy up the rooms and bring all our dirty clothes and uniform for their final wash. It took a long time to get through all the preparatory holiday rituals. I usually thought I could get done with them days in advance but it wasn’t possible. There were tomes of prep-work to go through, several last-minute assignments to write. I had a difficult time doing them. My notes remained untouched on the table and my list of pending work grew gargantuan by the hour. Things remained in stultified inertia for a long time here, especially in my room. I felt them grow heavy on my desk and the table itself kind of ominously grew threateningly big, but just in that little unseen way. I could never clearly tell. Something about the urgency of last-moment tasks kept me from noticing. I felt relieved when everything came to a head on one of the last few remaining working-days. I would unthinkingly dive right in determined and finish it. It’s surprising how quickly I dispensed with hassles. Only I couldn’t work myself into that state without that crucial urgency of the last few days.
I filled up my trunks with all kinds of stuff – all my endless mounds of collected necessities that were absolutely unnecessary, which I never used in the end, piled into a huge collection, shoved into my cantankerous little box – and took it back to the storage room behind the house. The storage room itself was littered with piles and piles of mounting trunks all around, it was impossible to move. It was one of those truly great feats that people performed occasionally without the slightest feeling of accomplishment – like managing to get through a long line of people and finally getting to the front of the queue. People climbed and ascended all of these boxes to get to theirs. Once done, they dumped them back in, helter-skelter in all directions, doing anything to get rid of them until our return from the holidays. Everything became temporarily convenient and no one seemed to mind the ephemeral comfort we derived from carelessly strewing our trunks everywhere.
I returned all my linen. My clothes always got pungent by the end of the term. Well, everyone else’s did too, so I never felt embarrassed about it. We all threw our soiled uniform into massive heaps in the linen-room and left them there for the laundry.
That day, the last day of school, when I had done all that I had to do before leaving, I set about scrubbing my toye-unit. I knew my housemaster (Kevin Phillips) would come around on inspection later in the evening after dinner and it had to be spic and span. He looked at all of ours toyes very suspiciously and immediately detected any flaw in them. He had that quality about him. He could tell right away. I did my cleaning immaculately again. I had to. I didn’t want a reprimand from him. I kind of resented having my last days marred by last-minute recriminations. I avoided them. I scrubbed really hard and borrowed some soap from the guy next to my unit. He used copious amounts himself and never had a problem.
That done, I set about packing. I had two suitcases, one enormous, another really teeny. I filled in the big one with all the books I had to take back home, with my shoes and toiletries and the little ‘home’ clothes I had. No one wore ‘home’ clothes ever. Exceptionally, some days we could. So they languished in my big suitcase through the term, until I would have to rearrange a little bit at term’s end, move them slightly around to make space, or leave them untouched. I put my little boxes and pens and notebooks into the tiny one. I also had some dirty uniform I wanted to get washed at home. I put them all in and locked the two. At six in the morning, the space in front of the common room was crowded with luggage. Everyone put them there before leaving the hostel. It kind of waited in transit. These collected bags spent hours huddled together, merging into one big, bloated pile while the rest of us anticipated the coming day.
I sat on my stripped and bare bed, and waited patiently. I waited for solace. I waited for my eagerness to implode, but it never did. All I remembered then was the need to be patient. It would be hours before I reached home.
The hours were long and tiring. It exhausted me to sit in the bus, doing nothing, just sitting and hoping for home, waiting for its warmth. We would talk sometimes, the person next to me and I. We would talk about the prep-work set, about all the things we couldn’t wear at school this term and all the people we would catch up with over the holidays. We always had plans chalked out meticulously. These would tumble out on our bus journeys. I thought about the things I would eat on the way. I thought about the one hour wasted by those who got off mid-way at the hotel in Nowgong where we stopped every time – everyone used the loos there. But things moved slowly. The prospect of the (hostel) life left behind consoled me. The thought of going home left me awake and sleepless. I felt the heat peter into the bus, but I just stayed put in my seat, not looking back to talk to anyone else. I needed to get my plans in order. My holidays were here.