Cuddalore Chapter 1 – The nightmarish 8th Grade

School memories are special for everyone. Everyone at some point in their life when they look back, School forms major part of their lives. For me though I don’t remember much about my first 7 years in school. It just feels like a hazy blob without much structure, so let me directly skip to 8th grade of my school life. My parents both worked in a bank so transfer was a normal occurrence. This time they were posted to a rural branch close to Cuddalore. Since Cuddalore was a closest town/city to their branches we decided to make that our home for the next few years.

For me though moving wasn’t alien as we had already moved from Delhi to Chennai when I had completed my second grade. Cuddalore was a nice small town, it had 2-3 major schools, 4-5 theatres, some beaches and overall a good vibe. The biggest challenge for me was always adjusting to the new school. Even when I think about it now, 8th grade in that school X (Let’s call it that) in Cuddalore possibly was the reason I went in to my shell even more. I was never an extrovert but again the experience in that school in Cuddalore possibly pushed me over the edge.

I was never a brilliant student let me be very clear about the same, I did okay in my studies and probably sometimes punched above my weight. This is not to say I wasn’t interested in studies but I needed some good guidance and teaching to understand the concepts better when compared to others. I wasn’t in the top 20% of the class, nor was I in the bottom, I was somewhere in the middle. The Indian school system is brilliant for the students who are probably in the top 20% but have no proper method to deal with the rest.

Going to a new school that too in a place you are not familiar with was a daunting experience. I was new to the town, did not know many people and me being an introvert did not help either. Making friends in that school was tough. I don’t know for some reason the students in the class saw me like an alien and it was hard to gel with them. I had some terrible experiences in the class and I felt miserable throughout the year. Thanks for my one friend, let’s call him V who helped me to get through that nightmarish year. V was the typical top 20% student in the class but also was a great guy as he did not make friends only on the basis of marks and ranks. I also had my neighbour let’s call him JP, who became great friends with me when I moved in and we spent lots of time together and kind of shared similar problems at school.

There were some bullies in school and the fact that I wasn’t doing great in the class did not help matters either. The teachers in that school weren’t very helpful either. I wasn’t grasping the concepts and it became difficult to concentrate on anything without understanding what was going on. Maths became the toughest of all for me through the entire year and I really struggled. I still remember the one day when in the chemistry class, the teacher asked me a question and I did not know the answer. The guy practically humiliated me in front of the class by repeatedly asking me more questions, making fun of me along the way and also suggested something like I did not belong in 8th grade. That episode kind of left a deep scar in me and it made me to never ask any questions in the class even if I had a doubt.

The funny part is that the teachers in India do not realise that each student has different needs and all of them cannot grasp things at the same level. Scolding or hitting someone for not understanding something will not make him to understand it better. In such situations students do couple of things, one they try really hard to understand things on their own or resort to blindly mugging up the answers without understanding the concepts.

It was kind of inspirational for even myself as to how I was able to turn a corner as the year progressed with all the subjects except for maths. I was able to improve through lots of hard work and dedication and was even appreciated by my class teacher in the class. That was one of the very few proud moments in that year. I should hand it to the math teacher though as she was the only person who actually thought she should do something about my troubles with her subject. She offered to spend some time after the school hours to teach me the concepts which she could not do in the class and it really helped me a lot. I really thank her for that. So the absolute nightmare which was the 8th grade was finally coming to an end and we were nearing the finals. My continued struggle with Math meant that I needed to do well in the finals to actually pass the year and my friend JP who had already failed a year had to pass this year to save some face with his family.

We both approached the final exams with lots of sincerity and thanks to my sister who spent a lot of time with me before the math exam, I think I did reasonably well and felt confident of the results. Exams were over and the summer break had started and I was extremely relieved to have gotten that break. Two months had passed after the exams and this was the time people get their results in the post. Those days it would be a post card from the school which will say either “PASS” or “FAIL” in it. Strangely both for JP and me the card never arrived. We spoke to some of our fellow students and realised that all of them had received them and my only friend V from the school had also received the same. Now both of us started panicking and did not know why we did not get the results. We decided to go to the school and check it out and since the school was closed for the summer break no one was in there.

When we started to reminisce what could be the problem we realised that couple of months ago we had a small tiff with the local post man. I don’t remember the exact reason though now but that was the reason for our cards not getting delivered. Both of us immediately reached the local post office and stood outside and spoke to few post men there and they advised us to apologise to our post man. We went in apologised to him and he finally handed over the card to us. The guy got a sadistic pleasure which we could see on his place when we came in all panicky looking for the results. We just gave what he wanted and he handed over the cards. All this was happening while we both still had no clue what that card said. When we finally got our cards, we saw the four letters we wanted to see “PASS”. The year was a total nightmare and possibly one of my worst school year and it rightly ended with equally stressful week or two.

Even though I felt happy for myself and JP I was dreading the fact that I need to go to school again in few weeks and have to spend another year with the same bunch of guys who made my life miserable the year before. I was just hoping for a better school year ahead and probably some new faces and friends when I start my 9th grade. All in that I was happy that I at least had V who would be with me in the year to follow as well. With that thought in mind I continued to enjoy the rest of the break with JP and rest of my neighbour friends who were fantastic by the way while waiting for another year in School X.

Chennai Floods – Impact of Social Media and the real heroes

Actor Siddharth (Left) and RJ Balaji (Right) started the relief work in Chennai with their #ChennaiMicro movement

Actor Siddharth (Left) and RJ Balaji (Right) started the relief work in Chennai with their #ChennaiMicro movement

When I first heard about the incessant rains in Chennai I had no clue about the devastation it had caused to the city I grew up in. When I later looked at the videos and photos it was really heart breaking. It really pained me that I was not there and was not able to help the people in need. This was the time I read an article and found few of the twitter posts by actor Siddharth and RJ Balaji. I do have twitter account but I hardly use it. Let me be honest, I am not a big social media fan. Even though I have Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc… I hardly use it.

Now when I logged on to twitter and looked at the posts and the number of people involved in making a difference I was completely inspired. I decided instead of feeling bad for not being present in Chennai during this time, I can do something worthwhile. So there began my involvement in doing something useful to help the people in need. The twitter proved that if used well social media is the most powerful tool in the current generation. I was able to help out people providing useful information or guiding them to the right contact being here in the US which would have not been possible like 15 years ago.

The other thing which was amazing was the number of young volunteers who were involved in the relief work. It was really inspiring to see how much they were working hard to help the people in need. I met lot of very good people and was able to help a few of them with their needs. It was truly amazing experience to be part of the work which was going on in full swing with their relief work in Tamil Nadu. The kind of pictures we saw of the floods meant that these volunteers braved their way in conditions which were extremely dangerous to help the people who needed food and supplies. There are not enough words to thank these countless volunteers who made the difference during these testing times for the state.

We need to thank actor Siddharth and RJ Balaji who started this movement and used the social media via their #ChennaiMicro movement to reach out to people. They have been brilliant and their team has done some amazing work in the Chennai and Cuddalore which were the most affected. The Tamil film industry in unison was completely involved in the relief work and it was brilliant to see how they were ready to help anyone who needed any supplies. I would also like to mention Khusbhu, Vishal, Vishnu, Karthi, Varalaxmi Sarathkumar, Karthik Kumar, Singer Suchitra, Shanthanu and countless others who joined the movement and were not only in social media but also were in the field helping people in need.

These are the real heroes. No amount of thanks can repay the efforts they put in during the time of adversity to help the people of the state. The people of Tamil Nadu have once again proven that humanity is bigger than any religion, caste or language.

I am so happy that I took to twitter a week ago as otherwise I wouldn’t have been so close to whatever relief work was happening in TN. I really want to salute all the heroes who decided to leave their homes and go on the streets and help people in need. I would also like to mention the countless brothers and sisters from all over the world (not only from India) who donated generously to help the relief work. The spirit of the people of TN has been heartwarming. Even though we were not getting much attention in the national media, the people brushed it off and helped themselves to recover from one of the largest natural calamity the state has faced since the tsunami of 2004.

I am really proud of my state and my city. I am really proud of the Tamil film industry. This has been really a rewarding experience and I would like to keep myself involved in every way possible in the state’s rehabilitation work.