I had written a short note about Sahyadri School and what I loved about that place, one idle afternoon, some years ago. A friend generously insisted that I tell it here. Over the years, I’ve received some wonderful feedback for this post, about Sahyadri, about my writing. I’ve had parents get in touch with me to thank me, to ask me questions and sometimes, just to share their experiences.
Reproducing the post here: (Some of the writing here makes me cringe; it’s partially a reminder of where I was then. But I think I’ll keep it as is)
Sahyadri School, was a home away from home. At the age of ten when I went to Sahyadri, it was simply an experiment, a gamble that could have worked out either way. But today at 22, I am grateful to my parents for having taken that gamble.
I made many mistakes at Sahyadri and worked my way through. I don’t so much remember the syllabi but what I do remember is the lesson of survival, wherein you stand up for yourself, make your own choices and stick to them. It allowed me space and a great amount of freedom and time to grow and explore the various choices in life.
Nestled amidst the mountains and a river, it was a microcosm of the world outside. At the same time I led a cocoon-like existence, in absolute bliss, unaware of the world at large, feeling so protected and loved that I did not bother to read the newspapers. All this despite being away from home.
These were indeed the best years of my life, in a place where I learnt to accept myself with all my shortcomings and more importantly, to love myself. Today I can stand up for myself because of Sahyadri.
I owe my individualistic way of thinking largely to my experience in school. I internalized many things in my alma mater rather unconsciously and to my delight, I am still discovering them – some of them being quite trivial actually; love for night milk, long chatty meal times, fondness for half-cooked noodles, ability to study only once the sun sets etc. But on a more serious note, I learnt to be independent and confident of my abilities. Today I believe that I am indeed a special person, who is loved a great deal. This sense of security developed in school still prevails. The world no doubt looks very scary and monster-like occasionally but I feel I am better equipped to deal with the monstrosity of the world after having been in Sahyadri.
A lot of people I know criticize Sahyadri for its austere way of living but that’s the only way I ever want to remember that place. Childhood for me was never about computers, video-games, or television; it was about much greater and meaningful things – poring over books and natural beauty, climbing mountains, crying over crimson sunsets, gossiping late into the night with room-mates and writing reams and reams of letters back home. I believe that I lived a special childhood.
Life in Sahyadri meant more than simply attending school. It almost became a way of life. Once out of school, I often found myself defending its ethos and culture on a number of occasions to various people around me but I soon gave up because if the world refused to understand Sahyadri, it was only their loss, not mine.
When in school, we were always told that freedom comes with responsibility.I never fathomed how this was true. It was a mystery that I meekly came to accept because it was told to me by people I held in high esteem.
It was only in college that I realized the absolute meaning of the statement. And then it struck me hard.
On one hand there was so much freedom (my parents had given me a free rein after six years of life in a boarding school) that a lot of people I know could not handle. I tried to view my college years as an extension of my school life except that I now stayed at home. But that did not happen.
There were two options, I could have gone absolutely berserk with the amount of freedom I had or I could choose to behave responsibly. I would like to believe that I have been quite responsible, owing largely to my life in Sahyadri.
After school, I felt that college restricted me quite a bit, leaving me somewhat flustered coupled with a feeling of being out-of-place. Suddenly I found myself being bound by attendance lists, constant nagging by the extended family, the self-created examination stress, pressure to be home before sunset, etc.
I had learnt enough in school to understand early in life that simply acing an examination was not the key to a happy life. I am not going to deny that exams are important but I was fortunate to have had teachers who convinced me that exams were not the only thing that mattered.
At every step of the way in college, I found myself in a conflict over choices. Having to make constant choices in school, prepared me to be able to figure out my priorities in college. I keep telling myself that the journey is important and that I have to be content with what I am doing and that the rest is immaterial. What I am doing may not work for everyone but it will work for me. End of story!
It is almost seven years later I realize that I learnt much more than mere academics in Sahyadri. We learnt some fairly simple lessons in school; those of loyalty, simplicity, humility, dignity of labor, tolerance, forgiveness, acceptance and the ability to stick to what you believe in. It is these that stick with me.
The thought of returning to school is always there on the back of my mind. It is a promise I make to myself every time I am feeling discontent and low. But having joined the rat race and keeping pace with the frenetic pace of life in a metropolitan city, it is a promise that goes largely ignored.
It is not a life I had envisioned for myself seven years ago. But the most surprising part is that I have come to find some solace in this chaotic order of things as well. I have learnt to seek happiness from the smallest things in life – the luxury to able to sleep for ten hours straight, succeeding to secure a seat in the train, an email from a friend who I have been neglecting for a while, etc.
I do not know how to interpret this frame of mind but what matters is that it gives me contentment. It keeps the dark clouds at bay and more importantly makes me feel connected to Sahyadri in some ways.
So when my best friend cheekily writes down in a space asking for a description of her: “the journey…it’s all about the journey…” it simply brings a smile to my face. I know exactly where she is coming from.
A small footnote:
The picture in the header was captured at Sahyadri one December evening, in 2009. It is my favorite memory of school.