Of scraped knees, wooden floors and blue skies

Awanti Agarwala

Of scraped knees, wooden floors
and blue skies.

Awanti Agarwala – BMS Class of 1995

I have often wondered what it was about school and the years I spent there that was so special that after almost 2 decades it still invokes such crystal clear images and vivid memories. I don’t have the answer yet and I don’t know if I ever will but I’d like to just pin it on what I believe is a phenomenon that I was privileged to experience called “The Blue Mountain School”. Phenomenon – too strong a word to describe a school you say – that too, a school that almost got wiped out from the face of this planet. Well so be it as it’s not my attempt to make believers out of non-believers.

This is not going to be a narrative on the greatness of BMS or an argument on proving it to be one of the greatest schools that ever was and continues to be. This is just about me and what my BMS years meant to me. For an 11 year old walking into a boarding school full of children of all ages and teachers after a 4 day train journey there can be nothing scarier – right? Wrong – I am not sure what happened but from the moment I walked through the wooden gates of school I felt like I belonged. The crisp cold air, smell of the Cypress hedge and tall Eucalyptus trees, the red mud road leading to the front lawn , white porch and front steps seemed to accept me unconditionally.

I have often said that a large part of who I am today is because of my experience in the crucial formative years of life that I spent in school. And I truly believe it. No doubt the initial draw to the school was the fact that it was too good to be true to a child – a school without exams – how is that even possible? However, Mr. Deb and his faculty of the most amazing teachers had managed to create an environment that encouraged us children to become everything that we possibly could but most importantly “thinking” human beings. A quality that the world today has a dearth of. We didn’t know that then, since we were all so busy being children and growing up. What we did know was that we were part of something special and something different. Every time we interacted with another bunch from another school it became apparent – whether it was a “friendly cricket match” with Rex/Hebron/Lawrence or going for our ICSE Board Exams to Nazareth where we arrived as a truck/trekker-load of scruffy carefree non uniformed students.

BMS, a school, where it was okay that we christened a new teacher openly based on a 5 year old’s comment; where we initiated another teacher into the ways of boarding school kids through a midnight feast and a dancing session after hours atop wash stones; where some of us heard our first ever “non veg” joke from very giggly dorm parents who happened to be alumni; where we polished floors and scrubbed steps; laughed and cried with equal abandon; where we learned the value of a bucket with 2 holes vs. 3 and piping hot water on bath days, snoozes during class under the tree at the far side of the front lawn was not an uncommon sight; where stories came to life and we begged our Cherry Akka to read “just one more page please”……a place where we lived, learned and made friends for life – a place where mistakes weren’t frowned upon and hence, fear of failure was never a part of one’s realm. End of term was always bittersweet and beginning of terms was full of expectations and bright eyed enthusiasm. It was a bubble perhaps that we lived in but a bubble that dared us to be free and doing so prepared us for the world outside of it. I will forever be grateful to this phenomenon that taught me that life is to be lived without regrets, without expectations, without fear but with thought, patience and gratitude. To BMS my Alma Mater, my most treasured memory – may it be the fortune of many more generations to experience your Unconditional Acceptance.