Here I am, standing at the crossroads of life. It’s time to make a dcision: go hard or go home.
By the way, the name’s Rama, Raman Kumar Bhalla. I am waiting to write my final exam for grade eight. John is sitting next to me, glancing nervously at his watch. It reads 8:15. There are still 45minutes left to study. As I read thorugh my Science tetbook, I begin to wonder as to how I go to this important landmark in my life. There’s plenty of time left before the test so let me take you on a journey into the past.
My earliest memories of school started back in 2006, a time of porsperity and peace for South Africa. I remember my parents, who looked like giants back then, staring down at me and smiling. I smiled back not knowing what I was smiling for. Another giant appears by the red door. She talks to my parents for a while and thenm takes me inside, her hand warm and soft like my teddy back home. I’m not the only one though. There are many kids in this room, each stadning at a desk. I was assigned a desk inthe middle, next to a chubby boy with frienldy eyes and a warm smile. A bell rings somewhere. The teacher closes the door and walks to the front of the room, her heels clicking onthe concrete floor. She smiles and says, “Welcome to Grade1.”
That first year of being at school was unbelievable. It changed my outlook on different aspects in life around me. Grade 2 proved to be even better. Since I had moed up a grade, I felt more powerful. Like I had more authority. Which was natural because I was growing up. School in my mind’s eyewas a safe haven where I could have the joy of being around frineds nd learn more about my role inthe world and where I fitted in.
My fondest and most special memories of primary school were made in Grade 3. Mydays revolved around the classroom,
playground, tuck shop, frineds and girls. Our plyground was the best place to be. It felt like holy ground every time we ran on it. Sometimes in the afternoons, when the sun revealed his whole body to the earth, the beautiful African soil would seem to light up as if it was on fire.I had many firneds and allies in those old days. In those days, you didn’t have one or two friends: you had a group of friends. Otherwise you were not cool and were therefore considered to be an outsider. My group was quite special. There was Thiren, the chubby boy whom I had sat next to in Grade 1. Jared, a thin boy with a love for games (and girls), Ryan, the oldest boy in the group and the craziest. Those guys were straight put of the top drawer.
The tuckshop was our chief supplier of goods. Sometimes we would pile all our extra money together and goi to buy sweets. Not just sweets. Biltong, hot chips, hotdogs, hamburgers and cakesof all flavours – it was some of the finest foods that we bought. It cost us a lot of money back then, but it was worth it.
Gmes were an important ritual of primary school life. There were traditional games like tag, hide and seek and cops and robbers. Then there were the compeitive games such as racing, tug of war (where a fellow comrade was the ropt because we could not afford real rope), high jump, long jump and stone throwing.(this became banned in 2009 due to an accident with a guy’s eye) Finally, there were the games that we made up such as the war game; girls versus boys.
Once in Grade 3, there was an all-out war between boys and girls, which lasted two weeks. The boys occupied the woods, which gave us the advantage of cmouflage while the girls were onthe opposite side of the field, adjacent to the tuck shop which gave them the advantage of supplies. The boys fought with whip-like leaves; the girls with sticks and stones. It was bloody war. In the end, the boys raised the white flag and called for a truce. That day, history had been made, for girls had rpoved themsleves to be better than boys.
The 9’oclock bell rings. It’s starting now. The beginning of the end. The Science exam looks complicated at first, but starts to make sense as I page through it. John gives me a thumbs-up. Exams in primary school never used to be this serious.
While I write, my mind frifts backt o those days onthe dreaded sceond floor where fun and games are no-longer accepted. I find my firneds there. At the class where the other students are waiting impatiently. The teacher comes at last. She is quite beautiful, with long black hair and blue-[ainted nails. We enter silently. I hoose a sedk close to Ryan. As she write down the timetable onthe blackboard, he passes a note to me. It reads, “Welcome to Grade 4.”
One thing tht I learnt in Grade 5 was that I should nver judge a book by its cover. That’s what happened inthe case of John. He was new in our class that year. He was terribly shy though and nobody wanted to be his friend. One day, I got to know the cool side of him when he showed up for cricket practice. I found him to be quite interesting and he proved to be a true friend over the years. Grade 6 and 7 were my years t oshine in my schoolwork. I discovered a love for English and the Sciences. At the end of Grade 7, I won the trophies for English, Natural Science, Social Science and Economic Sciences. Little did I know that the trasition into high school would mark the end of the good ‘ol days.
Time’s up. That was not easy, but it was not hard either. I must admit times have changed. The good old days have passed, but that does not mean fun has lost its place in our lives. Our lives are what we make them. It’s a new world now and these are the days we have been wating for. These are the days we will not regret, the days we will not forget. We need to make the most of them. The school lets loose its inmates from their cramped prison cells. We all sprint towards the main school gate, waving our arms with joy… for now.