Everyone has bitter – sweet memories of school. As a child, I’d been to a number of schools but the one I found most interesting was the one I spent the most time in. And the reason I find it interesting now is because of the fact that we read & learnt in an environment where we sort of co-existed with different kinds of animals. And when I say coexisted, I MEAN coexisted. You see, we had a pair of pugs, called Barnie & Bernie, a rooster whose name I don’t remember, A Great Dane called ‘Sultan’, a bunch of swans, a few ducks, a parrot called ‘Mithu’ & a few other varieties of birds! That’s not all, all except the Great Dane, were allowed to roam around freely within school premises which meant an occasional visit from a few of them in the classrooms! The most frequent visitors were the pugs & the most notorious too because more often than not, their visit was accompanied by an embarrassing visual of the two of them humping, or trying to at least! Embarrassing for the humanity in question because frankly, Bernie & Barnie gave not a single damn to whoever was watching!
The rooster managed to single handedly bring down the level of excitement caused by pugs by his inactivity. All I ever recall ‘him’doing is standing in front of the full length mirror positioned outside of one of our classrooms, in the corridor, & just staring at his handsome self. I was first introduced to the concept of narcissism by that rooster. He didn’t mind sharing the mirror because he wouldn’t even glance at you if you stood & observed your own reflection in that same mirror. You can now begin to understand where I come from in life, I’ve spent most of my childhood sharing a mirror with a rooster, after all!
The ducks & swans usually kept to themselves. We had to invade their space each day for the morning assembly but they gladly shared the lawn area of the school with us. At times one of them would come crashing toward the assembled children, but would usually just bump into the school administrator, Mr Paul, & head back to his waiting friends. The animals remained normal around most of us, caused no trouble & shared space quite happily, but they had a thing for Mr Paul. The pugs being the assholes they were, would almost always come & pee on his foot, and his alone, each time he tried to speak in the morning assembly! Both of them. So much so that this had become a ritual we had all begun to accept, more so because if you laughed, Mr Paul would make it a point to single the laughing child out of the gathering of students to try & break his or her spirit. But of course, the opposite effect was achieved and what ensued was a fit of laughter among every teacher & student present within the premise, during that time. But Mr Paul never got it. He always felt we were laughing at the student he held captive. That was not the case of course.
‘Sultan’was held away from us because he was deemed ‘dangerous’ because of his size by some of the parents, which was a shame because those of us who did visit him sometimes, knew that he was very gentle around us. Maybe it was Mr Paul’s safety they really feared for. I don’t know.
This was my life, during my adolescent years, surrounded by animals, learning an important lesson about co-existence and all because the owner of our school was an animal lover. In fact, she still is involved in several animal welfare schemes and rescue operations. If she would have had her way, we would have had a donkey among us too! But that never happened because he was too injured for a full recovery.
I wonder what that would have been like though. I really do.