Sometimes it feels good to be in a crowd where no one knows you.
Today, after all my people had left, I went downstairs to the auditorium, where the eleventh graders were throwing a party for the outgoing class of twelfth. I had not expected to be invited. After all, these schools run by the letter of the law, and the laws are always unfailingly tailored to bring out the egotist in you. I do not work with the eleventh or the twelfth, so by school-rules, I have no business being there. So I was surprised when they presented me with the card yesterday.
These children were there in my classes last year when they were in tenth. It was either a case of misdirected grace, or misplaced memory. Either way, I’d said I’d go. I did not care much for the twelfth – I hardly knew them. But some of the organizers – and the performers – still remembered me from last year, and I still had a corner in my heart for them.
I was thinking of all the items my own kids had presented yesterday. These are boys and girls of amazing talent and dedication, and if they have failed to manifest themselves to their full potential, it is only because we have clogged their way. Our way of schooling has meddled in their lives too much. Left alone, they could have grown into trees, but we, in our mistrust, have made them into potted bonsai.
I felt wistful thinking of Rabindranath. It was almost funny how much I was missing the old man. All his life, he campaigned for an education that sets the spirit free. A hundred years later, algorithms reign supreme and we are shackled in structures and walls more than ever. No wonder so many of them have made friends with paper-cutters and razor-blades, old friend. No one told them that they don’t have to settle for this. All they have known are strings. What do you cut at when the strings on you are invisible and intangible? You cut at where you think the strings attach.
The program went well. I watched them sing, dance. There is a pleasure in watching people like that, people enjoying themselves untarnished by guilt or compulsion. The star dancer of the batch took the stage for a solo performance, and I remembered my conversations with her many months ago. She had told me she wanted to be both an astronaut and a dancer. I heard the audience break out in wild applause and chuckled. Attagirl. Now I wait for the day you keep the other half of your promise.
By the time the party broke up, it was time for me to be leaving. I did not want to hang around, I was a cameo guest after all. No use in spoiling it all, getting introduced to people, turning what’s emotional into something social.
They were cutting the cake. My time was up. I picked up my bag and started towards the gate.