Wooden benches, blackboards, broken chalk pieces and an air thick with memories overcomes me as I walk through the brown corridors of Carmel Convent, my school and my haven for my entire childhood. Here is a place that has been my foundation, my anchor, my Rock of Gibraltar. The one place that has remained steadfast in its values and made me realise time and again that a person’s character is shaped in school, moulded by teachers and put on display for the world the second you depart the homely hallways.I went back to school last week as the chief guest for (please tell me what) and returned as a 10 year old with the kind of affection, love and remembrance that my school showered on me. For your school, you can never be an ‘ex-student’. You will always remain simply a student, someone who is still bound to the morals and traditions of what the institution stands for. For me, my school stands for respect, achievement and equality. It’s funny how, as kids, we always looked past the superficial differences and hung out together.
At age five, nobody was a geek, a jock or the popular girl. Everybody was just the same as you and everybody received the same treatment as you. My school prided itself on this very sentiment of equality that I have learnt to pursue and embrace as an adult in my day to day life. When you grow older, the paychecks, the mansions and the swanky cars get in the way of true relationships and we lose respect for each other in the face of seemingly important achievements.
Every time I’m at crossroads, I find myself thinking of my school days and the simplicity with which we were made to distinguish between right and wrong. Any action that belittles people and hurts feelings is wrong and any action that enriches a person is good. In school, we wore the same uniform, sat on the same benches and ate the same food. Our squabbles were even simpler — over erasers, pencils and who gets the window seat in the bus.
Seriously, school is the greatest leveller. It elevates us to the same level, no one is bigger or smaller. We are all the same. Which is why, if you never let go of the values that your school instilled in you, you will always be the person that you were then. And that’s the best that you can ever be. No cynicism, mistrust, envy will ever catch up to you and taint you.
As sports captain, I was always looked up to and I had to make sure that I behaved responsibly and did nothing to dishonour my title. This same quality of restraint is what shapes me as an actor now. I’m in the public eye and I know I’m a role model to thousands of young people across the country. I need to, at every second, display the same heart and spirit that I showed as the sports captain years ago. True — it is responsibility and a lot of pressure.
But, then again, my school has taught me to survive in the eye of the storm and to come through shining. Think of what your school has done for you, people! I’m hoping most of you are still friends with your school buddies, your bench pals and your lunch-box chums! Trust me — those are the best friends you will get simply because they know you at your best and have accepted you at your worst. Head back to school and let those memories overpower you!