My brother and I joined a school hostel at a tender age. My brother Tejinder was in Class 1 and I in Class 2. It was the early nineties when we were admitted to St Kabir Public School, Chandigarh. It was difficult to leave our ancestral village Khasa near Amritsar. When our parents came to visit us on our first open day, my brother said, "When I close my eyes, I find father in one eye and mother in the other." Our parents often remind us of this, which never fails to touch us and others.
The school and hostel life kept us busy. The warden was strict but she inculcated in us values and good manners. We would all eagerly await the open day to meet our parents who would take us out. We frequently visited the Sector 17 for shopping and watched movies at Neelam theatre besides visiting other attractions City Beautiful boasted of. We also looked forward to the vacations that gave us an opportunity to go home. Coming back to school after the vacations was painful. Once I created a scene while going back to hostel after the vacations. But our warden tactfully handled the situation.
After three years of schooling in Chandigarh, we joined Punjab Public School, Nabha. Here, students were divided into four houses that inculcated a spirit of competition and team spirit. The houses competed among themselves in sports, dramatics and debates. This helped students hone their talent.
I remember our housemaster inspecting our cupboards and beds and pulling us up if we were found wanting. We were told to ensure hygiene. We eagerly awaited the Saturday evenings as they screened English films at the school auditorium. On Sundays, we would relax, read newspapers and magazines, and indulge in gossip.
From Mondays, we had to be on our toes to follow the routine, be it reporting for jogging early in the morning or swimming or horse-riding in the evening. Getting up early in the morning was a torture. Our housemaster -- Shaju Antony from Kerala -- would could to our dormitories, switch off the fans in summer and switch them on in winter so that we woke up immediately. He tried his best to make us better persons.
Those days we thought of hostel as nothing short of a prison, but now I realise that hostel life teaches discipline and makes one independent for life. No wonder, General Bikram Singh, the current Chief of Army Staff and an ex-student of the school, credits the school and its hostel life for whatever he is today.