I went to a high school for 14 years – from Nursery (pre-KG) to 12th grade. It was not just a school, but the fructifying of an idea that is unique and beautiful in its own right. Springdales School to me was about a lot of things, as was the fountainhead of that institution – Mrs. Rajni Kumar. Mrs. Rajni Kumar is the recipient of Padma Shree, one of the top awards from Indian Government in 2011 for Literature and Education.
There are many ways one can describe Springdales but Description cannot be the Described. When you really and truly experience the Described can you fully understand it. Let me relate my personal experience.
Soemwhat 27 years ago, when I was in the 10th standard, Mrs. Chauda came to visit my mother. My father had passed away on 22nd Dec and the school wanted to make sure that they could understand the situation that our family might be going through. Quite suddenly, 60% of the household income had been cut out. While the sorrow of losing a parent was there, but the worry from specter of losing the opportunity for future schooling was even greater.
My two sisters and I were studying in some of the most expensive schools. While my sister, Anuradha and I were in Springdales, Neelam, the youngest was in Manav Sthali. Suggestions were made to my mother that while the son could finish the schooling at Springdales, the daughters could be moved to cheaper – probably Government schools. The staunch feminist that she has been, she was firm – either all go to Springdales or all go to Government School.
That day, Mrs. Chauda asked many questions, the answers of which were not coherent from my mother after her loss. But Mrs. Chauda understood what was said and that, what was not said. The greatest worry was the tuition. And also if the third sibling could be taken in the school.
The matter was discussed in school and we received a letter, signed by Mrs. Kumar, saying that tuition for my sister and i would be cut in half henceforth. While my third sister could not be admitted right then, but a promise was made to take her in when I pass out.
After I passed out, I approached Mrs. Chauda, who was the Supervisor of 6th standard. You see my sister had option of German and Sanskrit in Manav Sthali and since Sanskrit was common she took that up. Here at Springdales, unfortunately, unknown to us, Sanskrit section of the classes were full. My sister took her entrance test and unfortunately she didn’t do so well on the Mathematics side of the test. So, the situation was very bleak. Low test result… Full Sanskrit Section… and nothing more than a mere promise made three years back.
I still remember standing outside Mrs. Chaudda’s office waiting to talk to her. She called me in and said “Desh, it is really very difficult to say YES to your sister’s case. I hope you understand that.” My heart sank. Then she proceeded after a pause ‘.. but, Desh, it is very difficult to say NO to you. So we are taking your sister in.”.
Now, let me be honest. I was just about average student who had come on stage when 60 percenters and above were called up no more than 3-4 times. I was active in sports and arts but I wasn’t a star athlete!
Once there was an unscrupulous teacher who was watchnig the students in a term exam in the hall. Soon, she started to allow the kids to cheat. One kid would go over to the other while someone else was sharing her papers with the neighbor. Some had even taken out the books from the bags etc. In the heat of the moment, the person sitting in front of me took one of my sheets to see my answer. And as I pleaded for him to return it all back to me, the supervisor of the 6th grade came in and caught us. Meanwhile, everyone else had settled down and cleared the desks. She took the guy in front and me to the principal, Mrs. Rajni Kumar to set an example.
Mrs. Kumar was furious. That friend of mine and I were terribly scared. He started crying and said sorry for what he had done, while I just kept saying that I had done nothing wrong. Before I could get my sheet back, this lady came and got us. Throughout the ordeal, I didn’t say that I was sorry or that I had done anything wrong.
He got 2 marks as a token for being sorry. And I got a 0. It affected my grade tremendously.
We were graduating from the 12th grade and as a ritual, the Principal Mrs. Rajni Kumar read out the entire “Character certificate” – which included a brief about the person and personal remarks from Ms. Kumar. It was an interesting ritual and we were all engrossed in that. The parents were also there who celebrated their kid’s last day in school before the examination that would be his/her last in the school life.
When I came back to my mother, she smiled and said excitedly “Did you notice that Mrs. Kumar said a kid was Honest for only two people? One of them was you!”. No, I hadn’t noticed.
I am not sure whether Mrs. Kumar still remembered that event 5 years back or not, but that is what my Mom believed to be the reason for this remark.
Extraordinary Achievements are celebrated all over the world. A Human Being with all his/her ordinariness is celebrated only at Springdales. That’s what being Human is all about. Description cannot, like I said earlier, be the experience of the Described. I have experienced the Humane-ness of the Springdalian spirit.