I was fortunate and privileged enough to travel with one of my University faculty today – to a common destination. While the economics of having a free journey to and from where I needed to be was extremely comforting, it was enjoyable to be in the company of a junior of mine and someone I shared a rapport with even outside of the classroom. While we traveled the 35km one-way distance we were navigating, I spent some time day-dreaming about all the times I’ve had the good fortune to be in the custody of people from my educational institution whom I trust.
Our school had these two school cars: two Innovas, which carried out a ton of official business – transporting dignitaries to and from functions, transporting school officials to other schools and business meetings. Sometimes, in the case of emergencies, those cars transported injured individuals to clinics or hospitals where the treatment facility on campus was inadequate to deal with the nature of the injury. [I’ll get to my own harrowing experience in a bit – this is foreshadowing].
We were a tiny school. Everybody knew everybody – especially when you were in middle and senior school. Our administrative and support staff were so phenomenally large-hearted and kind, that they ensured you were happy to walk into school each morning. They’d carry out conversations about the school at the end of the corridor we walked past while going from where the buses parked to our classrooms, and ever so often, they’d take breaks from conversation to comment on students generally, or make conversation with us. It was one of my favourite parts of the day in school. I turned off the music on my phone and pulled my headphones off as we clambered off the bus, just to hear what they had to say. I’d get a “Good Morning Mr. Rao”, every single day, with some fun remarks attached to it, including the observation that I had bought new headphones, or that my shirt was a brighter shade of orange than it usually was. It was just – fun.
Building that rapport was entrenched in the fabric and culture of my school. I was in the minority Kannadiga population on the senior side of our school – as a consequence of which my equation with several individuals, especially the multitalented staffers who helped keep the place running, doing every odd job imaginable, was just different. I developed several relationships with people on campus I’d do anything to help out if I could, just because of how easy they made our lives during our time there. I visited school with a friend of mine last June, and we met one of our friends there – he literally stopped his work and came to help speed up an administrative process that had kept us waiting for over an hour (the creation of an alumni ID card). It got done in 5 minutes.
A large part of building this rapport – and sustaining it, came from the fact that school – especially when you were on the senior side, and you were deemed responsible enough to represent the crest you wore on your chest (or you were on Student Council) ended up sending you on official business to other schools. A large part of this was inviting people for things – it’s pretty much the only kind of official business I remember doing. This involved going on a day trip. A collection of students, one of these incredible support staffers acting as our guide + driver, since we had no transport, and a packed lunch to sustain through the day.
I did one of these trips alone in Grade 11. Oh, it was far out – a day trip where I wasn’t sure whether I’d return to campus before buses left. I must’ve visited 7 schools that day, all to invite them for this production we were putting up. I remember visiting these schools and meeting their heads of department, introducing myself, and going through the rigmarole with great clarity, the tone of my voice and all that. But, what I remember more vividly is the car ride: to the far ends of the city and in-between, and eating from that lunchbox that had been so kindly packed for me. One of our incredible multi-staffers was with me, and Sir very kindly played out some kick-ass Kannada music through the car ride, and ensured my energy levels didn’t dip once. It remains a fond memory.
The other time I was in the car was when I had to be taken to the clinic because I had cut my lip open and needed stitches. Blood was everywhere. It was grotesque, and I couldn’t look at myself because I could see my teeth through where there should have been lip. While the numbness prevented me from feeling much pain, I’m sure they recognized I was in deep pain – because all I can recall from the entire journey to the clinic is Sir sitting in the driver’s seat telling me they’d stitch me back up in no time.
I’m so grateful to have met these people on “official business”, and the highlight of my life as I’ve grown to become a senior in the educational spaces I’ve held is this rapport I’ve built with individuals who started off as being faculty, or support staff, or playing a role in my life that is outside of the kind of relationship I now share with them. That change – it means so much. Realizing and recognizing this in my final semester is something I’m holding onto dearly, because I’m hopeful that this rapport is not one that I lose even when I leave campus.