Culture & Society

DÉJÀ VU…Trip Down Memory Lane

Recess- The Penguin Book of School Days.

Edited by Palash Krishna Mehrotra.

Year of Publication: 2009

Ektaa Malik  BeyondHeadlines

I was going through my dusty Bookshelf – when I found this book hidden behind its voluminous Cousins. The tiny smirk of reminiscence that came on my face was too poignant to ignore. Thought to share it here.

Recess – the one time in school, when you’re allowed’- I quote again “allowed”- to shout, dance/run, and basically let your hair down. Those cherished twenty minutes seemed to make the whole day worthwhile. Stealing lunchboxes, or eating it during class, was the much sustained lunch break or recess. School or temple of learning! Also the place where one learns the difference between a good story and a bad one. School, a place which we love to hate. Recess – the Penguin Book of Schooldays brings those very memories back. It’s an anthology of over fifty stories, poems and anecdotes. Reading this book will bring a wistful smile to your face, as you realise that you were not the only one out there. You were not the only one to break the tyrannical boarding school rules. Many people like you had goofed up and lost that very important match. You have company: Sharing bench space with you are those people who have made India what it is today. Satyajit Ray, Vikram Seth, Upmanyu Chatterjee, Nirad C. Chaudhari and more. Around fifty tales of experiences that will never be forgotten.

Recess: The Penguin Book of Schooldays

P. T. Usha shares her initial dislike to eat eggs for breakfast in the sports academy. She was a strict vegetarian. You jog along her as she runs fourteen kilometres on a country picnic every month. The classic story “Big Brother” by Premchand regales the emotional relationship of two brothers who live alone in the city and are studying. The story is a standing critique of the Indian educational system.

Edited and compiled by Palash Krishna Mehrotra, the edition features some exclusive stories that make a first appearance in this book. Recess has contributions from almost every field – Vikram Seth gets a bit nostalgic as he speaks on the founders day of his alma mater – the Doon School. Rabindranath Tagore explains in his autobiographical account as to how he never completed his school education. He gives a detailed picture of his day hopping from one teacher to another and one lesson to other. In the introduction of the book, Palash Mehrotra details how the idea came up when he was teaching in the Doon School in Dehradun.

Recess brings to the reader a slice of every walk of school-life in India. Funny. Honest. Poignant. Cruel. Painful. It has something for every reader.


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