This is the old “building” of Government Primary School No. 2, Abdul Hakim. It was as boundlessly public as it looks in the pictures when a Mai (housemaid) first escorted me here in 1995.
I stood aghast.
Later that day, when I had successfully got myself “admitted” to the school, chosen a favorite master and requested for an even better one, struggled and secured a seat among sack-ridden third graders and surveyed my geography and milieu intelligently, I reported to my parents with deep regret that there were virtually no rooms, absolutely no restroom, positively no boundary, perfectly no distinction between gutter and washbasin and categorically no miss in the school they had selected for me.
They did not mind at all and asked me to concentrate on my studies instead.
I was aghast once again.
My teacher, Maulvi Nazeer Ahmed Mohsin, a man with a classic sense of orthography and calligraphy, an ardent taste for Lassi and the consequent slumber, and a great passion for lifting and twirling his students overhead, had himself been a class fellow of one of my real uncles. Even though I enjoyed all the physical, social and moral liberties the school had to offer, I had to study at least enough to avoid beating. I was 9 years old when I first learned some masterpieces of unparliamentary language here with profound visual illustrations and mastered them instantly. I still wonder how I managed to be so sensationally obscene in school and so radically civilized at home the same time.
Maulvi sahib, may he live long, first introduced me to what I today know as language and its arts. He had written some orthography booklets that were popular across the region and probably still are. His handwriting was marvelous. His moral standards for both himself and his disciples were exactly what I now idealize as a teacher myself. He let me bunk school a couple of times, for instance, and excused me for petty justifications; later, when he was positively sure that I was getting spoiled and I was certain that I could befool him easily, his heavy hand taught me a lifelong lesson: fear the time you become fearless!
The school underwent a promotion from primary to middle and was shifted to a new location the year I graduated from it.