The first special thing about the 2008 trip was Simar Kaur Dhaliwal.
Yes, the bee-ootifully long, ludicrous and seemingly genderless name. Sahana was the first to notice it written on one the bedposts of our dorm. And of course, she didn't let anyone else get within a one-foot radius of it. I, lesser mortal tried for Kudrat Kaur's bed. She didn't have a middle name, but hey, her name was alliterative!
It's funny that I've started with the dorm. But the dorm actually played quite a significant role throughout our Welham experience. Last year, Sahana happened to have misplaced a slipper in the dorm. A perfectly normal incident. What wasn't so normal?
Sahana saying- "MERA SLIPPER ANATH HO GAYA....USKO SANATH KARNA HAI!!!!"
Sahana singing- "Sanath Sanath Sanath, sa na na na sanaaath..." in a popular marching tune.
Sahana dragging herself across the floor like a wounded soldier and crawling under beds while singing the aforementioned original composition.
Of course, it was quite normal for Sahana.
This year, she suspended herself between two beds and shouted out- "I am a Bascule Bridge" while the rest of wondered whether or not it would be a good idea to let her go up on stage that evening.
Speaking of going up on stage... we didn't get through the first round. I was quite sure we would. When by a scandalously unfair freak, my expectations and the results just narrowly miss out on coinciding, I do one thing. I cry. Unsettled by the sudden outpour, our group (including the accompanying teacher Mrs. Roy) thought of leading me away to the dorm, but we were told that we must assemble for dinner. Suddenly Sreeja muttered something, broke away from the group and rushed into the restroom. While Mrs. Roy looked bemused, our head girl explained calmly- "Actually miss, Sreeja is rather emotional." I felt flattered that my tears could actually spur on someone else's. We discovered later, that in the restroom, Sreeja was occupied in the intensely emotional task of washing her hands.
Anyway, our head girl is an extremely sensible girl who made a slight error of judgement. The only other blemish on her reputation is that in the past 4 months, she has been poo-d upon by a crow 8 times. The monstrous, pitch-black, bad-ass jungle crows of Dehra Doon left her in mortal fear throughout the trip.
But with Sahana, it's a completely different story. Sahana is a good soul, has a very sharp brain, is on the whole a WONDERFUL human being, but sensible isn't the word one uses in connection with her. Sahana took it upon herself to comfort me. In the middle of a comforting enough dinner, Sahana exclaims- "Nobody puts baby in the corner I tell you, NOBODY puts baby in the corner." There isn't any subtly hidden witticism in this. It's exactly what it appears to be- bizarre.
You know, you're probably thinking...this Sahana female, she's not exactly run-of-the-mill. You wouldn't think that you'd find another person exactly like her while away for a formal debate. Well, it's just our luck that we did. Nikita Gandhi from LMG.
Let me give you an example.
Sahana: "Have you ever noticed, that shoes which aren't being worn resemble open mouths?"
Nikita: "YEAHHHH...and the tongues are like, well.. tongues."
Both of them let their lower jaw unhinge till it gets to the point where their facial expression is too grotesque for public viewing.
But then, we discovered something that occupied all our jaws throughout the next few days. HUBBA HUBBA chewing gum!! We have a Welham tradition of discovering funny-named Chewing gum. Last year, it was Batook. We even invented a commercial for it. But Hubba Bubba beat Batook hollow. It's obnoxiously fat and noxiously purple. Besides, it was bought from a shop next to the gutter where I'd fallen in last year. If you insert a Hubba Hubba into your mouth, you will be swept over by a wave of sugar and chemical flavours. And in 10 minutes, you will be left with a very chewy piece of juice-less gum that doesn't seem to shrink in mass at all. Sreeja developed an instant love-hate relationship with Hubba Bubba. When the packet was brought out from our bags, she'd say- "AAHHHH...the smell is choking me!!" The next second she'd be grappling for a Hubba Bubba.
Sightseeing, which formed a sizeable chunk of the trip, also proved to be quite memorable. The year ’07,
The highlight of Tapkeshwar was definitely not the temple, no. It was an inebriated, pot-bellied Sadhu, who seemed to materliase out of nowhere and shouted out “Bum BUM Bole!”
Then there was the monastery, outside which was a lawn with a signboard saying- “Do not run and play on the grass.” I was laughing at way the message was framed when I suddenly noticed two 17 yr old boys from a school I will not mention, frolicking like merry little lambs across the lush green. I offered a silent apology to the person who framed the admonition- even if he didn’t have graceful grammar, he possessed foresight.
This year we got luckier. We discovered the quaint Meeting Point Café in Mussorie.
(Bob Marley WIHOUT dreadlocks :o)
A few of the personal, handwritten messages put up on the walls of the cafe.
It was while returning from Mussorie that we bought Hubba Bubba, on which we survived throughout half of the train journey. But considering the fact that the Doon Express was TEN HOURS late, we had to rely on other sources of entertainment. Cockroach killing took up a lot of our time. Yes, our compartment was infested with this small, pesky species of cockroach. I realised why they're the species that has lasted the longest so far. We could practically hear malicious little peals of cockroach laughter come floating to us from somewhere nearby but unidentifiable. Anyway, the Japanese fan Sahana bought from Mussoorie came to good use. We killed the buggers with it!
In fact, The Japanese fan was 'simply ripping', be cause it also gave birth to our Victorian tea-party. I was Lady Eunice Wollstonecraft-Weimaraner-Ghose-Bonnerjea (the last two due to trysts with Indian colonial subjects.) Sahana was my daughter, Constance (Connie) Wollstonecraft-Weimaraner. Sreeja was Lord Bolton Whatworthy, Connie's prospective husband. Our head-girl was Sreeja's retarded brother Eustace 'Billo' Whatworthy. Shikha refused to play, so in a flash of brilliance, we decided that she'd be the silent Masai boy that Billo picked up on a trip to Africa where he was bitten by a tsetse fly, thus rendered retarded. Mrs. Roy woke up to find us talking in this ridiculous clipped British accent (it was jolly good fun, old top!) and eating grapes with our pinkies raised.
Another source of entertainment was our 'Physical Graffiti' Wall. Sahana's skin. Yep, you saw right. If you scratch on Sahana's skin (and it doesn't need to be too hard), her skin swells up in very well-defined lines. and turns a furious shade of scarlet. A temporary tattoo, but indelible while it lasts. The first word we wrote on her was 'pickle.' And no, that is nowhere near as evil as we eventually got.
So yes, there are numerous reasons why we love Welham Girls' School. But it wasn't just one big charade as the aforementioned incidents might suggest.
When a bunch of girls have to see each other in their night-clothes for 5 days in a row, there's this bond that develops between them which isn't quite like any other. And if they were good friends from beforehand anyway, there's nothing better.
On the evening we had to leave, we sat at our favourite place- under the litchi tree,
And when we were leaving, we visited the Principal Mrs. Brar- one of the most likeable and dignified personalities I've ever seen. There was a moment when she told us she was looking forward to having us again next year, and all of us cried out in unison, with the same heartbroken tone- "We're in class 12!" I nearly cried again.
I hadn't realised just how attached I'd grown to the whole Welham experience. It was just 14 days that did it, 14 days with a whole one year gap in the middle. But 14 days of secret punning; of united appreciation of the unbelievable school food that prompted even calorie-conscious me to take dessert; of each person wringing her brains out over both the debate AND the quiz ; of discovering that small-talk with your History teacher is a far far more enjoyable thing than you could ever imagine it could be; of managing Sahana's antics and tantrums, and my emotional outbursts.....
Welhamz-We luv u yaaa....rok on..keep smilin...neva change..MUAZZZZZ
P.S- a)The word 'head-girl' hasn't been used for any purpose other than preserving her anonymity, something she values highly.
b)If you think I've censored some details of the trip, you're right.