Those were the days

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September 18th, 2012 Aabhas Sharma

I read this random comment — from who I don’t remember — but it certainly struck a chord. It went like this: “Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory.” I often find people reminiscing about the past and saying “those were the days”, more so in the case of their school days. You can take a random dip stick poll and you will find people saying that school days were the best. “Oh man, those were the days.” “Best days of my life” are some comments which you often see on Facebook when someone uploads a random picture of your school or starts talking about school.

Human beings do have this tendency of glossing over the past and view things from rose-tinted glasses. Take the case of music. Anyone in their late 20s or early 30s would go gaga over Guns’n’Roses, Metallica and say that contemporary music is nothing compared to the good old days. The same can be said about movies to a certain extent as well. Though we can safely say that any such notions will never be applicable to the 1980s Bollywood films because a chunk of them were downright atrocious. However, in the case of school days, almost everyone is in agreement that — to use Bryan Adams’ most karaoked line — “those were the best days of my life.”

Perhaps I am an exception because honestly I couldn’t wait to get out of school. No I didn’t have any traumatic experience in school which scarred me for life, neither was I bullied by the big boys who ate my lunch. I had a “normal” school life and for majority of the years I went to an all-boys school which did have its fair share of memorable and fun experiences. Even today when I meet my old school friends we do have a hearty laugh about some of the silly things we did.

But when I look back on those days on the whole, I honestly think that was it actually that good as people claim it to be? Or is it just getting swept in a wave of nostalgia and remember only the good things? Almost every day back then was a literal struggle. There was this getting up early every single morning, the stress of exams, the homework, the PT uniform, the sports day rehearsals, the unit tests, the term exams which made your life – at least it made mine — miserable.

Perhaps people who were exceptionally good at studies enjoyed school more than I ever did.  They didn’t have to deal with the struggle of scoring two extra marks so that in the “aggregate” score they could pass. They perhaps did not shed bucket loads of sweat every time the teacher entered with the dreaded answer sheets to tell you much you scored. Or perhaps their struggles were different. They just had to top the class or it was the end of the world.

Then there was the humiliation which came along of being an average student, students whose parents were made to attend parent-teacher meetings “without fail.” How you were told that if you couldn’t write an essay on “Science: Boon or Bane?” or couldn’t tell a chemical formula, you were a good for nothing fellow. Life was doomed if you didn’t know your Sine, Cosine and Tangent and couldn’t separate sulphur dioxide from sulphuric acid.

I look at my cousin brothers and sisters who are in school and can’t help but feel for them and their daily struggle with the tremendous amount of pressure they face in school. Not that the stress subsides when you get out of school as you have to deal with all other kinds of pressure as you grow up. But at least it is not dripping with nostalgia and doesn’t involve saying “those were the days” when they certainly weren’t. Sometimes nostalgia is like a grammar lesson; you find the present tense but past perfect.

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