Thursday, October 6, 2011

An Ode to Cadence

I was in the final year of school when I decided to start a poetry club.

As the Literary Secretary of the Indian School, Bahrain for two years, I got some fanciful idea to leave behind a legacy.

The secretary who heads the school’s literary society had for years since the student council was instituted, performed a wall flower function.

The sports secretary was usually the popular jock who always missed classes, won loads of medals and was always herding up athletes on to the sports field.

The cultural secretary on the other hand, was in charge of coordinating extra-curricular activities and as my school was the hub for youth festivals in the Arabian Gulf region, there was always something for this prefect to do.

So, what did the literary secretary do?


When there was a need to sign up students for debates or extempore, he/she was called upon, that was all.

It was a slot in the student council that the school management thought fit to have every year much like the corporate affairs minister that the Indian government appoints to look after what, no one really knows.

That was until, someone in the school decided I should be appointed the literary secretary.

It was great news except they never gave me a badge as I had missed the investiture ceremony.

Repeated requests didn’t move the teachers, who perhaps felt the position as sidelined as it always was didn’t need a ‘nameplate’, as some called it.

I did what was asked of me and a little bit extra.

I would do the rounds for the debates but I would also look out for the monthly newsletters, get students enrolled for cultural activities, manned the lines at school fairs and tired myself out running everywhere.

Why was I doing this?

Partly because the assistant head boy was an old friend who wanted favours done, so I was happy to do it and partly because I liked to run around.

Mind you, I was still only ‘assistant’ literary secretary as I was in Grade 11.

The next year, I was in race for the post of Head Girl.

Teachers would come and tell me, “You’re the one.”

I declined.

I had experienced being an assistant head girl in middle school.

It was no fun unless you counted fighting with boys and breaking their noses.

I put in a request that I should be one of the nominees for Literary Secretary instead.

Eyebrows were raised everywhere and teachers wondered why I would commit such political hara-kiri.

I however, had different designs.

The election results were out and I had won and I got a shiny new badge as well.

Now, the troubling dilemma surfaced again- what do I actually do?

Now, the annual book week in school was a boring event.

The only exciting part was when Guinness Book of World Records editions would get routinely stolen and then the prefects would march into class rooms FBI-style, screaming “Stop, Search” and inspect every student’s bag.

The thievery and hooliganism at the book fairs prompted many complaints from Bahrain’s favourite bookstore chain, ‘Family Bookshop’.

It was a matter of genuine shame for book lovers like me that such things should happen.

Hence, we began the revamp.

Usually, the librarians handled the affair, but that year, the literary society took the matters in their own hands.

We put up posters everywhere with quotes and pictures on why books should be loved.

We recruited volunteers and kept strict records so that students still had their bit of fun without bunking classes.

Then, to encourage participation and dedication, a personalised bookmark was given to each volunteer and as a gesture of goodwill, we gave cards to all the book stall owners.

It was a mammoth effort involving students from all grades who spent hours designing elaborate posters which looked so good that our vice principal insisted on leaving them on after the fair.

I was determined to leave behind some literary legacy.

So, I began the poetry club.

It was called Cadence, because poetry was all about rhythm and pace.

We collected poems from budding poets of our school and promised to publish them in a book.

We also put up verses on the walls and encouraged people to contribute.

The response was overwhelming, everyone was keen to publish the poems they had kept away hidden.

Those in middle school even drew pictures to go with their verses!

The literary club was actually popular and doing something useful for a change!

That was until someone decided to deface one of our beloved posters.

I normally don’t lose my temper but that day was different.

I walked into the class next to which the defacement had occurred.

“You may not understand the value of these verses or the effort and labour of love that went into creating each of them,” I yelled.

“That poster there”, I said pointing to a poster that was artistically burnt at the edges and stained with tea to look like an old scroll, “took days to create. Nithin made that for us. I don’t care if you don’t appreciate the beauty of these things. If any of you lays your hand on that one, I swear to you I won’t let you go off easy.”

The class sat in stunned silence.

I don’t know if I became demoralised and disillusioned about people’s ability to appreciate poetry after that, but I don’t remember Cadence doing any active work since that incident.

We still received poems from everyone and I faithfully collected them.

I never got around to getting them published though.

The year after I left school, all these events came to a standstill.

The school had a new management that didn’t believe in ‘wasting’ time in extra-curricular activities.

So the book fair was banned, the green week where we usually had environment-themed activities was banned and my Cadence died an early death.

I haven’t visited my school since then but every time I go home, I open the file and read the poems the school had trusted me with and I remember the days we really had fun and appreciated the good things.

I haven’t fulfilled the promise yet but I know that someday I will.

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