All through my school life, I have had 3 principals across 2 schools. All of them amazing, but only one of them has managed to leave a lasting impression in my life and stay on even after many others have left. Mr. Thomas Mathew.
Well, the reasons why he is so important are many, but we’ll get to that later. First, let’s begin…. from the beginning.
(I apologize for however icky and weird the following incidents might be, but the truth is always bitter. And who are we to change what ought to have gone down in the books of history, but never really managed to? )
When I first joined in Our Own English High School, Sharjah, back in my KG2 I had a different Principal… and then I left that school, (Read My Kindergarten Teacher? ) only to come back a few years later to my fifth grade. At that time the Principal was Mr. Thomas Mathew. And he had a lot on his hand already, without me lending my pennyworth. 😛
So, we went by fairly peacefully, him on his path and me trundling along on my own path. Until finally I was hauled up in front of him one fine day when I had to testify where I was staring at when I was having a good peaceful pee.
Yep. You read that right. There was this huge uproar in school about someone who was busy short circuiting the lighting system in the washroom. Well, yeah. They couldn’t short circuit the lighting system in the classes, could they? They had go and do it in the washrooms. Back then, I had this habit, whether it was good or bad, you can decide later, but yeah, I had this habit wherein if I felt really bored or sleepy, I used to go off to the washroom and have a good long pee. Well, not that long, but long enough to make me consider the consequences if I didn’t get back quick. Yeah, that long.
So, one good sunny morning, with the sun at the back of my head, I was too busy yawning at the problems squiggled on the blackboard and trying to make sense of myself and life in general when I chanced on the perfect solution, WASHROOM.
I excused myself and sauntered lazily past the classes where I saw my schoolmates studiously copying homework which they had not completed the day before and were now promoted to Out-Standing students, if you get what I meant. And then finally reached the washroom, where I proceeded to my usual urinal which was unoccupied as usual, because who would be there at that time, huh? Other than me, that is.
Well, what I didn’t know, was that there were two other students in that washroom at that same moment, one of them being that fellow who was busy short circuiting the washroom lights, again and again. So, while I was busy releasing my tension, there went out the lights. And the washroom cleaner rushed in with emergency lights to take census…. ummm.. well to find out who all were there. And wrote down our names and classes from our ID cards before letting us go.
And 10 minutes later, the principal’s peon came to my classroom to ask for John Doe. Yeah. John Doe. Not Don Joe. Nor John Don, but John Doe. And he was looking at me like I was a runaway unidentified corpse too. Come on buddy, I am not walking dead, nor was I responsible for the lights going out. And I was hauled into HIS room, the room I had always walked past reverently.
And what was the reason I first entered that room? To tell him where and what exactly I was looking at when I was “leaking my lizard”. Come on, old man. I was peeing. I was looking there… like…. there. You know… there???
So, I had to convince him that while I was busy I didn’t really have a hand free to extend till the washbasin which was a couple of meters away and get water and throw it on the lights. Luckily the cleaner had been keeping a close eye on me because he had thought it was a bit off for me to come over at such a time to the washroom. And he testified that I was busy peeing TILL the moment the lights short circuited, so I couldn’t possibly be the reason the lights went off. And I was let off. But that wasn’t the first impression I wanted him to have about me. But, yeah…. what had to happen, happened.
And then later in my school years, I had to work to be selected into the Prefectorial Board for 3 years in a row, and then 2 years as Secretary and the President of the Student Council. In those last 3 years, I had the opportunity to know him better, as a Principal, a teacher and a human being. And well, it was like having this huge teddy bear who you couldn’t really hug or pull around with you, but then… a teddy bear, is a teddy bear. He was just a warm fellow, a great friend…. and not really the great bear which shouted at me for trying to ‘hamper the development of the school facilities’ and ’cause a huge loss to the school in repeated attempts to cause chaos and confusion.’ Well, he didn’t really say that, but yeah…. it felt like that when he was asking me about the whole washroom lights thing. 😛
But then, even now, 3 years after I left school, I have a lot more fond memories associated with him, especially one where we were busy studying for our tenth standard exams and then I called our class teacher (who was his wife) to ask about something and then he took the call and asked what I was doing, and when I said I was busy studying (what else do you tell your Principal when he asks you what you are doing during your study holidays 😛 ) he told me to shut the book and go watch the cricket match going on then in TV. I mean, like WHAAT??? I was flustered… and sort of lost. Very, very lost.
Yeah…… and then that selfsame room which I had held reverently before, was very gracefully defiled time and again when we had our Prefects’ Overnight Camp and we had to use his room to hide gifts and chocolates (so that not many would have the guts to go in and take them while we were busy organizing the competitions for those gifts. Yes, our batch was a pretty feisty bunch) and take groupfies and goodness knows what else.
And I am pretty sure you wouldn’t find many other Principals who would allow all that and then 3 years down the lane when you ring him up, take the call, call you by your name and say that it’s a wrong number & go on to cut the line, even when you are busy calling him, “Sir! Sir!”. Yes, he has a pretty good sense of humour which he takes out when it’s due time.
I still miss him and his jokes and his office.
Guess it’s time for a nostalgic trip down memory lane and visit that office, though he got transferred to another school.
And why did I remember all this now? It’s his buurrrrthhhday! Happy birthday to one of the bestest people I know and hope that you live for a thousand more years (plus or minus a few zeroes from that 😛 ) ! 🙂
P. S. Oh and about my old habit of taking a pee? I stopped that after the first visit to his office.