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THE SCHOOL THAT MADE ME
Looking Back on Ramakrishna Mission Vidyapith
A s the kids begrudgingly head back to school, wishing they had three more months of summer vacation, I’ve been doing a little thinking about my own school days from back when I was their age. Growing up in India, my school experience was quite a bit different than that of my kids, but when you add in the fact that I attended a residential (boarding) school from the fifth to 10th grades, the differences are even more stark. Ramakrishna Mission Vidyapith, in Deoghar, is a prestigious all-boys school with a storied history in India. It was a strict, multicultural, multilingual institution that provided a unique experience from the very start. Instead of summer vacation, we had three six-week breaks spread throughout the year. When our breaks ended, the kids from the more populated provinces, including me, would pile into a train car the school rented and take the long ride together to campus, where we lived for most of the year. Coming home from school was always exciting initially — a welcome respite from the stringent routines and protocols of the school — but without any of my school friends around, boredom and loneliness would set in quickly. In many ways, those train rides back to Ramakrishna Mission felt more like coming home than when I traveled back to visit my parents. But though I had been given an incredible opportunity with Ramakrishna Mission, I wasn’t always the best student. Like many young people, my friends and I were of the mind that if you wanted to be cool and popular, you never wanted to seem too obsessed with your studies. I remember the tortuous history classes every day after lunch. From my spot in the back of the room, I drifted off nearly every day, until the teachers got fed up and moved me to the front. The second torture was mathematics. As we moved into the more advanced types of math, I started to fall behind, loathing the complex equations that always seemed to tie my brain in knots.
want to be successful, you can’t just be good at the things you like,” he told me. He warned me that if I continued to struggle in history and math, I’d be limiting
the options for my future, preventing me from going to a college that would equip me with the tools to build a good life for myself and my family. But he didn’t just give me advice; from then on, he spent extra time with me, tutoring me in both subjects. By the time I graduated, he told me that though he’d been concerned I “wasn’t going to make it,” he was proud to say that he was now confident I’d go out and do a lot of good in the world. It meant a lot, as a young man, to hear those words. Over five years, my peers and I developed a bond that was more like family than the friendships most form in school. These guys were practically my brothers, and to this day, we still keep in touch. A couple of months ago, word came to our online community that one of our old teachers — nicknamed “Grandpa” — had gotten sick and didn’t have the money for the motorized wheelchair he now required to get around. We pooled our funds and, within just 24 hours, got Grandpa his chair. That’s a testament to the incredible community that the school established. When I left Ramakrishna Mission, it was probably the most difficult adjustment of my entire life. I had assumed the halls of that place would be my home forever, my peers at the school by my side throughout my life. Luckily, even today, I’m in touch with the friends I made back then, and I’ll carry the invaluable lessons I learned from my teachers there for the rest of my life.
Concerned about my future, the principal — who knew every boy in the small school well — sat me down in his office. “Subrat, if you
– Subrat Bahinipati
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