The time is 1:50pm. 10 more minutes till school is out. As a school prefect, I have to excuse myself from class for dispersal duty.
Let me explain what dispersal duty is. When the school bell rings at 2, everyone is bound to make a mad rush to exit the school premises. This can be dangerous - so the dispersal must be done in an orderly fashion. Junior classes 6 and 7 leave first, then class 8 and so on. Dispersal duty prefects man important locations along the dispersal path - from corridors to stairways to exit door - and make sure the dispersal is carried out on in a disciplined fashion.
At almost all points, two lines come down the stairs, one from the left wing and one from the right. The prefects are usually at the middle of the two lines. To make sure that the lines remain separate and that there is not a mad scramble down the staircase - is the primary challenges.
I am in Class 8. I invariably am posted at one of the important locations. First the rush of Classes 6 and 7 come in. They come like a wave of foamy bubbles. With my height, I tower over most of them - and I easily pack these kids into proper lines. They try to escape but it is easy to push then back - seniority helps.
Then come my batchmates. They know me and even if I want to act tough - they will not let me. Some of them are pure villain - they want to piss me off intentionally. Some hoist the sentimentality flag - "Kriti, let me go yaar. You know how important it is that I get the first seat in the schoolbus". Some do not care whichever way - 5 minutes here and there do not matter.
By this time, the human wave is swelling. The height and average weight of the 'dispersees' has increased. I am pushed around. But I come back to my position and keep pushing people back into their lines. On my watch, not many people can break rules - it is an unpopular job but someone has got to do it.
And then come the seniors - classes 9 and 10. Some understand the need for maintaining lines (kudos to these compassionate souls). But for most, it is ridiculous that they have to obey orders from a Junior. They wear full trousers and Class 8 students have to wear shorts. The distinction is too much. The human wave knows no barrier now - the prefect is tossed and turned around. Seniors usually warn of extreme retaliation later on if we do not give in to them now. Some of the Class 8 prefects give in and just let the stampede pass. But many like me are stubborn. We resurface to face the challenge. It is a lost cause but nevertheless we do not give up.
After a few minutes of this frenzy, the wave subsides. What remains is just a trickle of lingerers - those who do not care when they get out of school. Then there are some who do not care whether they get out of school at all. We force these people out, and make sure the classrooms are empty.
The whole exercise works up quite an appetite. I wish my fellow prefects goodbye, and head back home for lunch.
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A few days back, I suddenly happened to remember this. If I painted the picture right, you will realize that this daily routine was quite an ordeal. But 15 years later, it is now just another wonderful memory from my school-days.