Saturdays was the day for Sophian Boarders of the famous school Sophia Girl's school in Meerut Chhavni. That was the day for our weekly walks. These were pure walks, over the Begum Pul and into the Cantt area in Meerut. Everybody had to get into a line in twos and with partners, little ones in front and big girls in the back. There were arguments as to who would lead because if the leaders turned a certain corner or went down a certain curvy path, all of us were supposed to follow regardless of where the path led. Such was the frivolous nature of the ones who led and ones who were led. Sigh. Sometimes we stopped at old churches in meerut, UP and other times at parks, the latter always full of trees and flowers, some surviving swings but nonetheless with lots of beehives.
We had been warned of bees and wasps and many such stinging creatures. We were specifically told not to throw rocks into trees. Girls did not throw rocks! Well even if we were cognizant of such warnings, the brood of boys in the park and ones who followed us on their bicycles, at a safe distance, were not. Up in the trees hung many beehives and wasp nests. We couldn’t get honey but surely we could dislodge those bees. What did we know about the loves and hates of bees and wasps and more so of their stings?
While some of us played on the swings like good schoolgirls, others got into an ego game with the boys; who could throw those rocks higher and straighter into the beehives and wasp nests? Any time egos get involved, mayhem results and so as soon as some lucky rocks or unlucky ones hit the beehives, some buzzing was heard which soon grew to a loud noise and then into a thunderous one with hundreds and thousands of bees and wasps as they all descended on us in a great deluge. Surely this was ‘pralaya’.
If Sophian Boarders and its Nuns had not seen fear, here it was in its pure form. Girls scattered, girls fell, girls screamed, girls howled. Those who were stupid enough to stand and laugh, the ones who are called spectators - did not survive the onslaught at all. They got stung just the same albeit a few seconds later. That’s why poets warned us ‘don’t stand and stare’. Somebody lit a fire to the many piles of dried leaves. It was hard to tell - which was better or worse – smoke stinging our eyes and blackening our lungs or bees stinging us?
Nuns flew, as did the girls, as did the boys, as did everybody else. Some remembered to curl up, some rolled around on the ground and others just ran round and round the park, got dizzy and fell down. With nothing to pursue, bees must have halted their pursuit as well. I do not know the minds of bees. Finally, the drama ended mainly because the bees were dead and I suppose there was nothing left to sting. All those who could have been stung, were stung. The bees had their fill and had died protecting their honey and territory. A lot of us looked puffy and bloated. Did we walk back in that state or were we carried back; maybe the Sophia Boarding Van ‘Nirmala’ picked us up - I don’t remember. Anything was possible in Sophia Boarding, Meerut with those Nuns!