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Boarders on board

The dormitories, house masters and children of a residential school come alive in Arjun Rao's “Third Best”

Photo K. Murali Kumar

Back to school Arjun Rao

“Third Best” (Hachette, Rs. 295) takes you down memory lane to the days we thought would never end. An alumnus of The Lawrence School, Lovedale and now a teacher of history at The Doon School, Dehradun, K.V. Arjun Rao's interesting perspective on life in a residential school led him to write a charming story on life in boarding school, house masters, prefects, bullies, relationships, friendship and the wonderful yet trying period called adolescence.

Arjun is quick to point out that “Third Best” is not a children's book. “The problem is children aren't generally taken seriously. At some level, we don't allow them to grow up at the pace they would like to,” explains Arjun.

Our school days are characterised by ups and downs, but Arjun contends that when we pass out of school, we have only good memories of it. “We leave school, for the most part, with the feeling that I grew up here and it was good fun! On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who never really grow out of school. They enthusiastically post reunion events on Facebook and go all ‘Yay! We must meet up!'”

Set against the backdrop of a prestigious co-ed boarding school, Shore Mount, “Third Best” revolves around the lives of Nirvan Shrivastav and his friends Gautam and Faraz.

“Nirvan's character was clearest in my mind. While writing, though, there were other kids who were hanging around, so I decided to add two more characters, Gautam and Faraz. Gautam is a complete psycho. He is noisy, asks awkward questions in class and checks out all the girls. Faraz was a counter balance to Gautam. He is slightly more sophisticated and a good-looking kid. The three friends gravitate towards each other.”

“Third Best” is peppered with laugh-out-loud moments and one-liners. It is also an honest take on how parents and the school one goes to shape childrens' lives.

“Some parents have a fanatic loyalty of sending their children to the same boarding school they attended. And, then, the school creates an environment where a child is expected to perform a certain way. Nirvan and Faraz are subjected to this, whereas Gautam isn't. He develops his talents naturally, without any expectations.”

SRAVASTI DATTA

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