blog 28 a new friend

Singh was a very small boy. His frame was neat, very well knit, unlike me. I was all over sized arms and legs. Singh had very neat black eyebrows and beautiful black eyes and his skin was the color of warm amber. He wore a turban so naturally he was absolutely the target for everyone in the school. He was actually quite handsome, almost beautiful, and tragically, he was very smart. “I will endue because it is only until I am sixteen. It is a lesson I must learn. ‘If we do not learn the lessons of the past they we are doomed to repeat them’” he said repeating something I had never heard before.

“Ditto” I said laconically as I tried to be blase. I rubbed the blood off my knuckles from the fight that consigned me to solitary confinement. “New here? Basement is not bad. At home I was usually locked in the attic. Name is John..” I was way bigger than Singh but in fact he was actually older than me.

“I am George Singh Taylor. I am teaching myself Greek. I have a book. See.”

“Looks to be new. Never used. I don’t think this school teaches a damn anything.”

“The important thing John is to have the degree. It is immaterial if you actually learn anything. At Oxford no one bothers with actually earning any degree. To say ‘I was at Oxford’ is quite enough.” Singh who was a very neat, precise, careful boy, actually 14, only looking younger because he was so small, opened the book and read aloud in that odd soft Indian lilt that sounded absolutely enchanting. I sat down beside him trying to remember what Greek I had learned at my old school. Soon we were reading together. “You are new here too then?” Singh asked as I stumbled over Greek.

“Yes. I was another better school but then Father died. I am eleven. I spent almost two years out of school after Father died.”

“Oh yes. I see” Singh said thoughtfully as he used his ruler to precisely read each line of Greek. “That explains it.”

“That I am lousy at Greek?”

“That you are younger than you look and have not been properly taught. You need a good munshi. A teacher.” Singh was so amazingly self posed. It was almost as if he was from another world. I admired him instantly. It was a sort of quiet calmness like the stillness inside a storm.

“Can you teach me?”

“Yes. Teaching you can help reinforce my own knowledge” Singh replied precisely as he very neatly arranged the ruler on the next line of Greek. Thus George Singh Taylor became my munshi. I learned more from Singh than any of the teachers. When we were released from solitary confinement the clicks and gangs assaulted us. I was growing it seemed, every day, so I learned to punch, kick, bite, and bash every thug , thus becoming Singh’s bodyguard. The school was a battleground but I soon learned to wage war very brutally. Singh would just stand there with our books in his knapsack very prim and proper as I screamed out profanity while attacking everyone. We appeared to be total opposites. He was small and well-groomed, his turban precisely done, very clean. I was all elbows and scuffed knees, my uniform too small, by body growing too fast, my black hair a total mess, sporting an ever changing collection of black eyes and bruises. Singh never lost control. I was all but out of control.

The other boys took to calling us queer names like in the bible but I did not know what they meant. The headmaster hauled into his office one day and interrogated for an hour but I could not figure out what information he was fishing for. I finally cursed him out and said I was officially George Singh Taylor’s bodyguard and if he kept a better school with less bullying then Singh would not need a bodyguard.

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