Perhaps the most delicious verite narrative on growing, knowing, looking back and reconciling comes from Paromita Vohra. It makes the turgid pieces from Amit Chaudhuri, Upamanyu Chatterjee, Sudeep Chakravarty, Rukun Advani, Farrukh Dhondy seem laboured. Dilip Simeon’s account of his school years is a deeply felt, reticent piece. Besides those by Satyajit Ray and Tagore, the essay that really stays with me is Vikram Seth’s address to students at Doon School. At last a voice given to all those who were miserable at school: institutions that focus on turning out Xavierians, Mayoites, Doscos but never individuals.
Besides, Recess offers many insights into situations that have and also haven’t, tragically enough, changed, in the course of a century. Vijayalakshmi Pandit and Ramabai Ranade, 50 years apart, both privileged women from liberal Hindu families, talk of how a woman’s education was not a priority even among the elite. The heart-rending piece on Dalit discrimination by Narendra Jadhav recounts scenes still played out with sickening regularity.