Harsha’s Rebellion
Harsha knelt on the terra-cotta tiled floor in the hallway outside his classroom. He
could still feel the sting from the ruler. He could hear his breath rasping between
his clenched teeth, angry and fast, releasing tiny pops of spit bubbles that floated
in the afternoon sun.
The classroom door was flung open. His teacher took two quick strides
and stood over the small boy. Then the teacher unleashed a second volley of
strikes with the ruler. Whoo-Cack . . . Whoo-CACK! . . . Whoo-CACK!
“At some point,” Harsha remembers, “I said ‘screw this; I’m walking off.’
So I walked away from the class.”
Harsha walked to the principal’s house at The Good Shepherd boarding
school in Ootacamund, India. He was 11 years old.
“So I walked away from the class, but I doubt anybody knew I walked
away,” he said. “I knew there was a little hole behind a gymnasium . . . and, you
know, I just dug up the hole a little more and slid under that.”
Harsha walked to the principal’s house to complain about his frequent
beatings at the hands of his teachers and vice-principals.
“It almost was like the higher in the hierarchy lecturer; the longer the cane
was because like the principal had a solid three-foot cane, you know.”
Canings were common for Harsha. “So I was caned regularly. I don't
know; maybe at least once every two weeks I was caned for something or other,
once every three weeks.”

The principal sent Harsha back to school with a note. Harsha’s first rebellion was over.
The English-style boarding school Harsha attended turned out to be a
small-scale model of the world. Between the principal and his teachers stood layers of hierarchy and bureaucracy: matrons and wardens who ruled the
dormitories, vice-principals and masters who ran the school. The hierarchy
formed a web of oppression that tamped down inquiry, innovation, and insurgencies.
“My fight to evolve might have its beginnings in Good Shepherd boarding
school, but the first time I realized that I wasn't the one at fault, and it was the authorities who held me back because of their own ignorance and their inability to
teach and answer questions, was when I was in college in the U.S.”
The school’s staff and faculty took Harsha’s act of rebellion—turning in a
teacher—as an act of defiance that demanded retaliation, like Oliver Twist asking
for more porridge.
“They had a matron who ran the whole place,” he said. “She always insulted me in front of everyone. She hated me for some reason.”
When Harsha returned to the school after his trip to the principal’s home,
the matron called an assembly of all the students in Harsha’s dorm. She singled
out Harsha, the rebel. “And she said in front of everyone—she pointed out to the
gathering saying ‘this person went and complained about this nice master. He
should be embarrassed.’”
While his teachers and wardens and matrons loathed young Harsha, the
incident put the world on notice: Harsha Chigurupati would never again back
down in his fight to evolve.
Harsha has one word that defines how school made him feel: “oppressed.”
“They would oppress you and they would beat you if you asked questions,” he remembers. “When you asked a question they couldn't answer, they . . .
hit you.”

Harsha attended Catholic schools, private boarding schools, and public
schools. Some were all boys. Some were co-ed. Yet, despite the number and variety of schools, oppression still followed him for 12 years. Even the best schools in
India were built on rote memorization of lectures.
“It was all memorization, and there was never asking questions. I could
never ask questions because, to be honest, they didn't really know how to explain.”
Despite the beatings and the unsatisfying answers, Harsha couldn’t help
asking the questions. He needed to know why things were what they were. The
beatings went on, and the questions went unanswered until he reached college.
Harsha explains his epiphany at Boston University: “After Freshman year
when I was able to grasp the subject matter easily and was able to do well in class
putting in minimal work. I realized this and vowed to never let lesser minds hold
me down because I made them uncomfortable [or] exposed their weaknesses and
the only way they knew to react was with force.”
This is the story of Harsha’s lifelong rebellion against those who use their
power to thwart inquiry, innovation, and evolution.
This is the story of one man’s fight to evolve.