In the present day when I look behind, the eon of my formative years, the yesteryears of my childhood, the days of academicals and the youth; unlike then, now appears to be quite captivating, exciting and effervescent. During the childhood days when parents and elders extolled the student’s life as the best era in one’s life, I’d give a groan and reckoned the grownups were kidding, making an endeavor to comfort my soul, trying to soothe the bogged up mind or bidding to forefend my slithering concentration from studies. Those hardy days I could never be convinced of this notion. Perhaps they never parted with the impishness they relished. I don't know, could they doubted to encounter bouquets of quizzing; or face a barrel of laughter on them or maybe punches of teasing that could or might hurt their self-image.
Well, today I do the same lecturing to my kids too. As I do so, I am often sent back to recapture the proceedings of my own scholastic days. These thoughts have tempted me to pen down this anecdote to share some of my most unique childhood recollections and dole out the ecstasy.
Indeed, it’ll not be less interesting to watch how my kids react to my shenanigans, how my spouse wisecrack to her hubby’s childhood tomfooleries and what my fellow friends would amuse over by my idiotic mess-ups. And I am sure many of my reader would certainly summon up their own old days of naïveté. Childhood day’s ecstasy is routinely thereabouts similar for everyone.
It is essentially natural that our bygone days are affluent with innumerable events. Memories of some make us contented while other dismays, a few glorifies and a many embarrasses too. The tight spots in the core of one’s yesterday are what that make yesterday not only incredible, but personal and so especial. These are the those sardonic thoughts which in absence of a companion make us crazily laugh at ourselves, sometime force for a unintended squat tune “Hoon..hoon..hoon” just to distract the mind away from a particular memoir of self-possessed awkwardness, and sometimes as you might not expect a gesture becomes so compelling like fling your arm aimlessly hither and thither in pretence that “nothing’s wrong, just stretching out fatigue” when someone ignored or didn’t quite catch you waving your hands, often trying to force a not premeditated cough to hide the fjord, something natural but publically not bearable. A little dishonesty and rug rat sometimes become just enough self amusingly reasonable; Reasons all grownups knows too well and the reasons the growing kids would know when they are grownups. So if I am caught despite of not being less cautious in penning down my childhood and scholastic epoch, no offence please.
To make the anecdote comical, at couple of places certain pigeonholes have been deliberately left indistinct and undecided for my readers to draw their own wrap-ups, to let them construe conclusion as per their own wit and reasoning.
All views expressed in the story are author’s personal. The events elucidated in the anecdote are based upon life story of the author himself. Names of the individuals used in the story are mostly fictitious.
The author does not intend to demean or ridicule anyone nor does he by any means proclaim or justify demeanors of any person as decorous or indecorous.
This is only a memoir which the author wishes to share with everyone.
I dedicate this anecdote to all my friends of my scholastic days. Friends I remember most of you because what I am today is also because of you.
Eon of the Formative Years
1973: Basar, Arunachal Pradesh
The earliest that I remember of are few indistinct blotting images of my pre-school days.
I use to see my elder siblings going to the school and I’d make a havoc to go with them. There would be a drama every morning. To let his other broods to go to their school in peace and on time, my father would allure me of the pink lollypop candy which could be blown like a whistle too and often took me down to the bazaar nearby, giving enough room to my mother to coerce away the other children to school. But after a couple of days I got a feeling that I was being cheated.
“You don’t have the pink lollypop candy na?” my father would ask the shopkeeper.
“No, it has all finished.” The shopkeeper would reply with a devious smile.
Getting deluded over and over again I changed my strategy too and begun paying no heed to the lure. Moreover, he couldn’t do the hocus-pocus everyday jeopardizing his own reporting time to duty. At times I would refuse to climb down of his arms to get even for his trickery and force him to take me to his office instead as he didn’t let me go to the school. Stymied by my regular ruckus finally he met the headmaster of the school and made a request if I could once in a blue moon be allowed to go to the school with the other children.
“That’s not a problem. You could send him once in a while. See, it’s in one way good. In a few years time you will customarily be sending him to school. The boy will have no homesick situation then.”
The headmaster actually didn’t realize the clutter this baby monkey could do. Soon teachers started complaining to the headmaster.
“Sir, this kid is a pain in the neck. He keeps all the pupils in the class busy playing with him.”
“Not only that. He would loudly chorus my lectures after me. The whole class laughs. It is turning out to be more of an amusement demo than running a class.”
“I don’t know what animosity he has with me, the moment he would see me entering the classroom he would run and sit on my chair. Then he won’t leave it no matter whichever way you persuade him.”
“This is nothing. He will stand in front of the blackboard and emulate my acting. I’ve become a laughing stock.”
“Does he goes to the other classes too or remain in the same room?”
“It depends on his mood.”
So my schooling of pre-school days ended here. I don’t remember how I got over the heartrending twinge.
1975: Basar, Arunachal Pradesh
By the time I was ready for my kindergarten, dramatically I volte-face into a very coyly introvert child. It was a different school and fortunately the headmistress was a family friend; an Aunty. Every morning I was dropped at her house. She was very beautiful, understanding and a loving creature. I would keep gazing at her untiringly with plenteous inquisitive thoughts and questions as she would dress herself for the school and put makeup on her face. Sometimes she would rub her lipstick on mine and say, “Look at you. You are looking ruddy.” She was very fond of me and so I was. She would also sometime dress me up into a girl and took me to the school. I would always let her do to her likings. Raj kapoor’s joker lived in every generation I guess.
My parent would say that I use to be a cutie cuddly boy during my childhood. I often steal squirrel away opportunity today to stand in front of the mirror wondering if I were ever, but get a rather hideously mirror image of mine.
1976: Basar, Arunachal Pradesh
How could I forget, we had a girl in the same class who use to give a very venomous stare at me. During those days I was crap scared of girls. I would cry when my mother would mock me with a girl or any of the aunties would poke fun at me for their daughters. To me nothing was more blushing than linking to a girl. I was very fold of the smell of the new books and whenever I got a prospect I would press my nose on to one. One day while I was heartwarming my urge on a new book the tomboyish character pulled me hard and osculated me on my cheek. I turned red with discomfiture and started to shriek and cry. Nothing could stop me. I cried, cried and cried as if I have been done with; done with something so weird, unscrupulous and impious. Looking me crying she also started to whimper and yowl. Unaware of what had gone wrong, in complementation to our action all the pupils in the room started to cry too. There was a total fiasco in the school. Today when I summon up the memoir I still feel like crying but for a different reason.
1978: Dibrugarh, Assam
Though for a short spell, I don’t know what had occurred to my parent’s, maybe goaded by the notion that bigger school means better education, they put me in another school in severance from them with my Uncle and Aunty; To cap it all in a class lower than my previous. My uncle looked Rambo to me. Robust like a hairy bear, tall man with roaring voice, much darker than my father, always unassailable, I always looked upon him as fiend during my childhood. But poor guy he was cool at heart and I realized when I grew up. He use to the full of a handmade cigarette (tobacco mixture) while hitting his finger on his typewriter and I would look at him sheepishly from behind the curtains. It wasn’t however the buffeting typewriter which prompted me to stand at the lair of the Rambo. It was the smoky poppet Papa Bear was puffing. He was throwing the butts on a discarded handle less porcelain tea cup and I wanted to know where he is going to toss these off. After a long hiatus Papa Bear got off his chair and walked out of the room. That was my chance and I slipped into his room and picked up a longish butt and whooshed out of the room.
The next moment I was in the backyard behind a bush. I had picked up the matchbox quietly from the kitchen too. The damn thing was getting extinguished each time I tried to lit it. And finally it did catch the spark but only to burn my tender lips. My tongue tasted bitter. What an awful thing Papa Bear can’t resist. I was just wondering and to my horror Rambo was standing right behind me with a thin cane stick in his hand. I got nicely whipped back and front. How would I have known that Papa Bear had left the longish butt in the cup and not derelict it for good?
Our school had a blue Matador van which would pickup students from various stoppages. It would pickup two of us from our lane, me and Joydip. We were in the same class, would pass smile at each other but seldom talked. The van would pass through a part having a series of speed breakers and this was the point where we both would complement each other making a breathless vocal gagaku and be amused by the vibrating voice.
The school had a see-saw, two swings and a large merry-go-round to play. The ladder and slide was my favorite time pass more for the reason that less pupil would find it interesting. It took me quite a bit of time of long and relentless hauling and shouting at home for my frequent slit and split of short-pants right over my rumps to realize why lesser boys were interested in the ladder and slide. Twice my experience with the merry-go-round repelled me from it forever. The first day after recess when I was waiting for the damn thing to stop swirling so that I could get up on it and charm by the swirl, a splash of undigested flying fluid drenched my uniform. A tubby character who couldn’t take the swirling thrill vomited out everything he had, upon two-three of us standing around. The next time I tried clinging to it, the speed of the merry-go-round threw me onto a bush with bruises.
Marry Miss was our class teacher. She was a tall dark beauty but when it comes to losing her cool on someone she would turn into a feral ogre. Normally, all pupils in her class would maintain calm but that day it was my bad luck or maybe a wrong day for her boyfriend to come and meet her. The class was running fine. We had been attentively listening to her and the ghost of my doom dropped in at the door.
“Oh hi! What a pleasant surprise?”
“Yeah, I’d actually come to meet Father Henry.”
“Why, everyone else on earth not worth meeting?”
Father Henry was our headmaster; a very docile and affectionate character. When a pupil would do a wrong and the teacher would take him to Father Henry, the pupil would be rather delighted at heart. He’d be made to sit in his room, given a biscuit or a chocolate and be counseled for long and sent back to class. He would make the pupil vow that he won’t repeat the wrong again; though never asked to relinquish from a different mischief.
Curious of what Mary Miss and the ghost of my doom were talking nineteen to the dozen and chuckling about behind the partly closed door, I leaned on my table to peep and the damn table falls flat on the floor with a big thud. All my books, pencil box and water bottle fall scattered on the ground too. In a swift reflex action she turned round and came running to me. I thought how nice of her, she has left her chattering right in the middle and has come to help. Indeed, the Momus helped giving few nice ones on my left and right cheeks and went back to her conversation. From the corner of my eyes I could see Joydip who was sitting in second bench third from my row was quite elated with the fall and the effect thereafter. I knew this episode would immediately be forwarded to my uncle and aunty by evening. Ruefully his sister and my cousin studied together.
We’d love if any of the teachers was absent or reported sick. That would mean one class to bunk, shout and play. And if it were the class teacher herself the joy would be in manifolds. This would mean playtime in the very first period. One of such occasion the Momus had reported sick and it was an undeclared merry time. Thrice, the teacher next door had warned the class to keep quite. The hiatus would last barely few mos and again the jangle would continue and even harder than the earlier.
Joydip had gone out for a pee and when he returned the heaven knows what went wrong to him, he put off his pant and “cock-a-doodle-doo” the roaster was out. Probably he wanted to add more joy into the ongoing pandemonium ….but wrong timing. The teacher next door pops in. Not only poor buddy got tattered but for the next period he was standing out of the class. And here I got my opportunity to even out with him.
After studying for two years in this school I was moved out with my parents. Since my father had a transferable job, days were nomadic. After every 2 to 3 years we would move along from one place to another. Arunachal Pradesh those days was very underdeveloped or rather being developed. The involvement of government in structuring in this Union Territory was prodigiously in plain sight. Towns were meagerly populated. Everyone knew each other. Mostly building were either government offices or government quarters. There were no private educational institutions those days. There use to be a small bazaar, a government club for theater and a cinema hall too.
1980: Daporizo, Arunachal Pradesh
Movies approved to be smitten with those days of childhood were either of the religious kind or mythological ones or historical ones or patriotic or that of dacoits. And what awful names in respect of today’s do, I realize now. “Devi ki shakti”, “Mugl-e-aazam”, “Daku Mangal Singh”, “Chambal ka Raja”….and what not. Only perchance, we were made to see these because parents felt movies will have off-putting brunt on our tender minds. Very true! It did have an effect. In fact all in my clique did go through it. I recall, if it were a religious movie like Ramayana or Mahabharata you would see many Rama and Laxmana or Pandava’s with crudely made bows and arrows on the street aiming and hitting here and there and mind you no one would like to be Ravana, or Kaurava but with a very few Hanumans of course. If it were a mythological or historical movie next day you would find hoi polloi of children running hither and thither with wooden or bamboo swords hitting at each other. Oh yes! It would really hurt. And then if it were movie of dacoit the following day one could see the weaker boys becoming horses and stronger one acting dacoits over them with their gun shaped wooden arms. Some guys use to have the entire armada. Movies were extremely bad or may be the good ones……….. were never shown to us.
1981: Tezu, Arunachal Pradesh
The reminiscence as a boy of primary school is no less pathetic. Memories of those days when I underwent the anguish of morning PT at school, chorusing school lessons, sitting period after period gazing at the black hole, I mean blackboard, listening to the sermons of teachers which were indeed throbbing and painful. An eye would always peer on the gonging bell and my subliminal thought lurking for the Khaki attired peon. And the very sight of him heading towards the bell would not only briefly thrill the heart but also relieved the heavy head. In the interim, if it were to be get caught peeping outside, the torment would be but worst of all. Not only that I got bashed up by the nobleman instantly and more gallingly in front of my most desired one sitting just a few benches ahead and also in presence of those idiotic and repelling ones who would make needless mockery of my maudlin situation. Above and beyond, now for the remaining part of the period it would unbecomingly need for “Always be alert, be awake till …the ears hear the soothing thong and the class gets over”. Swami Vivekananda would have fainted if he had learnt my rendition to his insight of being alert and being awake.
The situation was never any better at home either. After the grogginess of playful evenings, as I’d just settle down completing the macabre home tasks and begin the drudgery of lesson reading, the queen of siesta would splat right on the retina floating on the eyeballs again and again and again and again till I was quiescent letting my earlobe fall flat on the book with dripping dribble along the edge of my lip-line and then out of the bloom somebody would tap hard on the head to wake me up from my catnap. Sometimes I’d be even better than this when some family acquaintance would visit the house and it was forewarned not dare leave studies, I’d quietly bolt the door from inside and napped merrily like never ever before. Such episode generally ended up with hard banging and thudding at the door by my father to wake me up and then I unbolt the door only to face the fury. And sometime the damn thing won’t open only and my father would put a lever to break it open. More damage would mean more onerous dealing. I’d pray, “Oh god, when would this study business going to get over.” But it would seem never ending. But those were also the days of enchantment, freak and fantasy.
1982: Tezu, Arunachal Pradesh
The high school days were phenomenal. The prodigy of crush or falling for someone was enigmatic. Surfacing of any new girl in the school would be breaking news. And if the newcomer was beautiful it would habitually exert a pull on boys to go berserk. The competition would be very tough with so many contenders for one vacancy. The corridor around the classroom of the new entrant for next couple of days would become of epic eminence. It would be the epicenter of la-di-da. For the boys belonging to the same classroom, it was “Neighbor’s envy and Owner’s pride” situation.
One should see the height of jealousy amongst the preexistent girls. Ask them to share the Tiffin and you get immediate boomerang response.
“Go and beg it from the new doll in the market.”
Naturally, the feeling of abrupt shift to rejection, becoming suddenly less important and unnoticeable will not make any proud and in high spirits. But this was true for the girls as well. “Johnny-come-lately” bears a distinctive connotation for them as well. The high voltage drama would continue for sometimes till it become stale and quite a lot of hearts busted….
In my class, six of us were legendaries for our foolhardy excellence; Me, Samuel Pradhan, Tadaak Basar, Vinod Thapa, Ronjon Deori and Rajib Das-the ring leader. Be it to climb upon the false ceiling of the class to fetch baby birds, whether it was to get down into grubby drain to fill water bottles with tadpoles, or riding on the back of the cattle calf aping cowboys, interesting of most climbing tall trees to hang someone’s school bag or jumping in shallow watercourse etc…etc.
I remember one of such heroic act ending up into a fiasco. Those cushy days, wearing underwear wasn’t much prevalent. At least none of the caballero I’m referring to wore it for sure. There was a tall and wide trunk tree few yards away from our school along the roadside which for quite some time been challenging us. It had long hanging vines where we could attempt doing “Tarzan Tarzan”. Somehow, the school timing was not befitting into our schedule to accept the dare. We therefore waited for the Saraswati Pooja when the school would be given day off after the standard rituals and prasaad distribution. We opted the day with a purpose. In view of Saraswati pooja all girls will be beautifully dressed in sarees to be looked like the prototype of goddess Saraswati and pass by the road and that’s the time we will showcase our valor.
Rajib was the first one to climb, followed by Tadaak, next was Ronjon, closely Vinod, then Samuel and the last knight to climb was the boldest me. Everything went as normal as we thought and planned. We were all clinging upon the tree queued one down the other. Tadaak had clung right behind Rajib not quite in full view from the roadside. Rajib had caught hold of one end of a suspending vine and started the outcry of the Tarzan tune.
“Oyeoyeooo…..” He did it for two three times to grab the attention of the goddesses passing by.
“Stupid! If you alone keep yelling like this there will be no one left for us to show our vigor.” And he pushed hard Rajib out of his way. Rajib swing into the air and the duplicitous vine snapped of its trunk grip. Rajib flew with the vine and dropped on the ground with a big thud with his face right into a cake of cow dung.
All the girls shouted to ridicule, “Happy birthday to you….happy birthday to you.”
The situation turned out to be so comical that we couldn’t help crackling into laughter. Wait wait, this was not the end. Tadaak who was on the top and who did see every minute segment of the action or rather who was the screen writer, director and the villain of this special red card entered action sequence burst into laughter. He laughed…laughed and laughed. His laugh was so intense that he couldn’t hold his stomach any more. The daffy passed out into loo; and his loo fall through his airy knickers right down onto the four monkeys clinging below on the tree trunk.
1987: Khonsa, Arunachal Pradesh
Now I was in the higher classes, conceivably in class XI. The joy of entering into the senior section of the school was elating. All these days, as a junior we use to keep our heads down as we crossed our seniors. The sensation of seeing our juniors carry forward the tradition and treating us as seniors was overwhelming. Now we moved like titans across the corridor of the school and from the corner of our eyes the sight of juniors sitting in their respective classes admiring our catwalk, the big cat of course, was an awesome feel.
It was like cattle going berserk let loose of its confinement. At recess hours beating the desks at full throw in rhythm with popular Hindi and English numbers. The nearness with the teachers with whom, now one could ask timidly questions never asked before and sharing feelings never shared with an elder. Vis-à-vis the affable gesture of the teachers and an approach of pleasant counseling was a different feeling altogether. The more often cutting jokes facetiously and juggling with camaraderie of opposite gender had become conciliatory and not annoying to them anymore. Bringing extra load in the Tiffin box to share was so found necessary and congenial.
What a sense of breathing space, a straight discount of subjects from eight to five. Practical classes! What to worry about. The seniors in class XII were generous enough to lend their hand-me-down practical notebooks. Since the syllabus was same we only needed to copy them. Thankfully, copyright act didn’t apply in our scholastic world. However, the hard feelings were against the engorged size of the books and the vast course outline. I’d wonder if there was nothing to do for these cold-blooded authors than writing these heavyweight tomes or is it some kind of grudge they were taking out on us, the poor scholars. Gradually, as the session took headways it really took the heads away. You try to mug up things from one end and by the time you reached the other end you are blank with the previous ones.
What a wanton reference of the crazy era, people went potpourri crazy quilt doing anything they wanted and got away in the name of experimentation and dump the dust on others head? Say for instance Newton’s assertion that an apple drops on to the ground, what’s new in it? Who doesn’t know? Even if I fall off a tree I’ll fall flat on the ground. What was there to complicate the issue with arithmetical calculations? Would you be let with lesser pain by getting into problematical calculation and jumping thereafter? Then for the other instance, Newton stated every action has equal and opposite reaction. Rubbish, it’s untrue; utter useless notion. When you are given left and right dead and center by the teacher could you do a thing? Then we had this dumbfounded Archimedes. O re baba, if you jump into a bathtub imagining it to be a swimming pool, the water in the tub will naturally splash out. What was the need for you to run amok and jump around unclothed. Owing to his abnormal behavior and preemptive move, to calm him down from the trauma, someone must have prompted him with the arithmetical jugglery. Another kite flyer Benjamin Franklin, worst than our kind went out kite flying in the storm. Must have got a bolt from the blue and he proclaimed lightning has got electricity. Thank your lord; you would have been kite flying in the other world. Look at Dada Darwin he had jumbled up between ‘Tall and Dwarf’ and ‘Brawny and Puny’ and pronounced struggle for existence. Do like whatever. Then Edison nearly burnt out a train boggy with his freaky experiments. Luckily he wasn’t in Godhra.
What drudgery, what a crap? But then all’s well that ends well. The teacher’s had almost lost their hope but we all made it. It must have not been any less of horrendous shock for them but then they must have thanked their fortune; finally got rid of the haunting nightmares.
The outcome had but resulted into a breakup too; the breakup of camaraderie and the dejection of loosing platonic temptation, the never returning bonding of a student and a teacher and a step forward towards severance from parents. This was like a poignant pain in pleasure and a pleasure in a nostalgic pain; A bringing up the rear of childhood and the first step into adulthood. It ached the heart quite a bit and for quite a moment. We all realized this was the end of an epoch and the beginning of a new one.
There wasn’t much time to waste. For the first time the sign of maturity was evident in me. I must grab an admission into a college to shape up my career. The preparation I did for the joint entrance examination was in manifold more than what I did for my school finals. Books of disgust suddenly appeared to be epic of succor. I made it through and got admitted to an Engineering college. Mine was mechanical stream.
Mechanical meant the job of a mechanic to me. I was slightly crestfallen but then I was explained about it. Moreover many of my batch mates had to go for normal graduation and I though may be in one way I was better-off. I’m, I thought would be doing a professional course and therefore my chances of not remaining unemployed for too long was more credible.
1989: Jhargram, West Bengal
My father aided me in the admission process. For the first time I realized, all the hard graft I went through for my past 14 years right from Kindergarten to Higher secondary was just to approve that I was now didactic. The school pass out certificate had nothing more significance then getting a tag on the forehead that qualified me to enter into the premises of literates. It also exemplified that all my mighty talks so far were ambiguous. I bear no connotation as far as this. My name and my very existence was void unaided of my fathers. My recognition was due to my father and not mine.
My father accompanied me to the hostel.
“Hereinafter you’ll be at your own. You’ll be your sole guardian. You’ll come across good things and you’ll fall upon bad as well. Be honest to yourself. You’ve to decide it for yourself what you want to choose. I’ll only advice one thing to you. Anything before you chooses ask yourself why you want to choose what is tempting you to choose. What’re its implications for you? Is it at all needed by you? Will it help you to rise or fall? Your rise or fall is in your hands and shall be the outcome of the decision you take.”
For the second time in my scholastic eon, the denotation of maturity stirred my mind. But let the child in the heart of a person not be crushed and buried, I thought.
The Room with a distinction
Ground floor rooms were for the fresher’s; well it seemed except for Room No.1 which had big lock hanging. My room was to be shared by two other new mates, Animesh Saha and Kumudendu Dheng. It was dirty to hell. The corridor and the walls smelled urinated. There were three windows in the three corner of the room and the door somehow resting on the forth corner heading into the corridor. The windows seemed in one piece but the doors were someway hanging on the rusted hinges and breathing its last. The condition of the door was that of a non-athlete who had run four laps of the racing course, eventually lost the race and now waiting to give his analytic view why he lost should anyone care to ask. There were three wooden cots joined together lying in one corner of the room. All three of us looked at each other and then in flickering of eyes ran to grab and pull the best one to place near the windows of our liking. The next tableau, all three cots collapsed on the ground with a big thud. Each of the cots had one or the other leg missing. Plausibly our precursors had sensibly with purpose reinforced each of the cots against the other towards one corner.
“Hey you half-cooked chickens! What was that noise?” a yell from the upper floor quivered us.
All three of us went to the corridor to peep up. “whisss!” We nearly missed a streak of raining pee on our heads. No wonder why the corridors and walls smelled so repulsive.
“Hey! You triumvirate, come upstairs.”
“Actually…we are trying to clean our room.”
“Oh! You’ll get the entire evening to do that. Come upstairs. Let’s chew the fat.”
I looked at the other two guys and lifted my head askance. They stared back at me like owls and nodded their heads asking instead.
“What do we do?”
“Instead of waiting for the trouble to walk down at doorstep, it’s better to go up and compliment it for good.” I whispered and they Okayed by moving their heads.
All three of us climbed up the staircase cautiously and reached to the top floor. We saw two silly ones older than us doing the same damn job what we were doing downstairs. The only difference was that they had been intelligently dragging the cots from the other rooms while we were snatching amongst ourselves.
“Hi! What are your names?”
“Dheng-dhenga-dheng- Dheng-dhenga-dheng. What a poetical name. I liked it.”
“You’re probably anonymous?”
“I’m Amardeep…Amardeep Chowdhury”
“Oh Rajesh Khanna!......Hoon! By the bye did any one of you count how many stairs you have climbed up to come to this floor?”
“No.” What a stupid question I thought. Who would count stairs?
“You should have. We did in our times and that’s how we are in here today.”
Unwanted though, we nodded our head in agreement.
“By the bye there’s a special way of cleaning room in the hostel. If you don’t learn it you will land up making messes like what must you have done in your room? Why don’t you guys help us out in cleaning ours so that you get a prêt-a-porter acumen from us?”
It didn’t take us much time to grapple that we are into the course of the action of ragging. The first among us to enter the room was Dheng. He entered into the door, looked at walls and immediately turned back repulsively and came out in horror. The next in queue was Animesh. He went inside and stood there motionless gazing at the walls. I followed him into the room and the décor left me fossilized but to laugh loudly. There are not a single space left on the walls, not even the ceiling was spared. It was artistically finished collage painting of unfathomable nudity. It must have taken years of donkeywork to create this masterpiece. I wondered if the warden had ever visited to this room. To my absolute comprehension, later I learnt that the warden himself had been a hosteller in the same hostel decades back and such profound ingenuity has indeed been inherited from eminent philosophical personae like him.
“So, what do you guys think about it?”
“You stayed here in this room all along?” Dheng asked frantically.
“No. We have become successor of this mammon this year, in fact this moment forth.”
“What a piece of crap.” Animesh slipped his tongue.
“Duffer, This is iconic; a charisma in itself. We booked this room last year. To beat the contenders we came to the hostel first before anyone grabs it.”
“Indeed admirable joie de vivre. This must be quite many years of collection and donkeywork.”
“What a congregation of approach and mind's eye of various sculptors.”
“No no, they were the same ones. Same guys dragging hard for quite a long.”
“They seem to be a different kettle of fish.”
“How many years your predecessors took to banish themselves from the college?” I asked sarcastically.
“They…this was their last tolerable year.”
“I thought as much.” I completed.
“And what are your planning dada…No I mean next year you’ll continue in the same room?” Animesh tried to dodge from getting caught.
“Brother, wait. You’ll be nicely looked after in the upcoming three months when we will have enough leisure to discuss about it in large and detail.”
The Sudheerda’s Continental
That evening very few of the borders had arrived. The mess functions on practicability. All three of us were waste with hunger and could eat a horse. We didn’t know what to do.
“Aye you first year-ers!” came a gospel voice from the top.
”Yes dada…” Dheng rushed out.
“Hey you! Don’t lean out to peep up.” Animesh yelled at him.
“Thanks pal.” Dheng recalled the near miss.
“There will be no food in the mess tonight. We are going to Sudheerda’s hotel. If you all are hungry grab your wallet and follow us. If you wish to skip your dinner tonight get primed to starve till the lunchtime tomorrow.”
Our college was about 12 Km from the township. A narrow partially tarmac and partially kutcha road leads to the college with scattered tall trees of Shaal over the infertile red soil. The barrenness of the locality speaks for itself against the neglect of the government and the tolerance of the inhabitants. At far distance there were a cluster of few mud huts connoting the miseries and dilapidation of the poor people living thereby. If you were to go back to town you mustn’t pay the rickshaw puller or you’ll be by shank’s pony.
Sudheerda’s hotel in that kind of locality in itself sounded mysteriously.
“Hotel? Wow! Thanks to the cloud nine. I reckoned this argot had no bearing in this deserted locality.” Animesh exclaimed.
I kept mum. This place was full of surprises. To draw any conclusion without a hands-on experience will be too immature. As we walked we crossed another building quite similar to ours.
“That’s the Western Hostel. There’s another one on our right, The Eastern Hostel. As our one is in the middle it is named as Central Hostel.”
“Central Jail rather.” I murmured to the other two.
The premise was vast with three similarly designed hostels. Eastern hostel was vacant as there weren’t enough boarders. Or perhaps the existing borders in the two hostels were enough thorn in the flesh for the administration to add on another. There was a huge playground in front of the Central Hostel where later we played cricket in the day and wicked at night. Between the peripheral walls and the Western hostel there was again another massive piece of vacant land and we walked through it over a slender pedestrian alleyway guided by a thin beam of torchlight, unaware that the ghost of the void was gazing at us to give a jolt of nightmare not very later from now.
After quite a walk amidst pitch darkness we finally reached at the wall having a breach through which one can tiptoe in and out with a little meandering. The road was empty and the huts over the roadsides with few oil lamps and lantern suggested some Adult-lee business was on. The whole area smelled sweetly of fermented molasses. There were some buildings on the other side of the road too.
“What are these buildings?” I asked
“This is the B.Ed College. That two storeyed behind the college belongs to a doctor.”
After walking few yards through the shadowy road our guiding flocks entered into a despicable looking thatched hut. It was extremely dirty. The containers and utensils don’t seem to have been cleaned for quite awhile. Through the holes of thatched roof you could really navigate the stars and celestial bodies. You either need to keep a separate fund for recurrent medication or buildup enough immunity in your system to survive after eating here. But then this was the Sudheerda’s continental.
A dark middleweight with a big protruded tummy and short height dodo was merrily snorting on two tables joined together. The oil lamp flame was almost giving up to the ghost.
“Hooh!” Jonny was still dead to the world.
“Sudheerda, have you prepared our food?”
“Oh! You all have come? Food is almost ready. Give me some bucks; I need to buy some rice and daal.”
“What Sudheerda! That means you haven’t yet started only.”
“Did your Sudheerda ever kept you in starvation? I will go flying and come back walking. You just sit for five minutes and I’ll be back in half an hour.”
“Sudheerda, you’ll not change.”
“Get pleasure from a feast till I come back, comrades-in-arms.” He pulled out a 5 Liter filthy looking Jerry can and handed over few glasses. “Chums enjoy till I’m back….Oh! You have three new young fogy roasters with you too. You all are first year’ers?”
“Yeah, they are. You run and get the stuffs. We’re damn hungry.”
“Okay my dogs.”
“Printing mistake; Okay my gods.”
The crossover of Unrest in Bay of Bengal
In next eight days both the assemblies were chock-a-block. The migratory scavengers had all returned to their aerie. The newly moved in sparrows had also built their sheath in the available branches. With the growing parishioners (rather prisoners) and more notably the jamboree of gorillas, my uneasiness was growing too. I knew soon the Mardi gras will begin. This Sunday was particularly different from the last. Since morning I could see the hovering vultures flying from one aerie to the other. The tête-à-tête with sudden rose of yell and yodeling was a sign of bad omen. Soon there was a roaring prophecy.
“All first year’er, listen carefully. There is a weather forecast of heavy torrential rain tonight. Tidal waves from Bay of Bengal are likely to reach us as well. You all are being forewarned to keep you belonging at higher location and remain alert. To take a headcount of all of you please report to Room No. 17 after lunch.”
My admonition was becoming realism. There was anxiety among my other mates.
“How is it possible? Is it possible; How can the Bay of Bengal travel 400 Km down here?”
“This can’t be.”
“This will mean half the countryside will drown under water.”
“No…no. Such things do happen. In our Sundarbon……..”
I was feeling pity for these duffers. Few of my school seniors who had gone through all these in their college and hostels had briefed me about it before coming here. And I knew the implications of such concocted rumors in the hostels. But I planned to play safe and pretend unaware of these.
That afternoon we all reported to Room No. 17 after lunch. I decided to be a straggler rather than a frontrunner. About six seven of them, the seniors were sitting in the room playing cards. The door was knocked and the crowd entered the room. Most of the gorillas were on their briefs bare bodied.
“Yes, what brings you to this room?”
“Dada, there was a call for reporting to this room after lunch.”
“Which room, this room? No.”
“Yes. Room No. 17.”
“How do you know this is Room No. 17?”
“The number is written outside on the door.”
“So you mean if it was written as Principal’s room on the door, it would be Principal’s room?”
“Then? Go and start counting the rooms serially and then determine which one is Room No.17.”
After a few rounds of running one corner to the other, finally they agreed that was indeed Room No.17. It first went with our introductory session.
“Tapan kumar Joddar.”
“Henceforth your codename ‘Khichi Aami Jordaar’.”
“You’ll be called ‘Kheet Bidi’.”
“You walk like a stork; you will be called ‘Bok’.”
“Me, Prasenjit Sen.”
“You look oldie. ‘Buro’ will fit you right”.
“You’ve well built rumps, so ‘Big G……….”
One by one we were all renamed. The worst part, for next two weeks we were needed to remind our James Bond code to them when we meet.
“Dada, ‘Nungku’ at your service.”
“Dada Hobe Naaki.”
“Hobe Naaki WHAT?”
“That’s my name.”
“Can that be a name? You’re teasing foul at me.”
“No dada, this is my new code.”
“Aami Dheg-dhenga-dheng- Dheg-dhenga-dheng- Dheng” Poor guy had to dance as well while reminding his code.
That night the newcomers were asked to have their dinner early and go to sleep. At around 2:30 am I heard the sound of splashing water. After the sound died out, slowly, I switched on the torchlight and beamed at the door……… and decided to sleep back.
Next morning there was yelling from the top floor.
“Obei First year’ers! Get up and look at the wrath of the high tide.”
“Holy cow! Where all these water and mud come from inside the room?”
“Animesh, Let’s get ready for the college. This is the high tide splashed in buckets at night.” I calmed him down.
The Introductory affair
That evening we were all called to the abattoir, the common room.
“Not again.” I felt.
The common room was just another room spared for the television and a carom board. Few old newspapers thrown hither and thither and not many but a few decrepit and dirty mats for sitting were spread on the floor. Two tables beside the TV and seven-eight of them sat on it.
“After the wrath of the flood, we would like you all to report in writing the matter to the Flood Control Department individually asking for relief and compensation for the damage. Please submit your letters to Room No. 23 in sealed envelopes.”
“Now which room is Room No. 23, dada?”
We all giggled.
“Shut up. Look for it yourself.”
“Boys, another thing, within two days you all are needed to know each other. On the third day we will pickup in random to verify whether you all have mugged each other’s profile or not. Should we find it is not done…god help you guys.”
Yeah, we all are indeed in god’s mercy, I thought. The next 24 hours we all been memorizing each other’s enumerate. His name, his father’s name, mother’s name, sibling’s name, date of birth, father’s occupation, address, phone number and what not. Memorizing particularize of 22 individuals was no fun. Reluctantly though, each one of us but temporarily suspended our collegial curriculum and were onto it. Gainfully each one of us had mug up about each other in no time.
After gulping of this exercise there was another one. Now we were to lookout for the résumé of all the seniors too.
“Dada, can we come in?”
“Yes, what’s your business in my room?”
“We have come for your introduction.”
“Oh great! My name is ‘Dha-dha-tin-na-tere-gote-tinna Chakraborty.”
“Dada, we need your real name.”
“Who told you it isn’t. Memorize it.”
Indeed all sophisticated names and addresses to remember. ‘Jakeer-Uddin-Rahamatullah-Veeratini-nandini Bhattacharya, Nrityananda-Swarupapindi-Kapilevastu-Sanjivnibutem-Mahasajjyem-Bhusanam’; as fancy names as they could dig out from the grave. One lad had brought carbon copies his name for distribution starting from top to bottom of the sheet.
“Dada, ektu short kora gelo na?”
“Okay, you’ll repeat it.”
And addresses…..Masha Allah.
Then there were essay competitions. ‘You are soap and being bubbled by a sweet sixteen in the bath tub’, ‘You are a thief and climbing a tall building holding the streak of the pee by a guest through the window’, ‘You are a single limbed buddy hanging on the railing of a tall tower and a red ant is chewing…….’ and many more topics unthought-of.
Then there were the practical demo; One of the pals in underwear was made to move round and round through and about the table to illustrate how electrical flux conducts in an alternator; …. A human locomotive with a number of wagons anchored to one another by……..shunting and running in the corridor whistling ‘Coo…Coo’ and making cranking noise too; ….. Demonstration of slaps at Zero degree sparing you unhurt, pulling a hard hand on the cheeks at 90 degree, pull a fast one of 180 degree and one full rotational zip of 360 degree by a reverse slap on one cheek falling it solid on the other…..The Center of gravity…. Oscillation of a pendulum ….. and what not.
Gradually the time to go to sleep was put on the back burner. With one or the other reasons we were made to remain awake squeezing our sleeping hours. The consequence was evidently visible amongst the last benchers in the classrooms taking forty winks.
Voyage to Antarctica
The chilling cold wintery nights of December frost up even the sandy soil at night. The remote and sparsely inhabited locality make the night more malcontent and icy. But the owlish high-rankers comes up with inspiring ideas in the chilliness of such wintery nights; ideas of travesty.
Late in the evening some of them while in the common room had been talking about some research work by the scientists in Antarctica. We didn’t participate nor anticipated that the Scientist Jinni in them would be enlivened. That night they woke us up at around 3, made us relinquish our cloths and gave us a candle each.
“As you all may not know there had been a tragedy in the Antarctica. Many of the scientists working in the extreme condition have lost their lives. Let’s mourn their demise for a minute.”
“The time initiates now.”
I wondered what has the condolence need to do with stripping us in this shivering cold of this wintery night. Damn it, the one minute won’t be over even after elapse of 6-7 minutes. After a long torturous hiatus finally it was over to begin with something worse than it.
“Friends, there isn’t much which we can do for the departed souls. But as a sign of honour to the dead ones we will have a candle march.”
“Bloody hell!” we all whispered.
“Lit up the candles, hold them in your hand and go round the playground. Ensure the flame of your candle doesn’t extinguish. If the flame extinguishes, you will need to take another lap of the ground. And many more rounds till all of you successfully bring the candles back to the hostel with its flame.”
The opera continued for 4 to 5 rounds.
“Well-done to all of you. This must have given you the feeling of being in the Antarctica itself. Just now we have received delighting news from our unreliable sources and subject to amend. The news of the tragedy was a faux. All the scientists are alive and have urged if any of you would like to join them in their research work.”
“No dada.” All of us chorused in one tune.
The Campus Goddess
One evening we are asked to get properly dressed to face a campus interviews…Room No.21 at 8:30 pm.
“Is it true or another faux?” asked me one of my batch mates.
“Do we really have a choice? In a situation of so many ersatz and blunders it can’t be true.” I said.
So all the interviewees were seated in Room No. 18 and a discrete Room No. 23 was allocated for post interview session. One by one, candidates were sent and after a so call drill for 10 to 12 minutes was taken to Room No. 23.
My turn. I knocked the door and the door opened. It was dark and quiet to the extent that even if a thief slaps, you won’t know and then suddenly a heavy voice demanded.
“Put off your appeals. Tops to be flung up and bottom to be thrown down.”
The sentence had barely completed indiscriminate battering started in the dark from all sides with repeated howling, “Throw out your cloths….throw out your cloths.”
“Its done dada, I have taken off my cloths.” I screamed.
The light was on for just a few seconds and went off again.
“Your underwear and vest…..your underwear and vest…” and the battering continued.
“I’m done dada…I’m done.” I shouted again.
Then a beam of light focused on a most horrendous sight of my life. Anup Maity, one of my batch mate was seated on a table, completely undressed, his under-circle of eyes were painted red, his hairy chest was painted in black and the ribs were highlighted white with one of his hand posturing blessing and the other hand holding …...a horse of different colour.
Out from the bloom he uttered.”I’m Hachaang Devi, Vatsa. I’m pleased with your devotion. Ask vatsa ask for a boon.”
Terrified and confused by the spectacle I answered, “Give me the boon of wisdom…”
And there was again an immediate repercussion in the form of battering, “Blockhead, Hachang Devi is the goddess of sex not wisdom.”
“Sorry Devi, I wish that ……………………………”
“Tathaastu….” The Devi granted the boon.
Back in Room No. 23, we looked at each other…. unable to resist our laughter but two of the seniors Habibur Rahman and Naresh Bala had two long wooden scales in their hands and won’t let it. The spectacle of Anup as gorgon was conjuring up in the mind and his terrible look was tempting crazy for laugh. Each one of us could visualize the resistance Anup must had put against anchoring the show and the kind of nasty persuasion the seniors must have made to sway to which Anup eventually succumbed to. That day I realized how difficult it is to repress when it comes to laugh and how imperative it is to release it. And what was more baffling, preventing someone from laugh could also be a way to torment, I never realized.
The Re-shoot of “Nagin”
Not that every evening was nerve-racking. In the intervening time, there use to be session of singing, dancing and merriment too. There was no necessity for anyone in particular to know anything specific. Anyone was asked to do anything and anything any would do would turn out to be entertaining.
We had our batch mates Sapan Karmakar and Sahadev Choira, both been behaving quite timidly and were under scanner for quite sometimes. One of such off-the-wall but sidesplitting evening they were made the quarry. Those days Sridevi’s ‘Nagina’ movie was ubiquitously been screening in all the cinema halls. The song,’Mae Teri Dushman….Dushman Tu Mera…” had become virus, rather the anthem. Sapan was tall and bulky while Sahadev was skinny-bony and much shorter than Sapan. The Director of the screenplay was Subhendu Bera another senior, illustrates the docudrama.
“Sahadev will play-act as ‘Nagin’ the serpent and Sapan will act the snake charmer. Costume for Sahadev, in his birthday suit…..and Sapan will only wrap his shawl on his head as turban….. As we are going to give it an artistic touch so there will nothing else needed to be worn by both the Characters.
“Dada, is it necessary to do without cloths.” Sahadev pleaded.
“Actors don’t question their director.”
Both were forced into their prescribed costumes.
“How to act; Sahadev shall fold his hands in the shape…… the snake hood and Sapan will hold ………sound like the charmer flute...I’ll say Lights-Camera-Roll-Action and all others will start singing, ‘Mae Teri Dushman….Dushman Tu Mera…’ Sahadev will crawl on the ground and snake dance and make the hissing sound and Sapan shall swing around the charmer flute sometime towards left and sometimes towards right and fall back whenever the Nagin makes the hissing sound. The serpent shall make her move in serpentine of the charmer flute…….. In the end of the song the Nagin will become fierce and attack the charmer. But the Charmer is too smart; he will dodge again and Nagin will sting the charmer flute instead ……….. So you all have understood your roles. Okay all set…….. Lights-Camera-Roll-Action”
…….There was series of takes and retakes. Presumably the docudrama bagged the national awards and many Oscars. I don’t know, but probably Sridevi must have been the special guest in the first screening of this docudrama which prompted her not to make a sequel of Nagina if she had thought about it. Obviously this was the ultimate.
Shiv Ratri used to be celebrated very differently or maybe in a special fashion in our hostel until this decisive one. No deity no rituals no pastor but Room No.17 had quite a few Shiv-aficionados hovering from all over the places in the evening to perform noiseless smoky bhajan-kirtan. Since afternoon itself some activity was on in the room. By evening the air was smelling grass. In the streak of lights scattering through the gaps of the partially shut door and folded windows the smoke in the room was evidently visible indicating that the fête was in full swing. Finally the call of invitation from the room was announced for the common publics too.
“First Year’ers, report to Room No. 17 for Baba-prasaad.”
We were all curious since evening and lined up in front of Room No.17. The door opened and a ballast of smoke gushed out. The wooden cots were hung on the wall to make enough space on the floor to sit. All gorillas were sitting with their back supported to the wall, busted, drained out and given up the ghost; just the ideal day to thump up all of them nicely and thoroughly. A big aluminum ampoule was kept in the corner with disposable glasses ready to serve.
“They who would like to have few puffs can join us. For the rest pickup a disposable glass and pour in half a glass of the ghutti from the ampoule and get back to your room.”
No one was too keen to sit with the gorillas, so we all opted for the ghutti. It was so mouth-wateringly prepared liquid something like milkshake thickened with crushed cashew nut, almonds, pistachio. We all wished to have some more but we were refused of the second help. We returned to our respective scabbard. Since the gorillas were all hors de combat we thought we all could quietly go to each other’s room and chat. Few decided to silently play cards. Others opted to do with their past time hobbies.
“I’m the knight in shining armor. Come behind me and I’ll liberate you...Tum mujhe khoon dou Mae tumhe ajaadi doonga.” The voice was not familiarly of any of the gorillas sitting on the branch top but not unfamiliar to ignore too. It started with Nikhil. He was out in the lawn with only his vest and underwear shouting to his full pitch and volume.
“Oye…aabe Bhodoo….get in to your room…Hahaha…” Tonmoy was next in line and with his start of laugh he could now no more put a stop to. Prasenjit, Animesh, Samar and Tapan (Bok) were playing cards in their room came out to see the clamor and god knows what occurred to Prasenjit who was in the front begin to parade and spontaneously the other three followed the action too.
It didn’t stop here, soon audios and visual get underway from the top floor too.
“Maa…maa go maa..I’m departing from this mortal cadaver. Sesh Vidayee dow maa.”
“Ore! Chepe dhar…Press it down…My bed is flying away. Do something else I’ll disappear in the black hole.”
Soon the whole hostel turns into a circus or fittingly a lunatic asylum. Me, Romesh and Surojitda, we felt we were still not contaminated and decided to run to Room No.17 and throw away the ghutti surplus, to prevent brouhaha any further. We found all the gorillas in the room were down having forty winks. We carried the yet half-filled ampoule and emptied it down. The situation had by then gone totally out of control and was beyond the nip in the bud. We could gradually feel even our time was running out. We knew we would soon be one of them.
“Let’s get to the doctor immediately.”Surojitda yelled.
“Yes dada, hurry up. Run, it’s in the other side of the wall.” I complemented him …and that’s what we ought not to have done. In the dark of that night the trinity kept running round and round the whole night in that massive piece of the vacant land in pursuit for the breach on the wall which we could never find until it was the crack of dawn. With much donkey graft we managed to reach our hostel…literally crawled into our rooms…beds...zzzz. The ghost of the void in the vacant land made a good laugh of us whole night.
We all woke up late in the hours of daylight with heads spinning, body disoriented and stomach playing cat and mouse out of hunger. While heading towards Sudheerda’s continental by shank’s pony with two of my seniors, at a distance I saw three stray dogs struggling to stand erect on their four foot while yet zizzing, moving aimlessly and hitting one another or the wall of the hostel building in veneer of the three Jacks on their two foot. In all probability they had blotto the whole lot of cast-off ghutti from the ground.
It was the pre-last day of the month. Earlier, we were told about the functioning of the mess. The last day of the month is generally grand with good food, rented movies etc. etc. But preparation being made for coming tomorrow was beginning to appear much grander than what we expected and seen in last two months. Big sound boxes were installed. There were more movements and maneuvering in the dining hall. It was being decorated as well.
There was no class after the recess as it was a Saturday. Unwontedly the celebration was on a Sunday and this would mean more chewing of heads and tails spoilage of another week holiday. An uncanny feeling could be noticed in everyone’s façade. In the dining hall there was a dictum by the senior most brute.
“All First year’er are being advised to steal a nap in the afternoon in view of the upcoming function tomorrow. The volume of work in hand for tomorrow’s preparation might need working at night.”
I thought after the drudgery for over two and half months, now what great are they planning to do next. It occurred to me once, “Could it be the “D-Day?”, but things were happening so abruptly unpredictable, spelling out anything by guess will only dishearten.
One after another, discretely though, my co-mates came to my room.
“What do you think, Amar? What could we be heading for tonight?”
“How can I say? I’m just one like you.”
“No, so far most of your predictions have come true. Make another wild guess.”
I felt so sorry to see their tear filled eyes but even my own situation was never any better. Two evening back I got badly hammered for protesting against battering of one of my comate. The seniors had observed the growing affinity of my comates towards me and they did not like it too much and had warned all others not to hover around me needlessly.
“….I don’t know for sure but I reckon tomorrow they might be arranging our fresher’s Day.”
“What made you think so?”
“The end days of last two months never had such grand preparation.”
“Yes, you are right.”
“Calm down, it could be someone’s birthday celebration also.”
“Why, the oldie gorilla? He belongs to a bigwig family.”
All the faces dropped low.
“No, this is but a guess only. There’s a likelihood of not happening so as well.”
“Could you imagine the kind of expenditure that will incur in this about to be celebration? Will anyone spend so much for his birthday, I doubt.”
“Yes, you are right. So it is……”
“I don’t know but tonight it seems gonna be too hefty on us. Beware if it is our fresher’s tomorrow they’ll squeeze out everything tonight. This will be their last buying and selling day.”
Some of well-brought-up gorillas had earlier unveiled that after fresher’s day there is no more of any ragging.
“Everyone shall enjoy sameness. The torment which is being felt by all of you and with the togetherness in the end shall bind each of you in the batch into an unfathomable bonding of oneness and brotherhood. The affection manifested during this period of suffering shall give birth to an everlasting unity and joy. On the other hand one who beleaguered the most among us shall become the closest among rest of us. If you assess yourselves, the change in each one of you from the time you joined in here till now, it will be evident to you. This is the period which reorganizes the less smart to become smart as others and the over smart gets mellowed down into rationally smart. The slowest is energized to compete with the fastest and the fastest is morally inspired to bring along the one’s lagging behind.”
That evening started in a usual manner, sluggishly in wait of another punitive night. But in two shakes after the evening tea all of a sudden there was a go on the rampage. It was like a let loose to all the gorillas in one fell swoop.
Me and Sashidahar, one of my batch mates who were coincidentally in the toilette sensed something was wrong and decided to remain in the cubbyhole. The stinking toilet was just the hunky-dory spot needed at that mo. We could hear flocks of gorillas going bananas into the rooms downstairs and walk off with the quarry of their liking. The spectacle looked similar to the scenes we see in the movies where jungli African aboriginals attacking encampment and taking travelers to inmate. We knew soon they will realize the duo are missing and be ferret about. The present hidey-hole can’t camouflage us for too long.
“Let’s quietly sneak out through the kitchen rear door.”
“But where to?”
“Into the big ground….”
“It’ll be too cold out there yaar!”
“Decide fast…whether you want painful rumps or try and resist the cold out there.”
There was no time to waste.
“Okay move quietly and quickly….As we enter the kitchen be normal. We walk up to the fireplace and no sooner the bulky cordon bleu moves out for something we’ll slip out through the back door.”
“And what if the bulky cook shouts to reveal our presence…”
“That juggins can be dodged out.”
Sitting at an out of harm's way distance in the dark of the desert-like ground with the thorny shrubs pinching hither and thither and tetchily cold we watched through the open windows of our hostel of the top floor the ongoing scenes of excruciating and hysterical commotion. Most of the rooms upstairs had become blast furnace.
“This is Lunacy in the wrap of ragging.”
“But I thought ragging is banned these days.”
“Yes it is. But who cares. Did you see the warden in the hostel even once in last three months time?”
“Naysay….But how long shall we be sitting here, can’t spend the whole night out here.”
“Let them get little pooped out and then we go in.”
“Shhh… Listen they are calling out our names.”
“Bull’s eye! They must be knocked for six.”
“…Must have realized now we are missing in the crowd and wondering where we must have disappeared.”
“Let them also run the gauntlet of panic. Let them have some taste of agony too.”
“Hey look out, Two three of them heading this side with torch light. Run-run”
“Reach the breach at the wall. We’ll think of the next later.”
When luck decides to play hide and seek with you, you can’t play the same with other for long. We were just about to tiptoe meandering through the breach and on the other side Nareshda and Habiburda were standing to go by.
Naresh Chandra Bala and Habibur Rahman, the duos stayed in Room No. 1 downstairs. Nareshda was very dark and hulking while Habiburda was lean and thin. Both of them were in the final years. Just a couple of days back while Nareshda was catnapping in his room in the afternoon, Dipokda and few other seniors had quietly entered his room. They gently lifted his loongi to his waist, put a candle between…and……The hot wax melted and dripped onto his rumps…and what a mêlée.
“Aye you! Boys what are you twosome doing here?”
“We were feeling very hungry….so we thought of going to Sudheerda’s hotel to eat something.”
“At this hour going alone?”
“Come with us…no need to go that far. Buy something to eat from a nearby shop.”
“…Biscuit? How much is it?”
“Oh crap! I’ve not brought my wallet.”
“Dumbo duo! Both of you have come outside to eat without money? I’ll pay now, but pay me back later.”
Both walked back on the slender pedestrian alleyway quietly and nervous. Dreadful thoughts surrounded both of us. The penalty for attempting to venture out alone at night will not be anything less and on top of that to keep the gorillas panic stricken for the missing inmates for such a long will be additional.
“Do you people often venture out alone likewise?”
“No dada, this is the first time.”
“Did you speak to anyone your seniors about coming out?”
“No dada….Actually…Actually we were trying to evade from getting ragged and walloping.” We narrated the whole shebang. Both of them laughed.
“Now what? We’ve caught you.”
“…Can’t think of anything dada.”
“Okay, when we enter the hostel if someone asks, say we had taken you. Rest we’ll talk to them.”
“Thank you dada.”
“…But for rest of the night, tonight you have to be by the same token as others. Don’t run from it, face it together with others. Something far-fetched and momentous is waiting for you all tomorrow.”
The tempest in a teapot continued the whole night. We were kept bright-eyed and bushy-tailed throughout the night and so were the seniors with their wits about them too. We are gradually brought into one from different rooms. At the crack of dawn when the first cockcrow was heard all the seniors looked at our face with a smile.
“Okay let’s go for a morning walk. We shall see the sun rising from behind the lake of Kiskinda.”
We were fatigued but all of us had a life yet living within. In the pro tem break of dinner last night when my mates had asked me I consoled them of the possibly last phase before D-Day. With the advent of the natural gleam making the panorama visible finally it was let the cat out of the bag.
“Bow down to the soil and pray to the Sun. You all are going to start a new eon from hence.”
“You all shall be one of us from today.”
“Wash your face from the water of the Kiskinda Lake. Sanctify yourselves from the angst, anger and hatred against anyone of us.”
“You all are welcome to our world.”
“We shall give you a treat of freshness. Today is the Fresher’s Day, a day of freshness, inseparable bonding and sorority of all of you with each one of us.”
The words left us all to tears. We cried like never before and like small children. All of them hugged us warmly one by one, wiped the rolling tears and patted on our back.
“The custom of crying and consoling is now being handed over to you. Here we all cry our heart twice; first on the dawn of our fresher’s meet and last on the dusk of our farewell assemblage.”
And thus, “Yet another Beginning….”