Monday, October 02, 2017

Hey Ram: Die for a few moments

Hey Ram! Probably the most prolific death sentence that has reverberated in this part of the world. I believe, the man was shot and thus his fame shot up multiple times than other wise how he and his death would have been celebrated. He was a memorable personality, nonetheless. For me, he made some things really fashionable. Like khadi wear, walking stick, slow walk with ladies and long walks for anything worth its salt! In fact, now that I realize, he made ‘walking’ cool ! May be, that is why we had Mile Race as a competition among other events during Gandhi Jayanti celebrations in my boarding school.

The only two personalities whose birthdays were celebrated as a full day affair were Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. In fact, Teachers’ Day activities were a pretty close translation to Hey Ram. There would be orgasmic raptures of OMG most of the day, from all corners. Hence, it needs a much longer illustration. May be, some other time.

October had arrived, monsoons had left. October, I think, was the best month of the year. It had 2nd Oct, mostly Diwali holiday, Sports Day and Annual Fancy Fair. Early mornings of October has the tender chilly breeze and a replay of the same chill as the sun would set around 1730 hrs, every evening. Between 1030 hrs & 1730 hrs, it would be a beautiful day. Bright sunshine, green sceneries after a good showering monsoon was getting greener with lusty leaves. Even locals would start taking out their light warm clothes. It would get cozier by the day. Gandhi Jayanti would be celebrated in The Valley, the congregation point for most school events. And every section of the school had their own motive of such celebrations. Teachers had to impress the Principal. Principal had to impress his/her spouse. Spouse had to impress a visiting relative. Junior school kids had to impress their teachers. Boys had to impress the fairies who would descend from Girls School slopes onto the green field. Am sure, some girls had someone to impress too. Though, most of them looked pretty oblivious to any male species around. Except, perhaps, an exceptional good looking male teacher.

Central aggregation of 2nd Oct celebrations was the music competition between schools. Well, it wasn’t exactly a competition. But somehow, became one. For the entire decade that I was there, we would sing the same song, music for which was arranged by the same music teacher, sitting at the very same spot, year after year. And yet, once it was over, people would debate, if “Hari Tum Haro” by Junior School, “Lead Kindly Light” by Girls School or “Ekla Cholo Re” by Boys School was better than the other two.

The high point of the 3 hr-or-so celebrations, before all left for their respective schools for a special lunch, was The Mile Race. It was 8 rounds to run of the 200 metres, 8-track running track that was freshly carved by Calcium Hydroxide (Chuna) just before Sports Day that would arriving around the second Saturday of October, every year. Serious athletes had been practicing for it for over a month, if not more. They were the “long distance runners”. Then, there were the “long-distance lovers”. They would just look at girls and think for the entire those 3 hrs. In this time, they would have imagined a whole life with his imaginary girlfriend, depending on which girl threw even a half glance at him. And then, there were the “smart joggers”. They would participate in the Mile Race, not to win or lose. In fact, their motive was not even to complete the race. They would jog well & easy, ensuring most girls, if not all, gave them a half glance. Finally, after the 3rd or 4th round, they would suddenly develop a sprain, right below the stands where the girls would be sitting and cheering. And from thereon, would spend the entire time mending their sprained heart, oops, ankle, knee or whatever they could hold first, when the girls school teacher would approach to check on him. Everyone knew what are they upto. Everyone had a good laugh. Except, the jogger. He just had a smile on his face. For the entire day. Make that for the entire week. Till Sports Day arrived. When he would exchange glances again with the girl who laughed the least and smiled the most. And the jogger would sigh, “Hey Ram”. And fall in love & die. For a few moments. Just as Gulzar Saaheb has said, "jo nahi kiya, kar ke dekhna; saans rok ke mar ke dekhna" . :-) 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sunday Love Story of Jharipani

Sunday was the day when a make belief world would be created in junior school when prisoners would role-play as free civilians. So much so, that some prisoners were actually allowed to walk out of the oh-so-feared wooden gates! Those lucky few were boys & girls who had an elder sister in senior girls’ school. Fortunately, I was one of them. So, I had the first-hand experience of stepping out of those high-teethed olive-green gates & stroll down the slopes of the road to a much better green valley, then again rally up a steep rise and walk into senior girls’ school campus. Those 40 minutes or so, spent with your sister were some really sweet and happy times, initially. As you moved to higher classes and hence were in senior boys’ school, you were not sure how much time would you actually get to talk to your sister, about each other. You were the postman, delivering & exchanging messages, letters, small gifts & sometimes, farewell speeches of the eternal lovers of our times. Not that we didn’t like it, frankly. For those couple of hours, when one lover is prepping you, was almost like making a movie. There was an idea. There was a script, some very racy, lucid, romantic, funny and sometimes, sad dialogues. There were real & imaginary characters (mostly competition to the lover). Sometimes, a situation was of an upcoming social event and hence a possibility to see each other. These meetings were really special since conversations would mostly be in quick sign language. Some special glances would keep the fire burning till the next such school gathering. The more daring lovers would meet in the school hospital. The conversation still was in sign language but a little more spaced out.

Anyhow, back in senior girls’ school playing field, while visiting your sister, you were treated a lot differently, when you came as a little sweet innocent kid from junior school, against how you would be scrutinized and scanned with piercing eyes of the teacher on duty, when you visited from senior boys’ school. Naturally so. And at that time, we really believed, we were the smartest and could actually fool the teachers, every time. Now that I look back and think, the teachers actually created those “loose moments” when something had to happen. They would look at you, your movements and then move out of sight and back in sight again just for those right few moments so that you can hand over the “stuff” to your sister and she could hide them in her book, sleeves or under the long pullover she wore today specifically for this job. Even the day of Rakhi wasn’t spared! Boys would smuggle gifts for love birds in the garb of Rakhi gifts for sisters. I think some sisters would be really jealous of some of these girls receiving these gifts. In fact, am sure, some sisters would be receiving such gifts through another brother! Who knows. The bro-code was to never spill the beans, lady finger or curd!!

Sunday of course, was also the day of other kinds of freedom. We had ‘late rising’, no morning prep-time, a much easier breakfast menu and an entire day of binge TV watching, including the national news for deaf & dumb, in between the regional movie. In junior school, kids were sent to their dormitories for Sunday siesta! That was magical. Most would sleep, some were lucky enough to get hold of some comics to read and there were some not so lucky ones who were listed to have a haircut. As it is, the hair cut was a problem. To top it, not being able to clean your head and clothes after the haircut would mean itching across your back of the head, shoulders & back etc, the entire evening and night. 

In senior school, one could not get a bed for a siesta. Some boys would find pretty soft, cozy and shady (I only mean tree shade!!) places to have a nap. Seniors would be in a much-relaxed mood but still dangerous, the not-so-junior classes would be planning how to screw lives of juniors. And juniors would be, well, preparing for their lives to get screwed. Sunday, though was special for a rare lot of eternal lovers and their 'innocent' delivery boys who were ready to script the best ever love story in Mussoorie Hills.



Saturday, July 22, 2017

New World in Old Globe

Going to Senior Boys School was a known surprise and an unknown certainty. We all knew what’s coming. As young boys we had heard of stories beyond that 2 ½ feet wooden gate that gave us an excitement that was deliciously dreadful. We would be giving up sections of the class and would be a single class called Cl VI. But there would be new gangs. We would be pitted agaisnt eachother in different houses. We would be favored as a ‘chic’ by seniors and hated just for the same reason by classmates and some seniors. We would be divided as junior section and senior section. And ofcourse, the talented and the not so athletic. But our first brush of division in affection would be in Junior School as Section A and Section B. Who had the better class teacher? The topper of which section got higher marks in tests and exams? Which section had more participants in school events? Which section won more awards? Which section had the ‘superstar’ of the entire class? And finally, which section finally had the boy & girl who became the Captain of Junior School? All these subtle, but strong mental and sometimes obvious comparisons, starting from Cl III to Cl V, made it a fiesty competition. We hardly saw each other eye to eye, shook hands or exchanged too many pleasantries.  And hence, no class had ever swapped their boys & girls.

In 1988, when we were in Cl V, something happened, and a day came when two students had to swap sections. A boy had to move from Section A to Section B and vice versa. This was the most devastating news ever. Section A didn’t want to let go of anyone. Section B wasn’t ready to accept anyone and vice versa. Battle lines had already been drawn. War cries had been shouted. Any such move was simply, mayhem. And yet, no one dare challenge the decision of ‘Big Maam’.

The unfortunate boys chosen for this historic move were Ajitesh Das moving from Section A to B and Ashutosh Kumar was to move from Section B to A. Das (and later Mowgli) as he was called by all, was a star in his own right. He was a very good musician. He could sing well, used to play table, was a gifted football player (as most bengalis are) and to top it all, was a notoriously charming young boy, with very, very innocent looks. Ashutosh Kumar on the other hand, was a notoriosuly innocent boy since he was at the helm of most mischiefs but had never been caught red handed. He was very intelligent and good at academics. Unknowingly, as fate would have it, they were in the middle of this fire (there is yet another ‘fire story‘ around Das. And an expectedly wickedly inncoent story around Ashutosh. For later, perhaps). There were speculations doing the rounds of who could be swapped. On the day it was announced, it was a complete disaster. There were open howling sessions and quiet whining time outs. There were heated talks and consoling dialogues the rest of the day.

But what we realized later in life was, in all of this, the entire two sections were together. They were in sync to what was being discussed & planned in their own sections. The only two boys who were all alone in that storm were Das & Ashutosh. Now, they were in their new sections, but not of their sections. Psychologically, there were still sitting at their old desks, with their old partner, wanting to share the next idea. But physically, there were now sitting with a new partner, unable to even ask for a pencil sharpener. For a 10-yr old kid, this would have been really unnerving. We didn’t realise it then. But we got a feel of it later and understand it now, I think. Or atleast, we acknowledge it now. I can only assume, what all would be going through their minds and hearts. They were aliens in a known arena; they literally were ‘behind enemy lines’. Two 10-yr old boys, far away from home, their parents and now distanced from their friends too. Out in the cold, literally in the hills of Mussoorie. What courage, what grit & what attitude exemplified by these boys! I salute them. It took days for the others to digest the fact and accept these young boys into their groups. But am sure, it took months for these boys to finally get to terms to reality. Whenever, I am reminded of this event, I am simply amazed at how disturbed these young boys would be during those times. They went silent and yet carried on, trying to adjust to their new world in the same old globe. Thank you boys, for giving us the lesson of a lifetime, while still being foes in a friendly setting. We never failed to stay friends, forever. 

The icing on the cake though, was the prized tight hug & kiss from Mrs. Sethi aka Ms. Sahani received by Ajitesh Das. We are still jealous of him.