Random memories of those who are unlikely to read this blog ever
All memories are random, after all. Streams of consciousness, as defined in literature, jump courses unpredictably in their respective paths. Professional authors give them a semblance of sanity (that makes them authors) that is absent in the patterns of thoughts of the lay public. (Does the human race appear very sane to you?) The long and short paragraphs below are keyed on the convenient board without malice aforethought or editing afterwards. I do dare to attempt that at the risk of possible ostracism, for I know at the back of my mind that no one would read this ever. Please bear with me if someone does.
It is easy for my classmates to remember which year they went to what class: the last digit of each Christian year stood for our class. Class V in 1955, VI in 1956, and so on, to XI in 1961. The Higher Secondary Board examination, obviously, was in 1962. When the session got changed from January-December to April-March, the compliance was disturbed a bit, but a three-month-overlap didn’t matter much. So, I had joined class VII of HCS in 1957, albeit deep into February. No vacancy was announced for class VII to begin with. Later, with some boys taking transfer and yet others whose parents were transferred in, the school decided to hold an admission test. That was the loophole that I got in through, despite my father being employed in a private enterprise.
Class VII was housed then in the biggish room on the ground floor of the old building – the first to your left as you entered the corridor. Jagadindra-babu, the drill teacher who also taught history to our class that year, was temporarily assigned, for the regular class teacher (I forget who) had gone to do his BT (Bachelor of Teaching) that was then made compulsory for those who had aspirations of moving to higher stations in the school hierarchy and, perhaps, stepping in to better grade and scale. The other teachers, to the best of my recollection, were Amarendra Sen (assistant HM) – English – who was biding his time for an already announced transfer, Śaśadhar Biśwās – Chemistry in the higher classes – who later stepped into Amarendra-babu’s shoes, bāngāl-accented Sudhir-babu – Maths, grey-eyed Bhupeś-babu – Bengali, dyspeptic Niśikānta Chakrabarti – Samskŗta and Bangla, also bāngāl-accented Śrimanta-babu – Bengali(?), Śānti-babu – drawing – later replaced by Śailen-babu, who, we had heard, was involved in the making of dheuyer pare dheu, an avant garde film that was never shown in Rupāli or Kairi, the only two movie halls in Chinsurah then, or in any other hall in the district. Asit-babu, Nemāi-babu – Maths, and Sukumār-babu – English – had joined somewhat later. I have mentioned Mr. PK Sen before; he was always impeccably dressed and taught English in higher classes. Mr. Keśav Bhattachārya – Maths again – replaced him when PKS was transferred to Kolkata. Amŗta-babu too I did mention in the passing but cannot remember what he taught us (was it Geography?). I know I have missed out several names through lapse of memory; no disrespect intended though. But, then, this is not a compendium of names but, presently, the flow of a stream of consciousness in no particular order.
Śyāmal Ghosh Dastidār was the undisputed scholar, ceding the first place only when Rāmprasād Sen joined the school (in class IX?) for a short while, and always bagged the prize for hundred percent attendance too. Alak Mallik, with whom I became thick after a while, always knew more than the others about contemporary affairs and had taught me quite a few fruity but useful English words relating to body parts and bodily acts. Pānchugopāl Ādhya, the class artist, had built a full size Sarasvatī image with some help from Śānti-babu before I had joined. The image was preserved for posterity (at least till we left school) in the common room. The common room was rarely used by us as such; it was where Sarasvati puja or the exhibition on that occasion was held each year.
There was a drill room — next to the staff common room where Sukul’s assistant (Mahendra?) used to brew tea for the teachers on an electric stove powered straight from a light socket — where a couple of dusty mattresses, prickly coconut fibres protruding like needles through the heavy cloth-cover, were permanently laid out for drill (officially Physical Training already) lessons from Jagadindra-babu. While many others were quite adept at peacock, handstands, headstands and other esoteric excercises, the teacher-in-charge grudgingly game me pass marks for tumbling (digbāji) to save me from shame, I suppose.
Śankar and his cousin Aśru took tuition from Niśikanta-pandit who thought that chastising his two wayward charges publicly in the class was part of his tutoring duty. I remember one day, shortly after joining the school, when he beat up Aśru mercilessly for a minor misdemeanour; Aśru, I think, couldn’t attend school for the next couple of days. Aśok (Jhantu) Ghosh, well built and advanced in bodily prowess, was the school fast bowler and full-back; he could take fiercer beatings from stronger teachers and never miss a laugh. The last that I saw Jhantu was way back in 1993, just before I was transferred by my lords and masters to Kolkata. Kanak Saha, despite his ultra-thick glasses, was the school wicket-keeper, quite proficient, but no long chalk on Jhantu in athletic reputation. Raghunāth (Raghu), Satyabrata (Satu) and Indrajit were regarded as bad boys but they were my friends all the same. I picked up Raghu’s trail years later when the bank he worked for posted him to the branch where I held an account.