The Torch from the Porch..

What shit! Don't tell me these puny looking, fragile, 11-year old kids are living alone, without their parents, in a crazily- disciplined hostel, run by saffron-donned monks? Seemingly yes, they are. And what's worse? Even we have lived like that in our times. Sorry, but I can digest this piece of self-rediscovery, only because I've been through it..

I visited my older school, one with the hostel, after about 5 years. 6 years after passing out, as an alumni. It was a strange feeling, as I had gone on a guardian meeting day - the only specified Sundays, when parents are allowed to see their wards. Standing on the other side of the fence, I realized how eagerly the kids on the other side were waiting to meet their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts or other local guardians. The eagerness was depressing and sad. Suman tried to steer the feeling to that of being funny, by pointing out to a weird, baby-faced, bespectacled kid , musing, 'If that kid suddenly calls you Baba! Baba!! you'll know how ND Tiwari feels off late..'

I won't lie, but whenever I see entities this fragile, I get a recurring, gut-wrenching feeling from the most elusive corners in my head. A feeling, to test the very frangibility of these entities - push them, hit them, shake them - make them shout out and explain why they exist the way they are. Explain the purpose of living in a utopia. I never figured it out myself. Perhaps the only explanation I'll get is that their parents got them to study there, they themselves don't know why.

How can someone live like this? How did we live like this, 6 years ago, 6 years of our lives. There was no cellphone, no laptops, no computer games, no whatzapp, no IM, no BBM, no TTYL, no WTF.. But we had our own fun, and most of those, collectively, made us oblivious to all those questions above.. Nicknames that only we'd know why (some totally deniable!) A football league to die for - the Rathayatra Football League. Some professors who have their own unique way of punishment - Bone Crusher, Hulk Smash, Spine Breaker - or perhaps something along the likes of our grey-haired Hindi professor Ram Lakhan Khan's slow, sing-song way of tranquilizing the impending blow on the back:

'Humare pitaji sochte hain,
ki humara beta bada hoga..
Bada ho ke Saadhu banega,
par unka beta toh chor ban raha hai!'

He might as well have said, 'Why So Serious?' before going 'KABOOM!' on our dorsum. And considering how tall and mild-mannered he otherwise looked, I won't really be surprised if he does something psychotic like that..

...

So as we stayed longer in the day, we eventually went to have the evening snacks served with tea. You know, reliving the old days, only to notice that the mighty dining hall seemed weirdly small! We sat at the faculty bench, as a few early birds stared at us through their thick glasses from the students' bench on the opposite side. The mess worker rang the bell. 'Ding-ding-ding-ding-(a prolonged continuation)-dang-dang-dang----DONG!' was exactly how it sounded.

But it used to sound different when we used to live in that hostel - the nearest room to the dining hall on the ground floor. Why? Because it was usually rung by Gago. Ga-who? Ga-GO.. Our floor warden, whom the world outside knew as a simple man with a stubble, named Gautam. I really don't know why he was known as Gago to us. But his ringing the bell differed in a way that in the end there was a sweet call - 'ding-ding-ding-ding-dang-dang-dang-DONG... Arko?'

Arka Banerjee was my roommate, and he was usually late for all kinds of meals - breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner. Arka will be about 10 minutes late and was perhaps punished for that often. So Gago, who was relatively fond of us, always gave Arka a heads up. After the lights out, at night, he'll come and check on us hoping that we're not making a ruckus. That was one of his regular duty, as on the front of our side of the hostel lived the headmaster in a secluded bungalow, meditating. Or maybe watching porn, as a few often wondered.

Every night, 15 minutes after lights out, Mugdha, residing in our neighboring room would come and recite one of his good-night jokes for us. We'd wait for the jokes, sitting inside the mosquito net. And if he forgets to do so, one of us would go and call him. One night, Gago caught us doing that. Before the ominous punishment, he was requested to let Mugdha finish his joke. Mugdha recited a joke where the protagonist (the one being joked upon) was named Gautam. It was a hilarious one and what was more hilarious was that Gago did not understand that the joke was on him.

Mugdha was let off the hook, that day. And the one who was 'hooked' was Gago. Every night he returned to our room at 10 minutes after half past ten, waiting for 'The Good Night Jokes' - yes, they were almost a brand by then. The jokes were absolutely non-sexual and the protagonist was always named Gautam. After each joke, we'd all share a laugh followed by Gago hushing us up and seeing us off to our respective beds.

One such fateful night, Mugdha managed to pull an extremely racist Sardar joke on Gago. We came out of our beds, into the corridor and were rolling on the floor laughing! Gago went into fits of laughter, as he doubled over the subsequent belly ache for laughing so hard. And then, almost all of us saw a flash in the darkness beyond the corridor at the same time. By the instant the divergent beam from the high powered, four-battery equipped army torch hit on us, we were down on all fours with only Gago in his pathological episode of laughter. The torch belonged to our headmaster, who stood there focusing his torch while standing on his porch, wearing something small and saffron next to bare minimum.

The focus was on Gago.

...

His face was still white at 9am, following day. We caught a glimpse of him standing outside the headmaster's door, waiting for his turn to be called. I remember the poor man gave us a wink as he caught us looking over at him, just before he entered the room. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the end of 'The Good-Night Jokes!'

4 comments:

  1. A thousand likes ... an excellent historical satire :) keep it up bro

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  2. Great story man! Loved it.
    Cheers!

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  3. I think I should share Mugdha's fb comment, here. What's stopping me anyways? Comments and queries are welcome!

    Mugdha: awesome dude.. RLK's sing-song blows, Sarat da's mind-numbing slaps, Manoj da's martial arts(:P), Sachin dar chuler muthhi and gatta, Sunity da's rape of the locks(:D), Pandey ji's apne-gaalon-pe-jor-se-thappad-mar-beta! - had my share of each one of them... hell, i was even the 1st one in our batch to be hit : On Day 4 of Class V, Tapan da called out "Who is Mugdha Sarkar?" in the assembly hall. I timidly went forward. "Open your glasses!" CHATAAASHH!! His huge fleshy palms connected my head's entire left hemisphere and resounded throughout the hall. I literally saw Jupiter!! And all of this because I had left my schoolbag under the stairs instead of the classroom in a hurry before assembly (some bitchy VS had complained about it). God, those were some days...

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  4. the torch light was an anathema to our beloved soubhik gupta.man hw many times was he badly screwed:P.he was headu's favourite prey.thanx vai.purane din yad a gayen.anyways keep on writing:))

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