I cannot sing the old songs
I sang long years ago,
For heart and voice would fail me,
And foolish tears would flow.
Jawahar and I are of the same age, its first bricks were laid in 1983, the same year I was born. But we met each other after thirteen years. In 1996, I first stepped into Jawahar, the large, polite gates along with the Ashoka trees, so large still so unassuming were there to welcome me.
My first encounter with B.N Trishal was an unforgetful event. In that sense every encounter is still afresh in my memory, rumor say that he was a retired army colonel, who was a part of the 1971 war, a synonym of terror.
As soon as I entered his room he looked at me and said “Why are your hairs so long?” Now how often have you met a person who meets you for the first time and says something obnoxious like this? Since he wasn’t expecting any answer from me, I didn’t disappoint him. (Sir, my barber was busy cutting your hair, that’s why he couldn’t cut mine). After asking the general pre-admission questions, he asked me to come out with a poem. A poem!! Man!!!(Goose pimples, all over my body). Frankly speaking, I was never a Student of English literature, as a matter of fact I never considered myself as a Student. Asking me to recite a poem, that too without having a poetry book in my hand, was as same as asking a man who is not also blind, but deaf, and one who has lost his sense of direction to cross the Pune-Mumbai Express highway.
The outcome in this kind of scenario can only be two. Either you stay at your end of the road, or you decide to cross the road and replace the existing phrase ‘Why did the Chicken crossed the road’ with a more appropriate ‘Why did that idiot crossed the road’? The gut instinct inside me said that its better to cross the road now, or be ready to face God knows what. So with all the mixing and churning of various English words that I could do, I managed to come out with a poem, not a long one, perhaps of 2-3 lines.
Though Bunty found the poem to be nothing short of rubbish but still, God knows why, he gave me the admission. I was now a part of JLNS. The famous JLNS run by the even more famous B.N Trishal.
My early years in JLNS were spent in loneliness. Its not that the School was to be blamed, it’s just that when it’s not your time, it’s not your time. It was just as if my life was waiting for the chosen time to arrive. The 8th, the 9th and the 10th, passed like they should have; monotonously.
Except the day when my results were to be announced then the whole situation would change. At those times I would go into a ‘Cocoon of fear’, but somehow or the other, I lived, and transform into a full grown Moth. Another notable feature of these Three years was that I was falling in love with the same girl again and again and again without any failure.
Then came the mother of all exams, the 10th board and in a matter of days, from an Atheist I was transformed into a Chandraswami look alike. I was aware that there was a very remote possibility that I would pass, in medicals terms I was critical, on ventilator. But as an ardent follower of Humanism, who feeds on even the tiniest of hope, I clung on tightly to the last of the hope I had, and gave my exams. Math’s was my biggest tormentor, and it still is. ( Recently I had applied for a Business correspondent in one of the newspapers, and it was math’s again which robbed me of my job and I seriously think that math’s is behind the ever increasing school drop out rate in children, and something needs to be done.)
When I saw the math’s paper, a heavenly calmness covered me, I was dead, and I suddenly realized that my eyesight was fading, for I wasn’t able to see anything in the paper, only blurred images. The ‘Satanic Maths’ was all over me; here it was, again tormenting a follower of god. I knew I was going to be buried alive among the Sin, Cos and the Tans.
Anyways like after every dark night, like after every tunnel, I saw light, and I passed, or more appropriately just passed. But not before I promised myself that I would never try to even cross the path of maths. After the results were announced, I was personally called by Bunty to his room, and he gave me a pat on my back, because according to him, I was one of the students who could have destroyed the 10th result for the whole school.
Life is full of problems, you get rid of one, and the next one is standing at your gates. As soon as my relatives, of far and of near came to know that I had cleared my exams; they started showering suggestions that I should opt for the math’s stream. I was terrified to say the least, and I knew that if I opted for maths, I would be signing my own death certificate.
My Mom Oh Mom, managed to cajole me God knows how, to join math stream, and here I was, sitting in 11thB, surrounded by the maths and science geeks, with large specs. I was feeling (rightly so) that I was the odd one out, and the mathematical terms were sounding like racial abuse, which were exclusively aimed towards me.
That was my first and the last days in 11B, after that I fell ill, and wasn’t able to attend school for a whole week, and the day I recovered and went to JLNS, instead of going to 11B, I headed straight for my Vice-principals office, with a letter in my hand which read like this:
I would kindly request you to transfer my son, Abhinandan Mishra to Commerce section. I cannot discuss the reason but I can just say that it is more viable for us in the long run, if he is transferred to commerce section. Any inconvenience is regretted.
I was transferred, and as you must have guessed, the letter was not written by my mom, but by me. So here I was, sitting with the future entrepreneurs, and more importantly I was with my ladylove. (My Mom still thinks that I opted for commerce because of silly emotions, and now I think that she was so right).
I soon started ‘blossoming’, the debit and credit, the Micros and the Minis (economics, not skirts), soon found a suitable residence in my brain, and they duly purchased a right ear facing corner flat in my mind. Another thing to my liking was that being a commerce student we were not expected to study and a peculiar ‘ISI’ mark was always with us, which stated that we were the worst of all the lots. In a way we enjoyed this special status, because it gave us freedom and reduced the burden of studying day and night from our weak shoulders.
Another important common feature with all of us was that we all were stung by the ‘love bug’ and were running high temperature. But what was more soothing was that love interest (not a common girl, but different sets of would be Romeo, and different sets of would not be Juliet) of all of us were with us in the same class. That meant that we attended every lecture and would seldom miss school.
By the time 11th ended, I was a part of seven boys group, all fast friend, a friendship which continues even today, with same vigour,same purity. The seven of us were namely, Nandu (that’s me) Doga (Yogendra), Tidda (Rohit), Baniya-I (Ankit), Boddi (Saurabh), Suresh (Suyash) and Baniya-II (Kapil) and each of us had a Mrs.Doga, or a Mrs.Rohit to take care of , so in short we were a happy family.
In 11th we all had attendance in the region of 98%, and we by our deeds and misdeeds had become the darling of many a teachers. We all went to the same evening coaching classes. The time we spent in coaching were unforgetful, still can’t believe that had such a great time. We would bunk, and sit near the Upper Lake, having boiled egg, discussing our ‘matrimonial’ problems, which were always in plenty.
One day I along with Ankit decided to bunk my commerce coaching and went to the upper lake, have Bhuttas , tea and came back. But before leaving for the “Bhuttas”, evil entered my mind. We decided to call up Appan sir, our coaching teacher and threaten him, all in fun. So we went to a public booth, dialed his number, and as we had seen in the movies, with the help of handkerchief acting as our voice modulator, warned him that he was soon to be abducted.
Later when I went home, I was greeted by one tight slap. It didn’t take me much time to figure out what had happened. Apparently Appan sir had recognized my voice, and called up my home, and told them about my ‘Adventurism’, the rest they say is history. But as a true gentleman he was, he soon forgave me. Another personal achievement of some short came to me when I secured the 17th position in the class of 46.
Then came the golden period of my life, the one which Bryan Adams must have gone through which inspired him to write ‘Summer of 69’. I ‘achieved’ in every front, be it studies, cricket, school hooliganism or friendship.
I got 70% marks in the 12th boards, I represented my house in the Inter House cricket tournament and amidst flying kisses, hit a six of the last ball to win the match and also played the role of a waiter in a play, which bought me special praise from my English mame,Anita Chaturvedi. I always had very modest expectations, and all these achievements, though trifle, were very precious.
Till 11th, I was a very shy guy, with little friends, a person whose absence was rarely felt. All that changed in 12th, perhaps because it was the last year, and it bought out the best in all of us.
Four of the seven people from my group, except Kapil and Suyash ,were, what we can call ‘The Bhais’, the notorious one, people who knew the right people at the right places. So in their company, I acquired a new character, and started going through a transformation, like the one which Parker goes through in Spider man. These Bhai’s loved me, respected me, because in their eyes I was a helpless, Love sick innocent guy, with no or little vice. They would always try to instigate my classmates, by hook and mostly by crook, to associate my name with my lady love, so as to make her understand that someone was their who found her beautiful, and loved her. It’s a different thing that there were many others who regarded and saw her in the same way as I did.
Once I went out of the class to have water, and as I was late in coming back, I found the class door closed. Since it was an English period, taught by Anita Chaturvedi Madam, who regarded me as one of the Shakespeare in making, I decided to go inside. As soon as I stepped in, I was greeted by no one but ‘Her’. Apparently she was going to bring chalk or duster what ever it was, and by a sheer coincidence we found ourselves 45 cms away from each other. I kept staring at those lovely eyes, and at that time I realized why I was so madly in love with her, it was those eyes. She stated blushing, and a roar went inside the class.
During the final days of our school, I use to bring a syringe, devoid of the needle part, to school, and with that I used to spray water on anyone whom I could lay my hands to. This time Doga was caught in the line of fire, and I knew that even if I wanted I won’t be able to miss that Ox, but god knows how, that mountain moved at the last split of the second, and instead of Doga, “She” got drenched. The customary Roar again went up, much louder this time and now it was my time to blush. Many such pleasant encounters took place throughout the 12th class, all which kept "Jack" (Titanic fame) inside me alive.
Once to celebrate the Teachers day we had a Jam session where everyone from the burly ‘Gandharv to the Chutku ‘Pradeep, from the beautiful Aditi to the loquacious Aruna all danced, that too in the class, with vengaboys to do the necessary honors. Thumbs-up and Cokes were our version of the champagne, and they didn’t fail us. We seven also ‘tried’ to dance, but we were kind a tribal dancer, and soon we realized that it would be better if we don’t shake.
There were the famous kabaddi matches, in which we seven would try our strength against the guys from the math’s section. Once ‘Kabaddi in the times of the Monsoon’ was being played at full swing. We were so engrossed in our play that none of us realized when our white shirt changed color and became brown, and our trousers originally grey turned into a color which was everything but grey. We would have continued to enjoy the mud bath had not Mariamma Mame arrived and shooed us away, and soon we were running towards our classroom, 12C, where more glory awaited us. The mud dried, and it become so much a part of our body that it was useless to even try to remove or wash it. So we decided that since it was the last period, we would sit in the class, like a herd of buffaloes who just had their mud shower, with mud dripping all over.
Then there was the shirtless kabaddi, which was quite a craze among us. Once a player entered our side of line, it was just a matter of time, before he was overpowered by the burly Dogas and the Boddis. After they had played their part in pinning down the poor challenger, I would come into picture. I would sneak in between the heaps of bodies , and with the stealth of mouse would tear out the pocket or sometimes the whole shirt, and it was done so quietly that the victims was not even aware of the mishap, until his other team members would make him aware of his ‘Salman Khan’ status.
The basket ball game was a more serene affair. It was played in the most tranquil manner. The reason being that it was a Boys versus Girls’ game. The opposite team had many a players of repute like Rohini, Khusboo, Aditi and Smita. We also had players, but we had quantity, but no quality, and we always lost, and it was a loss which was thoroughly enjoyed. Still we enjoyed the game, for it gave us the much needed opportunity to make some impression on the girls; which we never did.
I have already told you about the “Roar’ syndrome that we use to suffer from. Whenever we wanted a free class, it just required one voice, and the whole class would join in the same accord. The poor teacher, who in most cases was our very own respected Dear Appan sir, was left with no choice but to succumb to the demand. Similarly we had what we use to call the “CBZphobia”. Whenever we would start feeling the heat of the lecture, or whenever we thought that we had our quota of studies, we silently would drop a steel pencil box and a water filled bottle on the ground from a height, which would make a cracker bursting like sound. This would bring a chaos in the whole class, when the teacher (which in most cases would be Appan sir, again) would ask what had happened, we would just say ‘CBZZZZZ”. The whole notion behind CBZ was that some guys came, busted crackers and fled on CBZ bikes.
One day Chandan came out with an idea that we should stage a play on the occasion of the Annual day. For that he took special permission from Bunty himself. This gave the dramatist one hour for practicing the play everyday, and that one hour was allotted in the last period and was called the “zero period’. In the beginning, no one was much keen to be a part of the play, but then the truth dawn to us that if we become a part of the play we would also be entitled to the luxuries of the zero periods. And soon we made a beelike rush for Chandan, our very honey comb. Soon each and everyone were a Nasserudin Shah and a Tom Alter in himself and herself. Due to the sheer number of the star caste, each one of us was given a theatre presence of less than 2 minutes, the 2 mins. of fame. For the sake of that couple of minutes we practiced and utilized the zero periods for more than two months.
The last year witnessed everything that one could ever imagine. Due to me our class was involved in a free for all fight with students of the dreaded MACT, who had the reputation of beating the day light crap even out of a policeman. The whole of the “attack” lasted a little more than 30 minutes, and it was six of us against [ me,Rohit,Saurabh,Sumit,Ankur Shukla( his is a different story, he was 2 years my junior still he was there with me) and Mohd.Ali ] the whole world, literally. When we decided to take on the ‘Goondas’ we were more than 150, counting my other classmates, the 11th and the 10th guys, and when we were walking the corridors of Jawahar, on our way to the battle ground, I turned back and saw that I was being followed by 150 of “faithful fighters”, but as soon as the 144 of them saw what was in store, they vanished.
Later after the mayhem they did come back and offered us words of sympathy and condolence, and according to then they had not fled, some had gone to call the police, some one had gone call to call the bigger ‘goondas’, and one of them Gandharv, was standing with the girl in question , so as to provide protection to her. (Protecting her!!! From whom? I think it was us who required the protection, and not her. (What a thing, human being!)
Those hooligans were more than 150 in numbers, and still we decided that we should stand our grounds, and we stood, till the ground was taken from us, and then we were rolling. They beat us like anything, which led the traffic on the Habibganj-Anna Nagar road to come at a standstill. Later I was told that the commuters were under the impression that an action sequence of a movie was being shot. Bollywood sure hit us hard that day.
The fight ended when the gang leader (God bless him) decided that it was enough, we had learnt our lessons. We were slaughtered because one of the boys of the math’s section had passed lewd remarks against one of our class classmate who was a girl, and this led to we taking some strict action against him, and to avenge this the math’s guy bought his brother (the gang leader) along with 150 of his pals, to teach us a lesson.
The Swan song. (7)
It was the second last day in school. Everyone was expecting something to happen, and the mantle to make that ‘expected’ happen was on us. But what? We weren’t able to come out with a novel idea, crakers bursting were a routine affair, and we already had the Jam session. Each of us wanted to do something that would make us ‘immortal’, and something which had been never attempted before
Soon I came out with an idea. Our morning assembly would be our stage. The morning assembly was a very peaceful affair. Prefects would be patrolling the assembly grounds and sniff out trouble makers, and then there was the ever present terror of Bunty itself, but we had decided, and nothing could stop us. Even not the pleading of Appan sir and Beena Mame.
The assembly started, the daily news was read, and then there was the usual singing of prayers. Then came the turn of Vice principal to say her thought of the day, and as soon as she climbed on the dais, I started coughing, behind me Rohit started coughing, behind him Chandan , and soon the whole of the boys of 12 C were coughing in union. It was like a sudden onset of ‘Whooping cough’. For a whole two minutes there was nothing but coughing, the whole population of JLNS, nearly 800 of the students and the 100 odd teachers, all were staring at us in disbelief. That was the time when ‘I became the we and we the us’.
Later we were punished, but not too fatally. Considering what we had done, we shouldn’t have been allowed to sit for our 12th exams, (How happy that would have made us, to repeat the whole 12th class again!!) but due to the efforts of Appan Sir and Beena Mame, we were safe and ‘sound’. Those were some of the moments which instill a sense of pride in me for being a part of the commerce 2001 batch.
The Graffiti campaign was a colorful affair, in which our school shirt bore the maximum brunt. This was the time when people spoke their heart out, and wrote what they would have never said by mouth. All of us still have that shirt, one of the very prized possessions that we have, and whenever I am visited by Jawahar, it’s the shirt and the slam book that are there to share my sorrow.
Soon the last day arrived and Appan sir was at his generous best, and he was ‘generously sad’. He gave us a treat of Rosagullas and Gulabjamuns, and with moist eyes he gave us a speech on how he regarded us as the favorite of all the batches that he had ever taught. And soon we all were crying, the gals, the boys, everyone. We felt like we had lost everything in matters of hours, and we cried again. Bunty too had moist eyes, can’t imagine he too becoming emotional for anyone.
It took many a days to digest the fact that we would never be sitting again in the last benches, as we used to, for the past 2 years. Or that we would never see Bunty again, or that we will never hear the peculiar ‘Dear’rrr’ from Appan Sir, or there would be no Beena Mame to advice her.
The Green Bajaj scooter of Saurabh, which was always there to take us to school, the many a ‘Bhatwalas’ who with their ‘Bhatsuars’ (the bigger version of Auto) made it sure that we were never short of attendance, the scooter stand guy, there are so many people, so many things which made Jawahar a once in a life time experience. And the memories of Jawahar regularly visit me, and take me to the place where I was once a part. I may be a Maudlin and a Mawkish, but the human emotions are the best thing the humans have, and I am glad that I have these in abundance.
It has been nearly 6 years since I was officially separated from Jawahar. Whenever I got to Bhopal, I go to JLNS. I still hear the roars of 12 C; watch the Dogas, the Mishras and the other people of my batch walking towards the water tap, playing football or the the more common ‘Round disk” with Snehal, Preeti and Yogita. There I see Bunty walking down the corridors, ‘Ghoda’ shouting, ‘Anni’ joining in and there is Appan Sir, with a register in hand entering the class to be welcomed by forty-six people shouting in one voice “Sir freeeeee………………..
“Hotho pe Dosti Ke Fasane nahi aatey
Sahil pe samadar ke khajane nahi aatey;
Udne do Parindo ko shokh hawaon main,
Laut ke fir Jawahar ke zamane nahi aatey”