Grasshopper Chronicle Part II Ch 4
In the New School
Father was excited to take me to the high school. Before taking to the school, he took me to Mukul darjee, tailor Mukul Sarkar. He was the most famous tailor. We bought cloth from the shop of Kamala Marwari then took the cloth to Mukul darjee. We used to call him uncle. Uncle took measures for my new set of uniform- khaki shirt and white pant, half pant that is. Much later we came to know that half pants were called shorts and full pants were actually called trousers. Father then took me to the book stall and got me the whole bundle of books and told Pradip Saha, the owner of the book stall, to keep giving me as many books as I wanted till the amount crossed rupees one hundred. I was elated, I could buy books virtually for free. But in his shop he had mostly school books, and he did not have those great books that we used to buy on the market days; those detective series, rupkatha series, the ghost stories and all.
On the first day to the high school mother instructed me before hand, ‘When you go to the new class, make sure that you sit in the front bench. Don’t be meek to settle in the back benches.’
I said, ‘Ok’ and said, ‘What if everybody’s mother gave the same instruction to their sons?’
Father took me up to the gate of the new school, Jagomohan Vidyapith High School. The biggest school in the whole of Golakganj. There were plenty of students. Many students came on bicycles. My mother put all my books in a new school bag and she slung it around my back. She also gave me a water bottle and small pack of tiffin in a plastic box. I felt great, for the first time I wore uniform, and also little afraid, I began to miss my LP school. As I was walking to the school compound, one of the teachers came out when he saw my father. He took me to the class and told me that as soon as the bell rang, I was supposed to stand in the assembly. The bell rang and we stood in groups in the assembly. Unlike our school there we sang the national anthem, Jono gana.., Before that one of the teachers said ‘sabdhan’, ‘bisram’ and all of us began to move our legs together. One teacher came and corrected us. Then we started the song. In our earlier school we used to sing bhajan like Raghupati Raghava. Here nobody sang that song. Then the Headmaster said something we could not hear. There were a lot of students, Class V to Class X. From Class VIII onwards there were girls. Once the assembly was over everybody went to the classes neatly one after another, like ducks going to a pond. But the girls did not go to their classes; they went to a room which we later came to know was called girls’ common room. There were two common rooms, one for the girls and the other for the teachers.
In the class all the students were not from our school. There were a lot of strangers in the class and we were not speaking to them. They came from various other schools. However, Manoj asked one of them, ‘From Which school are you from?’ The other boy said, ‘From Abhyashan Vidyalay.’ We were shocked to hear the name. Mahendra Basfor put his hand on his mouth and giggled. Manoj said, ‘What? Is there anything like that around here? Where is it?’ The other boy replied, ‘Inside the BTC compound.’ Manoj said, ‘Inside the BTC compound? Are there schools also, for kids inside the BTC compound? Is not it the place where teachers get training?’ The other boy proudly said, ‘Yes, ours is the school where they get special training.’ Manoj added with a lot of air, ‘I am from Chinmayee Buniyadi Vidyapith.’
We felt jealous, the other boy studied in the school where those BTC teachers must have taught them daily. They used to come to our school only once or twice a year. Jaideep, the boy from that strange sounding school, said, ‘My father is a Sanskrit teacher here.’ He was sitting on the first bench and moved a bit to allow one of us sit near him.
There were students from various other schools. Joy Kumar, Prakash, Sampat, Kishore, Kanhaiya, Rajinder and all came from the Hindi School. Till then we did not know that there was also a Hindi school around here. From the Hindi school another boy came whose name was also Manish, Manish Agarwalla. Zakir, Mansoor, Subhash, Jayanta and other came from the schools which were even beyond Golakganj, they came by boat from the other side of the river Gangadhar. There were a few students from the Bengali school, Nababharat Pathshala. After class four, they joined class five to study in this school. Manoj and Manish became friends. Joy Kumar Bothra, Kamal Jain, Prakash Sethia, Manish Agarwalla were Marwaris. Their fathers owned all the big cloth and other big shops. Once Manoj asked his friend Manish, ‘How come you are a Marwari?’ He said, ‘Why?’ Manoj said, ‘Because Agarwalla is an Assamese surname.’ Manish was little perplexed. Manoj said again, ‘Haven’t you heard the name of Jyoti Prasad Agarwalla? The great Assamese writer? For the first time I have heard that there are Marwari Agarwallas too.’ Manish reflected a bit and said nothing.
When the bell rang again, our class began – the first class in the new school. One teacher came with the attendance register. He called our names and we responded. He closed the Roll Call book and welcomed us and said that we were in a big school now and must study very hard. He said so many other such things and finally asked us to open our new book. We opened up our new book- ABCD.
Jyotirmoy Prodhani teaches at NEHU, Shillong. He has published his translations of Assamese and Rajbanshi literary writings into English. He is the translator of Sheelbhadra’s collection of short stories, Madhupur Bahudoor, published by Sahitya Akademi.