This is the second of the series of posts I plan – leading upto N’s birthday.
This time last year I am at my parent’s house in Kharghuli, Guwahati. In the state of Assam in the North East corner of India. At the house my father named “Rupajali”. I grew up in this house – leaving finally at the age of 18 for my college education. Since then, I have come back sporadically, once or twice a year, staying for a few weeks at most. So this time was different – I was not a visitor, I was actually living in Guwahati.
It is a very strange feeling to go back as an adult to the place where you had mostly lived as a child/teenager. In many different ways.
As I drive from my house to my school (St. Mary’s English High School) , Ismile at the thought that once that distance had seemed so enormous. (It is only a mile). I remember walking home from school with my Best Friend Shelley when I missed the school bus – chatting happily, glaring at the boys who dared to tease us, stealing gooseberries from people’s houses.
And my school? Dear old St Mary’s English High School! The school is same as ever, with the statue of Mother Mary dominating the front. The same old green gates- jealously guarded by the Salesian sisters in their white habits. How could it have stayed so still in time, I wonder?
The school has no room to grow – surrounded as it is by a busy road and buildings on all sides, but they have managed to add a new wing I notice. We had a basketball court in our school – for some strange reason it was called “Boys Playground” – I think it was from thetime when the school was co-ed. Anyway, I always thought of the boys playground as our (mine and my close group of friends) territory. We were the active kinds in school, playing basketball, and Kho-Kho in all our free time, and boys playground was our hang-out. Oh, how I loved that place. For Gods sake, I used to sweep the entire court after a downpour so we could have a good game.
On my way into theschool, I met a few of my teachers. Of course no one recognised me, and when I introduced myself there were many exclamations of surprise. None of the teachers had changed, they hadgrown older and hadgrayhair, but apart fromthat, frozen in time it seemed. As was “Deka Sir”. Deka means “Young” in Assamese – he was ( maybe still is) one of the two male teachers in theschool. He was our favorite, and we were his. To this day, when I meet him, he remembers Kanchuki and Shelley.
The school is full of memories I have about my best friend Shelley Brahma. The sporty, tough Bodo girl who I somehow befriended in Nursery and who was my best friend till I left school. Shelley, who would do anything for me – she used to tie my shoelaces even, because “Kancha” (thats what she called me) did not know how to! She and I had the time of our lives in school I thought. We were never the rules breaking rebel kind – somehow we were very happy and content with our innumerable games, and with talking happily for hours. I still remember some of the songs she taught me – in Bodo language. Bagorumba – for one. I am sometimes amazed at how or why I still remember most of it.
I enter into the classrooms. It is the school annual exhibition today. Earnest students in immaculate uniforms explainingtheir projects to whoever passes by. I feel like I amthrown back in time to the year 1993 – my final year in school. I am the girl in the uniform, explaining to every person willing to hear how the “Observatory” works. I can see Shelley making the large dome for the observatory, heck, I can even smell the fevicol as she and I work to glue the silver aluminium foil onto thewire frame she has just made.
I go to the “Boys Playground” – disappointment – the basketball court is gone. ButI am cheered up – I can see Deka Sir there. I quietly observe him – the Girl Guildes have made a rope bridge and he is helping them demonstrate it. I get a sudden vision of all my friends hanging out under the tree – Smita, Babita, Palla Bora, Palla Bhatta, Shyla Varghese,Gurdeep Kaur. They are all there, in a circle, chatting. I cannot hear what they are talking about though.
I come back home. Longing for those simple days in school – when whether the basketball court would be dry or not was the biggest thought in my mind!