Social interactions are often guided by who we are, and what we were as we grew up or live in. Includes people around us, the environment and what now. Maybe an anthropologist or a person versed with society and behaviour might be an expert to reason out our memories of stupidities in past or present. Likewise, I do have a memory without being much description of my analysis of myself and the people involved in it. One of them was when I got versed with how simple gender-based fights can become. But to the ground zero, I still feel that we had such fights because we already took the fact to take the opposite gender to be equal human, I mean as an equal classmate to be precise. At least when I think of different Army Public Schools, I studied in, I found gender equality to be a very small thing to bother of compared to who gets water from the water cooler. There was no question of gender sensitisation in our class as the very base of our fights never took any discrimination into account. I guess that comes up as we grow up among elders, not among classmates. Still, as usual, I got no expert views on my days in school or school in present days. So here is one of my memories of predictably unpredictable turn of events related to fights we had among girls and boys in school.
I still remember it started from class 2 that I am a deep devotee of this Girls versus Boys fight. It was such that we used to cross our fingers before accepting or giving things to a girl. I always did fingers crossed when I was either borrowing or taking something else giving or lending something. Sometimes it went to extent of dropping the pencil or eraser once to the floor and touching it with shoes once and then cleaning dust with hands, fingers crossed and then finally using it normally. Be it the thing that due to dropping from a height, the fragile pencil lead often breaks. Now being nostalgic, I feel relieved that we never used pen then else that will not exist even for a second would have been always a different matter, but our dresses getting a permanent dye resulting in great applauses by sticks and hands of our moms at homes would have been the first matter.
When I got promoted to class four after the March Annual Exam Results, my father was transferred to Sukna in Siliguri, from Barrackpore we shifted with him. I was in a completely new environment with completely different minds. Still, I was no different. I was still a strong warrior from the Boys army, still maintaining that versus fight. It was in May 2006, my parents decided finally do my Sulakaran, which is the ceremonial cutting of hair of the male child by a Brahmin or the Hindu Priest, usually done once in a lifetime before the child goes to school but due to some inability, it was not possible in my case. That too after so many years of missed schedules or no auspicious dates on the set period of time when my father was able to take leave. I already started my schooling in the new school, so had to miss my classes in between before the summer break to have the ceremony on the decided auspicious date.
We had to leave for our village on May 2nd and my Sulakaran was to be held on May 8. Therefore, it was our just 2 weeks of stay in Sukna, and it was the 2nd day, I met my rival in academics and so-called boys versus girls fight, her name was Rupshah. Until class 10, I had a very dangerous instinct, to search for a rival in Academics and the co-curricular activities I am interested in the most. After my search was successful, I used to compete with that person without letting the person know. Doing better than my rival for long meant two things for me, one was to search for another more potential candidate for my rival tag and the other was to enjoy that and help my rival do better in the field where the person is my rival. Therefore, in meantime, I would finally end up becoming good friends with that person, without my knowledge. If your rival becomes your role model too, then the person would surely become your best friend. I felt this in class 10, so finally decided to stop the habit of mine of making rivals and compete with them.
Coming back to the Sukna story, I could do two more classes before May 2. On the last day of my school before leaving for the village, we decided to go to the Shopping Complex near our home in the evening. The shopping complexes in every cantonment are worth visiting. The visit is in no way near to visit of any Multiplex Malls. There might not be shops compared to the multiplexes but the joy in the park, greenery near shops and the friendly storeowners owning shops of various kinds, be it tailor shop, the restaurant, or the shops appealing you to buy ethnic or designer items. All make you jolly. And finally, there is a store selling different fast foods, chocolates or ice cream to relish are the treasure islands, with a difference that you get the treasure when your parents lighten their purses or wallets.
That evening after lunch and roaming around the Complex, we finally ended up in the Ice Cream shop. Dad went to the ATM nearby probably had a small queue and Mom was waiting outside watching both of us, who comes out first would wait for the latter. In the shop, I met with Rupshah. She was with her father, probably also had evening recreation like us. On watching her, I became numb. I did not know then how to react or interact or so and start or proceed with the conversation with a classmate outside school or a girl in or outside the school. Probably God kept more dangerous thing for me. I actually tried to hide my face to see what the ice cream options available were. I did find some different ice cream options, but I already decided then and I know it now too, that my all-time favourite is Choco bar. I was about to move my face to Mom, in order to pretend to ask, what will I take for me, when Rupshah called my name and went further by saying, “Hi! How are you? It’s good to see you again.”
I was dumbstruck having no idea of what to reply. All the emotions of fear, shyness, embarrassment, numbness, silly mind and most of all great belief of Girls versus Boys fight came to my mind. I started ignoring what she was speaking; I even did not give a glance at her face. Probably she thought I did not hear so she repeated her words of greeting. I still gave no heed to her and was about to move face to the shopkeeper, asking if I could open the refrigerator top panel, but I got the nod before I could ask. The shopkeeper gave a nod to both of us and I was a bit further than Rupshah from the panel handle. She was still speaking but I was Dumb, no words at all. Her father was witnessing her and me, so were my parents. My father came from ATM and was with mom, so both might have watched my actions from far. For God’s sake they did not come near, a thing I still thank God for saving me that day. Else, I would have struck in Natural Disaster of Anger wrath of both Mom and Dad. She finally while opening the panel asked me what will I take.
“I like Choco bar, you?”
“I like Vanilla Ice Cream with Strawberry Flavour”
“Great!” said I as I moved towards her, then I faced towards shopkeeper, “Uncle How Much?”
“Do you know him?” asked Rupshah’s before me, enough that it is audible to me. He had a bit anger look on his face.
We bought our Ice creams and said bye to each other though mine was cold and numb. As we were coming out, I saw a bit of unfriendly look on my parents. As I moved my head, I could see Rupshah being scolded in a low tone by her father. Why should not he do so? It was so rude of me not to reply the whole time and her foolishly going on with the conversation, not sensing how rude I was at that time. However, I am a weird Psychopath so I thought, I know that I am not rude but my confused mind and numbed body, and under certain circumstances, I make myself knowingly but uncontrollably appear fully arrogant, rude and unsocial. Unfortunate and foolish me!
Outside, the devil of misfortune was awaiting me. I had my mom and dad ready to thrash me up if I was at the home, but fortunately, we were outside the home, surrounded by people who came for evening recreation to the place of eternity. Dim lights around the road and pavements in the park. Heart touchingly joyous music played at audible enough volume from the speakers present at every street light post. Small children are so jolly at music that they dance at times in the mid of the road, convinced that they can dance there without honks or bell trrings, thanks to no cycle or motor vehicle signboard at the entrance gate of the shopping complex. All of them made my mom speak just four words,
“Do you know her?”
“Yes, she is my classmate. I met her yesterday only. She is Rupshah. I heard she is good in studies, but you know, boys in our class are much better in studies, even in co-curri……..”
“Why didn’t you respond to her when she was calling you? Are you dumb or you’re a king that you just don’t want to speak to anyone you don’t like to at any moment of time!”
I was speechless. Could not think of anything to reply to.
“No. He is almighty. He will speak only when he thinks the person has prayed enough to make him speak so. He thinks his voice is divine. It is useless for you to scold him or ask him questions here. He needs some special attention at home.”
I clearly understood what dad meant, but did not say anything in fear that my speaking now may worsen the matter. My ice cream was melting faster but I could not gather enough courage to have it. Nevertheless, shameless me, in few minutes of walking home I started having it.
“There’s a shameless boy in this world who deserves punishment. No manners and politeness.”
“I was feeling a bit thirsty.”
“Now you can answer. Why don’t you when you’re before classmates?”
We finally reached home. I felt we reached too early. I wanted to spend completely, the evening there, on way and reach home in the middle of the night, but then I felt, we reached early. It often happens when you know something unpleasant will happen to you on reaching someplace and you have to reach that destination. At home began all punishments, sandals are the best weapon of moms and dads are great with giving a good amount of gift from hand and finally, there was scolding till we reached our village for my Sulakaran. I forgot the incident a bit for I can remember the pain all over my body for a few days, thanks to collective massage that causes green spots at times, prevailing for two or three days.
The whole incident went like forgotten memory as I paid my loan as getting punishments with compound interest every hour like hell. Probably a different hell, where there are sufferings due to scolding and pulling of legs. After Summer Break, I started attending school regularly. We both forgot about the incident. My friends, namely Swarnesh, Vivek and Rupshah, helped me in coping up with my course and classes; I missed during my absence and before admission. Nevertheless, we four were new admissions, who took admission that year, but we helped each other. So in due course of time, we became good friends. I still think now, how they managed a Psychopath in the group, who used to be busy infighting and unknowingly being weird.
The whole year went by. We helped each other in our studies. Even in the year itself, when one misses the class, there was other three ready with notes of different subject and with explanations of chapters taught in class. Nevertheless, we were promoted to class five, there was reshuffling and all of us except Rupshah were in the same section. We three got closer, and some new entries came into our group and we started becoming playmates. Finally, in August, I saw Rupshah with her mom coming to our class teacher while she was teaching in our section, for a signature, as she was leaving next week. I felt bad that we were good friends once, but the same system that teaches us to make new friends, get accustomed to new people, becoming friendlier to them, was responsible for separating best friends. I learnt a lesson that no one except your root, means your parents are your best friends. They will never never leave your side until deathbed.
A year more passed. In class six, I met more people that are new to me. Became friends, but the rest three of us were in the same section, like in class five. Like tradition, new best friends made. Old ones who went to different sections either became good friends or stayed only as friends whom we may meet once in a week or even less. We gave annuals, helping each other. My Father was posted again to Lucknow, so I left that school, some of the traditions but carried new thinking and blended mindset and memories with me to the new school. I took admission there is a new school to get again, new people and new minds with varied mindsets following a tradition unique to that school.
In my then so-called new school had a music teacher whom we loved to call Black Bear for his Beard and his habit of being too jolly, so acting like bit dancing which was our one of the biggest source of laughter and entertainment in the morning assembly. Though we had music classes, we had hobby classes too, where we had to choose one among Art, Modern and Traditional Craft, Indian Music, Western Music, Sports and lots more. There was again a new fight, making me joyous again. Boys versus Girls fight! We used to compete with each other, though it was not unhealthy and unsocial like before. I especially competed with others in academics, art and craft. One day when I was returning from Music Class, which was just before recess, I heard a familiar voice calling me by name and the same words of politeness in greeting that made me turn around at once.
“It’s nice to see you again Rupshah. I never in my wildest dreams thought of this coincidence. How are you?”
“I’m pretty fine. Even I was shocked with this coincidence though it’s a shock for seeing well.”
We talked with each other and lost track of time, standing in the same place and sharing about our experiences after class four or sometimes recollecting my mischiefs in class, for I was quite mischievous. Fortunately, it was hobby class after recess and we had to come to that building complex for the classes, which had different rooms for each hobby class. We finally bade each other goodbye to reach our hobby class.
After that day, we often used to meet for sharing our notes and to talk about what happened all along or so. Unfortunately, being a newly admitted student, I was a victim of bully and made fun of almost every day. I had many temporary friends, probably so because I do not have the ability to speak directly to a new person. However, I never had someone in that school to call an a best friend. Now I had one old friend who too was famous for unusually silent, unsocial and bookworm. Unfortunately, society is an expert at making fun of constructive hard work. My classmates called me rude, unsocial, mischievous, and at last arrogant for I did not have many friends. Like before, being still a bit of a devotee of the Girls versus Boys fight, I was no way easy and friendly to Girls; moreover go numb when I was asked about something. I still have the habit of competing and sometimes that Competition was productive too. In the meantime, I attained few debating skills. I started practising against Rupshah. We used to meet often and debate on random topics and chose a topic for next time. It was so that out of my surprise, I got selected for representing my section in the Interclass debate competition. There were two contestants per section of each class. Rupshah was a classy one in the debate so her selection was for sure.
Finally, it was the competition day on Saturday; we had a great competition among all the participants. We had very fierce but interesting competition among us. I never took in any debate competition before because I never got selected to represent my class or section. For the first time then, I got to know that I love Debate competition. In addition, the fire of the Girls versus Boys fight was so high in me that I thought to use it at the best at the competition. We did our best while complementing each other. Finally, school ended that day after the competition. The results were to be announced on Monday. As I went to the gate for the boarding bus, I saw my Father waiting outside to pick me up. He was quite excited that for the first time I took part in Debate and selected to represent my section. I was too. Nevertheless, outside school, I saw Rupshah’s Father pick her up and our parents were near to each other. They might have seen each other before too in Sukna but probably they never knew each other. As we grow up, we start making boundaries around us demarking our comfort zone, reluctant to meet new people just like that, without any reason. We introduced each other to our parents while saying that we were classmates too in Sukna. Probably it was a big mistake of ours. Rupshah’s father recognised me and my father recognised her, though faintly earlier but later sharply when we uttered the word Sukna. The faces of our parents changed. We moved our homes. The same compound interest payment of scolding me as rude and unsocial began at my home. Now there was a bit of pulling legs too and a bit of praise too in the blend, as my father saw me being social with my classmate outside, though with one person.
We met again next Monday as usual for sharing notes, but she was changed. She said that she would not speak any to me anymore. In the morning assembly, debate results were announced, as usual, she got what she deserved. She ranked 1st among the class six to eight group. Out of Surprise, I was third, though still think how I got. I was happy at my achievement, in a completely new arena, where I never tried to take part in any competition or even know that I was interested in that activity. Still, till-date I remember one sentence she said, “My parents said me not to speak to a rude and unsocial person”.