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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Revisiting the +2 years-2: Moments with brother and friends

A tale of struggling brothers

As implied before, the days in Orchid College were not that simple. My brother Indra, who had arrived to this land for education two years earlier, was in much more turbulent times then. Our father, sensing he could no longer bear the burden of higher education of all three of his sons, had made it clear that Bro should earn a living for two of us in Chitwan from the point of time I arrived there. Brother’s first job at a private school had become like the mythical fruit in the sky that would drop at its will but it was nearly impossible to pluck it. Salary was modest by the standard of those days but they would cruelly keep us waiting for the day of payment. When they paid, Bro would have eluded the shopkeeper for two weeks or so fearing that he would ask for money and stop lending us more goods. His part time tuitions were the welcome but insufficient solace. Remarkably, we never went to bed hungry but only Bro knows how hard and challenging it was to maintain that status.

Two brothers: One journey
Typically in winters, cooking would be done in the evening and over most of my first year days, Bro did it. Half of that food would remain for the following day. When I felt energetic enough I would warm that food in the morning, otherwise, the cold food was good enough. While I ate and got dressed for college, Bro would come rushing back from Birendra Campus to go to the school on time. I have fainter memories of summer time but surely we must have cooked food twice while everything else was the same. This way, my only job throughout the day over most of the first year was to study and sleep. Bro’s 18 hour-a-day rush was, I assume, the result of his determination to provide me the best circumstances for study as he had literally gambled to entertain me in a private colleges and all the hard work and investment would pay off only if I did well in studies.
Over the second year, the roles were reversed. While Bro was exhausted by the endless rush throughout the year, I had done some irrefutable progress with each terminal exams and the gains were unlikely to reverse. So I now took the responsibility of the kitchen while Bro concentrated in his endless and often futile drive to make ourselves wealthier. Things were relatively better but the third meal on a day remained always controversial. While there was no stated ban on buying and eating things like bread or biscuits, I remember instead making a mouthwatering recipe of rice (Chamal), tomato, salt and oil in the room in the afternoon when Bro was out, especially when we were staying at one Indreni Chowk.

Then we had a bicycle without the hind seat that I could not drive. Hence Bro would almost weekly take me to the Eye hospital seating in the cylindrical metallic beam for I had an apparently incurable dryness of eyes.
Two brothers: years later in less challenging times
In the first day in class 12, there prevailed a confusion. While many students were sure about which subject to study, many swung to-and-fro between Biology and Mathematics classes for many days. Convinced that it was impossible to be a doctor given the competition, I had tentatively decided to choose Maths but when I uttered this to Bro after going home, he almost shouted against the idea. It was sealed then: I had to become a doctor. He had a dream, a vision. And so had I. The subject was never discussed again. A similar incident took place almost a year later. I had completed all other papers of final exams of class 12 and only the ‘Extra Maths’ was left. There was a day break but I had become so complacent and indulgent that I wasted almost entire day chatting with a friend. When Bro came in the evening and saw my state, he became serious and said, “Who knows, you may have to pursue engineering in future if anything goes wrong with the plan to become a doctor. Why are you taking things so lightly?”
That was like falling from a roof for me. Apparently, I had not become as serious about my career. A lost minute before the exams was like lost years in future. I decided to become a serious man and planned to study as long as possible that night; overnight if possible. The moment for rest would come the following day after the exams. Sadly, I fell asleep at around 10 pm that day and all my plans were in tatters. The only relief was that, when the results were out, I had scored an impressive 80% in Mathematics even after all that negligence. May be Mathematics loved me even when I deserted it!
Having passed SLC at very young age, my brother was also in his teenage then even though it seems pretty awkward that he had so huge a responsibility at that age. I too was a teenager. For ethical and other reasons, this is probably not right time to elaborate the mischief characteristic of that age committed by any of us. Yet the troubles brought about by them were significant parts of our lives back then.

Discovery of my friends

Coming to the issue of friends, I was not exactly a model of a sociable person (that I am not till date for I neither drink alcohol, smoke cigarette, play cards nor indulge in a host of other misdeeds that are perceived as criteria for sociability). My rustic ways, unkempt hair, unclean face, shorter stature, reluctant voice and relative paucity of speech kept me secluded from most of my friends over the first half of the first year in the college. Classes were no times for making friends while I avoided Canteen for dearth of bucks. There was no space for any formal game except a TT court to which I am alien to this date. After classes I used to rush to the room on foot while most others enviably sped in their shining bicycles. A 30-45 minutes walk to-and-fro each day was thus a lonely affair. Strangely, it took me months to see Narayangarh Bazaar after my first journey in via the transit.
Yet over months the shell of seclusion around me began to thin out. Most of the friends appeared to be much more simpler than I had initially imagined. Not every one of them was the son of a wealthy father hating the rustic, ‘Pakhe’ as was the common term. Indeed there were pretty many of them from family background like my own. Even those from wealthier families were very friendly and welcoming. Some sort of bullying is always there in any educational institution but that was far benign and ineffectual than could be expected in a class with so much diversity.
Eventually, combined with this realization and my own progress in studies, I shed the last remnants of inferiority complex and alienation. That was quite gratifying because I had always found a chasm between the simple world that I had left behind and the complicated world now I was in giving rise to a kind of struggle within me. Seeing that gap closed and myself accepted as an ordinary member of this urban community was thus an accomplishment in itself. 
This convergence between the two worlds thus opened the gate for a thriving friendship though I am not sure if my friends also went through a similar process. Eventually most of the students in my section became friends and a dozen or so of them very close friends. That friendship endures till this date and shall continue to do so.
Some remarkable examples of those early days of friendship: From the Tihar in class 12, I started wearing a ‘Dhaka Topi ‘, the traditional Nepali cap. I anticipated a lot of teasing, mocking and even some bullying since that was a highly unusual dress up for people our age and it looked almost awkward with the Tie in our uniform. But the opposite happened. While many admired, others simply smiled and remained silent. Eventually, some others started wearing it. And one day, after a brief planning, every boy in our section appeared with a Dhaka Topi atop the head. Teachers were mesmerized and Kapil sir recollected it 10 years later when I visited the college few months back.
The other proof of our cool friendship was a newly discovered game. ‘Chungi’ is, ordinarily a game of kids. But somehow we started playing it at college at the Lunch break (during which none ate lunch). From passing it between two persons, it soon developed into a group game with two teams with four people each with a court and own set of rules. We even started ‘spiking’ like in Volleyball games. This too was very impressive and teachers still recollect it.
A third example of constructive and creative friendship: Suddenly there was talk of electing a ‘Kakshyapati’, the president of the class, in our circle. Everyone was instantaneously excited by the idea and more voices joined the chorus. The candidates were ready, their aides and endorsers were ready, voters were obviously ready. But there emerged the question of a trustworthy and impartial commissioner for the election. There was no other contender for this thankless job and I stepped as the commissioner. I employed some other trustworthy friends for monitoring the whole process. Few hours of preparation followed the voting. But soon after the candidate likely to loose started threatening (though in friendly terms) that he may not accept the result. I was in a dilemma and threatened to cancel the whole process by destroying the ballots unless both sides agree to accept the results. Eventually that candidate was persuaded and the vote counted. He lost as expected and went on to open a symbolic opposition party named ‘Banduk Gola Party’. The fanfare of the winning president soon moderated but the opposition started a hand written mouth piece named ‘Banduk Gola Dainik’. (I even had the last issue of that ‘Dainik’ till few years ago though it is lost now.) They used that paper to heap not-so-gentle abuses particularly at me (probably because I was never offended and often amused by that) for defeating them by conspiracy!
And finally a glitch related with friendship. Over second year, Balaram was my full time friend because we had rented a home in his house. We both went to college together in his geriatric yet flawless bicycle (Phoenix, I think) and came back together. For months before I learned independent cycling, I would rotate the piddles sitting on the driver seat while he carefully held the handle from two sides sitting in the carrier. The problem now was, somehow I caught a disease that had engulfed him: TV-watching. With busy schedule of Bro, there was no one to scold me and soon I developed a craving for TV. That was the most important reason why my study hours had drastically decreased when compared to first year. I grew lazier and more passive. The devotion of first year was lost forever.
The only solace was that, the foundations developed in the first year were so sound that there was no drastic fall in my performance. The toughest task of building confidence and conviction had been already accomplished and I only had to maintain that momentum. This was reflected in the final scores; they had decreased just by 1% in second year when compared to first year. 

(Previous: Revisiting the +2 Years; A tribute to teachers.
Next and final: Revisiting the +2 years: Lapses and accomplishments)  

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