One weather that reminds me of 248152 is the mid of September/October. Not that any other day, evening or afternoon of my life does not remind me of Jharipani, but autumn is one season that is my personal favourite.
This time of the year, monsoon is stepping out of the door, leaving misty mornings and foggy evenings behind, while winter stares from a distance, waiting to pounce on you one late night, freezing all your fingertips and toes. The smell of fresh green wet moss, stuck to the oak trees or glued to the pushta bricks is still so crisp in my nostrils, I can almost feel the moistness in my palm. It’s not cold during this time. It is just about right though to keep yourself well covered if you are going to sit all day in the classroom or if it’s a Sunday, then in the common room to watch TV. On weekends, nobody cared what was coming on TV, as long as the screen was moving. If you are sitting in the classroom, pretending to study, your eyes are on the book, but your ears are in the corridor, waiting for someone to cross the classroom door, or walk in and announce something uninteresting, but just make some noise! If you are outdoors, you are a little better. The temperature is cool enough for you to not wear a half-pant but you have run enough to warm up your body. I am not sure, if we were the Wildings or Night Walkers, but the heat from our bodies hitting the cold shiver down the spine due to the cold sweat kept reminding us, ‘winter is coming’.
Early mornings gave the feeling that the world has ended, I along with the few left in Jharipani being the only ones alive on earth. One could not see anything beyond the dormitory window except mist and silence. On the way down from the dormitory of Boys School, if one happened to touch and hold the wooden railing, it was stale, cold and yet strangely comforting because more than you holding it, the railing was now holding you all the way to the last step till Mr. Meston’s residence’s rear door. Walking past the first few classes, you could feel the awkward mix of cold breeze coming from behind from the half open door of the covered shed and slow gushes of warmth coming from the classroom doors. As you entered your class, the world outside the large window panes was still misty and silent. The wooden desk was pale and cold from last night’s atrocity. There are soft whispers from classmates trying to heat up the room. These morning prep-times were uncalled for actually. The ones who were academically inclined had already done their revisions. The rest were only waiting for breakfast.
Day times were the most lethargic phase of the day. It was either drizzling and you could not go out. Or it was misty and so wet all around that even if you walked out, you could not sit on the pushta. Once back to the classroom from the cold, rubbing your palms you would try to smell and guess the lunch menu. I don’t know what was there to guess, though. We knew exactly what’s cooking for Monday till Sunday and then again on Monday. It would be a dull day, all day and you felt sleepy all through.
Evenings were a little dreadful. Especially, if you were in the junior classes. Through the day, one of the 30-odd classmates of yours would have invariably messed up. The degree of the mess didn’t really matter. Small or big, making him an example, the entire class would be warmed from cheeks to butts by a simple call for ‘move-in’, either after the lunch or tea grace. I am not sure, after a while, if we missed being ‘dhunned’. I think we did. Because, during these move-ins, beating aside, we got to know our seniors – really well: who had a strong left or right hand; whose ‘hob’ was to be avoided and when getting ‘dhunned’ was inevitable, to walk towards a senior who had a fairly light hob. It was also important to note there would be some seniors who would kill you with their words, but would never hit you. It was during the “join your hands – close your eyes – fingers on your lips” moments, that the most silent movers in the room, would come up with a ‘surgical attack’ and rain their ‘jhaap’ or ‘hob’ when you expected it the least. The only saving grace was, all this physical exposure to unnatural activities would warm you up in that weather, for sure.
Slowly, by the time games time/play time was ending, the ones playing in the front pitch, the auditorium porch, lower pitch, back pitch or PHG (Patel House Garden), their bodies were soaked in sweat like the slimy snail who traveled from the entrance of Class XII across to the Geography room in those two hours of games time. After 10 minutes of the bell swinging, when you were walking back slowly to the covered shed, was when the chill hit you again. You were again cursing the half pant, itching your way inside your t-shirt to rub away anything wet, when suddenly another Brigadier would arrive from nowhere, showering the choicest words and perform a one single slap surgical attack yet again across the back of your head, to make you run harder for roll call.
Now, was the hardest and toughest part of the day. On this chilly wet evening, it had fallen dark and dead outside again. No wind, no trees shuffling, no leaves ruffling, no human steps walking on the ‘bajree’ or animal calls. Nothing. All you could smell was a mix of mist, fog and dinner cooking. There were, however, infrequent sound of droplets trickling from some corner, which made you assume it had started drizzling again. And in all of this, we had to come down from the dormitory, after a quick wash, in slippers! As it is, we were shivering and now had to tolerate all this calamity, bare feet! Who made this rule? As they said, must be some ‘bloody Indian’!
As lights went off at the close of day, there were a brave few, who would still loiter around the dormitory, generally to poke some fun, while waiting for the CK (care-keeper) to call out, ‘Moses is coming’ and run swiftly to jump into their blanket and quilts. The bravest and the most helpless were the juniors, who in this painful weather had the washing duty. Will wash dirty linen in public about these washing sessions, some other time. But as one lay in bed, tucked warmly inside, one could still feel a sharp almost metallic breeze passing through the nose tip, making you feel the chill but not really touching you. This knife would pierce you through the blanket and quilt just a few weeks from now though. In those last few moments, before closing your eyes, you would curl up leaving the cold corner of the bed sheet, rubbing your soles vigorously, move your palms slowly between your legs, join your hands and pray, “God, let there be no move-in, tomorrow, please!”
– Kanishka Mallick (1996)
This piece was shared by Kanishka Mallick on Sept 24, 2019 over WhatsApp.