Hey Ram! Probably the most prolific death sentence that has reverberated in this part of the world. I believe, the man was shot and thus his fame shot up multiple times than other wise how he and his death would have been celebrated. He was a memorable personality, nonetheless. For me, he made some things really fashionable. Like khadi wear, walking stick, slow walk with ladies and long walks for anything worth its salt! In fact, now that I realize, he made ‘walking’ cool ! May be, that is why we had Mile Race as a competition among other events during Gandhi Jayanti celebrations in my boarding school.
The only two personalities whose birthdays were celebrated as a full day affair were Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. In fact, Teachers’ Day activities were a pretty close translation to Hey Ram. There would be orgasmic raptures of OMG most of the day, from all corners. Hence, it needs a much longer illustration. May be, some other time.
October had arrived, monsoons had left. October, I think, was the best month of the year. It had 2nd Oct, mostly Diwali holiday, Sports Day and Annual Fancy Fair. Early mornings of October had the tender chilly breeze and a replay of the same chill as the sun would set around 1730 hrs, every evening. Between 1030 hrs & 1730 hrs, it would be a beautiful day. Bright sunshine, green sceneries after a good showering monsoon was getting greener with lusty leaves. Even locals had started taking out their light warm clothes. It was getting cozier by the day. Gandhi Jayanti would be celebrated in The Valley, the congregation point for most school events. And every section of the school had their own motive of such celebrations. Teachers had to impress the Principal. Principal had to impress his/her spouse. Spouse had to impress a visiting relative. Junior school kids had to impress their teachers. Boys had to impress the fairies who would descend from Girls School slopes onto the green field. Am sure, some girls had someone to impress too. Though, most of them looked pretty oblivious to any male species around. Except, perhaps, an exceptional good looking male teacher.
Central aggregation of 2nd Oct celebrations was the music competition between schools. Well, it wasn’t exactly a competition. But somehow, became one. For the entire decade that I was there, we would sing the same song, music for whom was arranged by the same music teacher, sitting at the very same spot, year after year. And yet, once it was over, people would debate, if “Hari Tum Haro” by Junior School, “Lead Kindly Light” by Girls School or “Ekla Cholo Re” by Boys School was better than the other two.
The high point of the 3 hr-or-so celebrations, before all left for their respective schools for a special lunch, was The Mile Race. It was 8 rounds to run of the 200 metres, 8-track running track that was freshly carved by Calcium Hydroxide (Chuna) just before Sports Day that would arriving around the second Saturday of October, every year. Serious athletes had been practicing for it for over a month, if not more. They were the “long distance runners”. Then, there were the “long-distance lovers”. They would just look at girls and think for the entire those 3 hrs. In this time, they would have imagined a whole life with his imaginary girlfriend, depending on which girl threw even a half glance at him. And then, there were the “smart joggers”. They would participate in the Mile Race, not to win or lose. In fact, their motive was not even to complete the race. They would jog well & easy, ensuring most girls, if not all, gave them a half glance. Finally, after the 3rd or 4th round, they would suddenly develop a sprain, right below the stands where the girls would be sitting and cheering. And from thereon, would spend the entire time mending their sprained heart, oops, ankle, knee or whatever they could hold first, when the girls school teacher would approach to check on him. Everyone knew what are they upto. Everyone had a good laugh. Except, the jogger. He just had a smile on his face. For the entire day. Make that for the entire week. Till Sports Day arrived. When he would exchange glances again with the girl who laughed the least and smiled the most. And the jogger would sigh, “Hey Ram”. And die. For a few moments.
– Kanishka Mallick (1996 Batch)
1990s Gandhi Jayanti Kanishka Mallick Mile Race