Preparations would start as early as a month prior to the day. Cultural programs to be performed were selected first, with performers for the cultural programs chosen next. Rehearsals would begin finally with costumes being decided, characters switching acts to suit the occasion. During one of those auditions only I discovered that I could sing too! This was in Junior School where everything was conducted under the able guidance of teachers. More on it, later. In Senior School, it was different.
One thing common in both schools though, was many students keeping a full day fast for Lord Krishna. Children who used to fast would get boiled potatoes and milk for breakfast and lunch. Well, am sure all the girls did it for the Lord. I cannot say the same about the boys. Certainly, not the few around me. And, these few include me. In Junior School, it was the Dinner. Breaking fast at dinner which was a grand and lavish affair for the ones who used to fast, tasted like the best menu of the world.
In Senior School, there were no cultural programs to be rehearsed for, no costumes to be decided and no hoop-la around the day. It was just another holiday for boys to chuck studies for the day and just play, jump around and relax. Boys used to fast, dinner becoming just an incentive, though. I don’t even think we ever thought of Lord Krishna. The main reason was the princely pocket money of Rs. 10/- for the day which the select few who fasted would get to buy fruits! And, did we buy fruits? Krishna knows, we did not; atleast not for our own consumption. In the junior most class, Class VI, part of that money went to serve fruits to seniors. We could kill or die for ‘Aam Paapad’ and ‘Chatpati’, a moong dal snack. But one boy could not afford to buy both. So, it was dutching of whatever was left in our hands to buy both items and share among hungry boys. But as we were growing, our appetite was growing too. We now had some more money to buy our Aam Paapad and Chatpati. We were hungry no more. But then after these snacks, we used to feel thirsty. How to quench our thirst?
Our stomachs were full, but an empty mind is a devil’s workshop. After some thought, we had a plan ready. We announced a one day football tournament for the junior section (Class VI, VII and VIII). Entry fee was Rs. 20/- per team. To increase entries, we said, one class could field upto three teams. Matches would be back to back and of 30 minutes duration. The winner would get a trophy, a memento each for the six players and the two teams reaching the finals would be treated to… yes, Aam Paapad, Chatpati and Pepsi (quenching thirsts, more of the organizers than the team as all matches were back to back and only water was served to players). At the last moment, the master mind, Master PK Singh introduced another interesting rule. No substitutes were allowed ensuring the number of mementos to be distributed being fixed, fixed number of bottles of Pepsi being ordered and minimum organizing skills involved. All classes fielded three teams each. The tournament was a huge hit. The best part was both teams in the finals being from our batch.
Needless to say, no trophy was handed over, no mementos were distributed. There sure was a Grand Treat. We were hungry no more. We were thirsty no more. It was a perfect Janamash-tummy full day.
– Kanishka Mallick (1996 Batch)
1990s Janamashtami Kanishka Mallick