Going to Senior Boys School was a known surprise and an unknown certainty. We all knew what’s coming. As young boys we had heard of stories beyond that 2 ½ feet wooden gate that gave us an excitement that was deliciously dreadful. We would be giving up sections of the class and would be a single class called Cl VI. But there would be new gangs. We would be pitted against each other in different houses. We would be favoured as a ‘chic’ by seniors and hated just for the same reason by classmates and some seniors. We would be divided as junior section and senior section. And of course, the talented and the not so athletic. But our first brush of division in affection would be in Junior School as Section A and Section B. Who had the better class teacher? The topper of which section got higher marks in tests and exams? Which section had more participants in school events? Which section won more awards? Which section had the ‘superstar’ of the entire class? And finally, which section finally had the boy & girl who became the Captain of Junior School? All these subtle, but strong mental and sometimes obvious comparisons, starting from Cl III to Cl V, made it a feisty competition. We hardly saw each other eye to eye, shook hands or exchanged too many pleasantries. And hence, no class had ever swapped their boys & girls.
In 1988, when we were in Cl V, something happened, and a day came when two students had to swap sections. A boy had to move from Section A to Section B and vice versa. This was the most devastating news ever. Section A didn’t want to let go of anyone. Section B wasn’t ready to accept anyone and vice versa. Battle lines had already been drawn. War cries had been shouted. Any such move was simply, mayhem. And yet, no one dare challenge the decision of ‘Big Maam’.
The unfortunate boys chosen for this historic move were Ajitesh Das moving from Section A to B and Ashutosh Kumar was to move from Section B to A. Das (and later Mowgli) as he was called by all, was a star in his own right. He was a very good musician. He could sing well, used to play table, was a gifted football player (as most Bengalis are) and to top it all, was a notoriously charming young boy, with very, very innocent looks. Ashutosh Kumar on the other hand, was a notoriously innocent boy since he was at the helm of most mischiefs but had never been caught red handed. He was very intelligent and good at academics. Unknowingly, as fate would have it, they were in the middle of this fire (there is yet another ‘fire story‘ around Das. And an expectedly wickedly innocent story around Ashutosh. For later, perhaps). There were speculations doing the rounds of who could be swapped. On the day it was announced, it was a complete disaster. There were open howling sessions and quiet whining time outs. There were heated talks and consoling dialogues the rest of the day.
But what we realized later in life was, in all of this, the entire two sections were together. They were in sync to what was being discussed & planned in their own sections. The only two boys who were all alone in that storm were Das & Ashutosh. Now, they were in their new sections, but not of their sections. Psychologically, there were still sitting at their old desks, with their old partner, wanting to share the next idea. But physically, there were now sitting with a new partner, unable to even ask for a pencil sharpener. For a 10-yr old kid, this would have been really unnerving. We didn’t realise it then. But we got a feel of it later and understand it now, I think. Or at least, we acknowledge it now. I can only assume, what all would be going through their minds and hearts. They were aliens in a known arena; they literally were ‘behind enemy lines’. Two 10-yr old boys, far away from home, their parents and now distanced from their friends too. Out in the cold, literally in the hills of Mussoorie. What courage, what grit & what attitude exemplified by these boys! I salute them. It took days for the others to digest the fact and accept these young boys into their groups. But am sure, it took months for these boys to finally get to terms to reality. Whenever, I am reminded of this event, I am simply amazed at how disturbed these young boys would be during those times. They went silent and yet carried on, trying to adjust to their new world in the same old globe. Thank you boys, for giving us the lesson of a lifetime, while still being foes in a friendly setting. We never failed to stay friends, forever.
The icing on the cake though, was the prized tight hug & kiss from Mrs. Sethi aka Ms. Sahani received by Ajitesh Das. We are still jealous of him.
– Kanishka Mallick (1996 Batch)
1980s Kanishka Mallick