Arrival: For the start of the new season, we would arrive just before the monsoons, from the burning plains like refugees from a humanitarian crisis. The new-comers would have absolutely no idea what they were up against, and the old-timers would be eager to get back to their ‘familiar ways’.
Assembly: The ubiquitous assembly point. For those uninitiated: a dangerous place at the start of day (especially in Junior School). Inspections, songs, and sorting out of the potential nut-cases (a la Hogwarts sorting Hat style).
Bedding: We would be lugging those duckback hold-alls that somehow managed to hold our quilts and blankets, pillows, bed-sheets, shoes. Sometime supported by the able hockey-stick.
Bichoo-Booti: If you had not been stung by the Bichoo-Booti, you might not have been in OG at all. A universal panacea to sort many disputes, it is said to have found its way to many a rival’s pants and many a teacher’s vicinity, entirely by mistake. Always supported by the ‘palak’ plant.
Barlow-Gunj: Home of the erstwhile Barlow Bakeries. A must visit for those who remember the bun-omelets, bun-samosa, and their many kin-folks. It was also the home of the famous loaf that would go very well with the ‘black’ aam-papad. Alas, Barlow Bakery is no more. Also, the famous resting place for the infamous Manorites.
Bondhu-paattha: Mr. Bagchi’s common curse to anyone and everyone with whom he wasn’t happy – student, teacher, 4th class staff, principal or a board member!
Bull: OG was a place for many an animal (all in good spirit). But this was a particularly energetic specimen. Never far from the cane, was a fanatic as far as exercise concerned. Not related to bull-shit (for that we had others).
Bajree: If you are a man (or a boy) who stayed in OG (might go for most ladies as well), you might have forgotten Bajree but be sure your knee would not have. The best kind was always found in the Junior-school pitch and the back-pitch.
Back-Pitch: That brings us to Back-pitch. The venue for many an epic confrontation. Where hockey-sticks clashed with each other; where the ‘brave’ men would take on the marauders from other civilizations (like Allen, SGC, etc.), much to the delight of the ‘adoring’ ladies who would sometimes arrive to give their moral and emotional support. I may be stretching the fabric of truth here (brave, adoring), but it has been 2 decades since I passed OG. I may be allowed my ‘lapses’.
Bearerji: The backbone of our institution. Some who you would like to meet and hug, as you would hug an old friend, a teacher. Others (Read Kalyan Singh) might be viewed better from a distance.
Chit: Ah, exams. Board exams. The ‘scholarly’ book-worm reigned. Or did he? (I topped Chemistry in XII… one of the mysteries to my family, but not to my friends…) Chits don’t give you satisfaction, or learning, but sometimes (unfortunately) they give you marks!
Captain: All sorts of captains… school, sports, house… and I was never one (somebody in OG had his brain in the right place. But, as I keep telling my sister, who was a school captain… it has left indelible psychological scars… do remember if any of you are ever called to testify).
CK: Late at night, when the world sleeps, the dormitory is thriving… a hub of illegal activity. Who would ensure that order reigns and the evil forces of authority are kept in abeyance? The CK, of course. When the world sleeps, the CK stays alert… always watching, always wishing someone else was CK!
Chocolates: Did you ever fall in love in OG (what a stupid question, no?) If yes, the Amul and Cadbury chocolates have served their purpose. For the seniors, an also must was the Archie’s card: never to the point, flowery, but what a hit!
Chuna-Khala: No pukka-road, but boys will go where there is no road… and make a trail.
Centenary: Like Sachin Tendulkar’s century… in 1988. Now bettered by ‘Quasquicentennial’ version. New and improved!
Cotty : Cotton Vest
Currency : the smallest being Charzee or 4 annas was 25 paise, then came ardzee – 8 annas or 50 paise and finally barzee – 12 annas – 75 paise …… more than that was ….. being rich !
Debate, Declamation, Dramatics: The three Ds. OG was a den of extra-curricular talent. We did everything (but study). Some of the favorite passages? “The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon the cloudy seas”, “Was there a man dismayed”, “Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more”. And some recurring favorite plays? ‘The bishop’s candlesticks’, ‘Prithviraaj’, etc. (I tried penning a hashed version of Anton Chekhov’s the Bet, adding dashes of ‘The Nightingale and the Rose’ by Oscar Wilde. It was of such magnificent caliber that my sister, who was also a student in OG, refused to acknowledge me as her brother for a while!)
Doon: Always seen (especially well from the erstwhile Patel House garden, now a taxi stand), sometimes reached, but always aspired for.
Dormitory: Counter-panes, bed-sheets, the exhilarating aroma of socks that have not seen a wash for an entire-term, cold baths in November. If you have spent meaningful years here no jail (as surely some of the more illustrious of my mates would have landed up in) will hold a terror for you. Ever. Combine this with some of the dining room comforts…. You have been trained and prepared, for Life.
Eggs: Hard-boiled ones that were really hard. Sometimes fried in butter and consumed later during lunch. Sometimes consumed as omelets… white and hard, of a kind that stuck to your tongue. But we loved it. And I had classmates who, on a good day, could consumer a couple of dozen eggs. No exaggeration, this!
Evenings: Especially after the rains, during monsoons. Colors which only God can paint. I did not have the eyes then!
Fagging: First-hand experience of enjoying sports. Net boy, back-court boy, fetch the volleyball boy. Luxury of being a senior and knowing how to evade duties as a junior. BTW if the Class VI guys managed to sneak away, Class VII would have to fill in. Enough incentive for the VII guys to participate in the game of ‘catch me if you can’.
Fog: Gray is good and not because, like Frost, I am melancholy. Gray is beautiful, especially for the sun-weary eyes of the NCR citizens.
Fancy Fair: Lucky 7 (cheated sometimes), Raffle (never won anything), juke-box (???? J), coupons, cold-drink stores, food stalls, treasure hunt, and may other things. We were kids too, kids!
Founder’s Day: Oak Grovians young and old, come join in cheerful song. 1st of June will always be special.
Front-Pitch: Soccer, leeches, salt. A potent combination.
Girls, Girl’s School: Ah, sweet youth. The Hallowed portals where no man could enter (or so we imagined). Victorian morals that served our inquisitiveness well but left long-term challenges (it took me a long time to learn how to talk to girl’s, looking at their eyes… some of my friends are still learning! J)
Ganji Pahari: Beyond the dhobi’s house there is the swimming pool. They say (and this is the non-urban legend) that there is a patch of green where there is no tree. No tree dare grow there! It is the bald patch of grass where many a young boy learnt what it was to first smoke a cigarette. Or so they say!
Gandhi Jayanti: Early morning on the green rug in the grass. Junior school starts with ‘vaishnav Jana to’, followed by GS with ‘Lead Kindly Light’ and the enthusiastic BS with the down-to-earth, “Raghupati Raghav” and ‘Jodi Tor Daak Shune Keu na ashe’. Mr. Bagchi nodding his head appreciatively, Mrs. Sharma orchestrating her young choir group. And then the mile race (800 meters for women): I shall talk about it separately.
Hockey: The national sport best represented the school. Jagruti sticks that were precision instruments in the hands of able Dhyan Chands. Each batch had their heroes. Our generation had the Billa brothers. And then there were the ‘locals’ with whom we practiced. Early morning training (a la Chak De India). Mr. Khanna… Shera… and watching the sunrise in the back-pitch to the music of stick cracking into the white leather ball.
House: Hogwarts had nothing on the rivalry at OG. Mirabai, Sarojini, Padmini (for the guys the best house was always the one that housed the most ‘followed… to use today’s parlance’ ladies). Remember, this is biased, for the narrator is a man. As far as the BS Houses were concerned we had many worthy adversaries. Tagore the Red, Ashoka the Blue, Patel the Green, and Shivaji the Yellow. Always a contest for the best House in everything. Of course, let me be frank and truthful: Shivaji House was the best!
Hospital: A place of fun and frolic. A lover’s tryst. The only place where you could meet a girl with relative ease. And boy, oh boy, were the boys (and girls) sick! One could always remember episodes of Chicken Pox, Viral Fever, and Conjunctivitis where there would be hordes of students enjoying the time-out. Jalianwala Bagh (H ward), F ward (Maternity ward) and the big E ward (where we played cricket) stand out as special (Girls would normally be in A ward, if my memory serves me correct). The only way the nurses (Sister Frances in this case) could control us was by taking off our Pajamas and keeping them with her (assuming that we had to stay in the bed, wrapped under our blankets). What happened is another story, of course.
Inter-School: No loyalty like School loyalty. No place to demonstrate it as well as the Inter-School Meets. The fights on the field were legendary. The fights off it were equally fiery. Jo Jeeta Who Sikandar.
Injection: Mr. Asrani and his injection. One can forget the first time when one fell in love. But one cannot help but remember the first sensuous experience with Mr. Asrani’s needle. Some things, as they say, are priceless.
Jharipani: Where it rains. Jharta hua pani… Jharipani. Sweet Jharipani.
Jhits (Jharipani) Falls: A derivative. The road that leads to Jharipani falls, past the Girl’s school, is deceptive. The number of hours you take to come back is directly proportional to your age, to the exponential power of your average fitness. Work out the maths. But when (and if) you make it, there are rewards of finding a beautiful namesake.
Kismi: Now making a comeback. Red package with a black silhouette of a man and a white silhouette of a woman, ostensibly locking their lips, or something of that kind. A sweet gooey toffee. If you have not tasted it I do not know what to say.
Kilos: Always on the watch-list, but not for the current reasons. There were 4 divisions: sub-junior, junior, intermediate, senior, in that ascending order. The metric used was a combination of height and weight (practical exercise of calculations that would set up the practice of the bankers and CA’s to-be). Since you really could not do much about your height (and mind you, I speak from experience… I had a head-start in the way my height struggled to take off after the first four feet) the only thing that mattered was the weight. Starvation, multiple layers of sweaters, jogging, just to ensure that each person qualified for the division lower than where one would normally fit in. We Indians are good at adjusting, you know!
Language: Colorful linguists. That is what we were (here I refer only to the artists of the BS). Some of the epithets and phrases are still etched in my memory, somewhere between Shakespeare’s plays and Tagore’s poems. I can’t quote them, because we are senior citizens and must be better role models, and also because ladies are definitely reading. One less-adventurous, ‘vegetarian’ description which kept me intrigued for a long time (commonly used by that great linguist Pankaj Agnihotri, aka danto) was “Phate Nirodh ki Aulaad”.
Letter: “ Ke mera Prem Patra Padkar, ke tum Naraaz mat hona”. You take adolescent boys and put then in a building on a hill-top. Take a set of young girls and put them in a prison on another hill-top. What happens? Letters flow with a speed that would make Fed-Ex and DHL sit up and take notice. I was a courier once (I am using a more flattering word than that was used). I had my sister in Girl’s School and had a relatively uninterrupted access to the Forbidden Kingdom. To cut a long story short, I had many happy customers and also a very nice assortment of chocolates and knick-knacks.
Lallu: A very catchy name in every class. Later we had the Bihar Chief Minister and the railway Minister who usurped the copy right. But at that time it was a very descriptive name and would normally be transferred to individuals quite freely.
Marathon & Mile: The marathon took us through the Chuna-Khala road. Even at that tender age we knew that the Marathon was not for us cerebral types. Mr. Pandey and Mr. Khanna would follow us on their bikes, but we always managed to run while resting (giving a fantastic imitation of one who is running). The record books, had they been written in Arabic (back to front) would have remembered us with great pride. The Mile on Gandhi Jayanti too had its share of glory. I cannot forget many champions of my time (no sarcasm here): Rupak Biswas, Rizwan Ali Shah, Sandeep Srivastava, Arvind Popli, Dinesh Kumar Singh, etc. OG only had heroes of the sporting kind for we loved our daily sports.
Mussoorie: The queen of the hills. Stars shining on the mountains, late at night. The destination of our Mussoorie trips. Second Saturday for BS. One Sunday in 4 Months for GS. Where is the gender equality??
Murga, Murga race: Garcha, Cheema. Infamy, thou has two names. Not only were we made to test our flexibility by aping the chickens in full public glare (the tennis court, for example) but sometimes we were made to do chicken race with the added incentive of more affection from Garcha for the one who came last. Thank God we had Debashish in our class (Here’s a drink to David Boon).
Malkhamb: A late addition. But those well-oiled bodies of young boys (hold on, I am just describing things as they were), in undergarments, in front of a valley full of parents and impressionable young ladies performing mean tricks together on top of a long wooden pole. That was it, in a nutshell. Ashok Bagariya, Jitendra Panjiyar, Ashoka House Stalwarts both, made quite a name for themselves in this field.
Nature-Walk: After the rains the walk. Two-by two. Like a Volvo bus. Did not know it then… but all the sunny days and the nature Walks in Junior School were special. I love nature (no sarcasm here) and much of that love came from those walks.
Oak: Oak, from Oak Grove. Or Oak, that leads to the collective noun Grove. A special tree. A cluster of special trees. For a special place. For special people (not that kind of special, mind you!).
Omelet: Food of the gods.
Olympics: Trudging our way to Wynberg Allen. Snooty School. And then rubbing their long noses in the hard Allen grounds. We were good. As I had written earlier, we were built for Sports (don’t look at me as a specimen here, understand the flow!). Great athletes who made a difference to our passion for sports. Let me mention my first great memory from an Olympics: AN Roy (1985 batch) finishing the 100 meters sprint. Who is Usain Bolt? You should have seen AN Roy during Olympics, man.
Pack: To be used after shutting up someone in an argument: Kyon, Pack ho gayi na??
Padam: Padam Gupta’s shop in Jhits
Prefects: The class-system. The feudal hierarchy. The bourgeoisie that ruled the proletariat. “Workers of the world, unite”. I never made it to the prefects, ever!!! I shall keep that grudge till my dying day. Conspiracy.
Picture Palace: Before the malls came in. Before we had anything else… we had Picture Palace & Rialto & Vasu Cinema. Racing from OG to be the first in line (again, not me… DK, or Subrata, or someone else who could run). Three rupees twenty five Paise: “first show, first row!”. Many memorable matinee shows; all time greats like Tarzan, Kasam paida karne Wale Ki, Khooni Shaitan, etc. were first revealed to us here.
PT: Every day evening. After the evening tea. Before the games, we had these games. Parallel bars, weights (for the last time, not me!), we had it all. Like rashes in summer… PT in the evening.
Poori: The simple house-hold Poori. Made immortal on Sunday mornings with Aloo (the only day of the week when an omelet lost the battle). And then it made another appearance… not as a guest star, or an appetizer…but as the main course, on Tuesday nights. Eight Pooris in all, Choley in attendance. Food worth dying for (not that I know if anyone died or not). The Poori was a lasting symbol for all of us. It sometime was reborn as a mathri too. Once a batch mate of mine was found to have stocked up on Pooris for an entire fortnight and was found eating the ‘biscuits’ at night when he was hungry. The crackling sound woke the seniors, it turned out. He was OK.
Questions & Quizzes: We had questions. We had quizzes. Not of the exam type. But of the general knowledge type. Before Siddharth Basu and Derek O’ Brien (May he have amnesia and diarrhea) made quizzing popular, it was a big event in OG. We practiced GK and we fought for a place in the team. And you wonder why we are able to place Venezuela in the map and tell you that Versailles Treaty was signed in 1918! We worked on it!
Rakhee: A cruel day. For all the men in the world. Enough said. An entire generation of boys lost to this scourge and what did we have to show for it? A band of brothers!
Rains: Beautiful rain. Rain that stopped our games, kept us cooped indoors. But rain that was beautiful, more musical than any song, more poetic than all the verses in Palgrave’s ‘Golden Treasury’.
Relay Race: One of the spawns of the Olympic Games. The icing on the cake. Team sports in all its glory. Worth practicing and waiting for.
Raseela: Like jab-cakes and chewy toffees, a local delicacy. To describe it is difficult: like a mother dairy milk packet, only filled with sugar-syrup, orange flavored. Usually sold in a frozen state. A poor cousin of the Thums Up and Gold Spots. Same fun at one-fifth the price.
Sajjad: The ever smiling and supremely benevolent shopkeeper who knew boys were “morrowing” (read stealing) stuff from his shop but he was happy they were around
Sports: That what does not kill us makes us strong. We loved it.
Shagging: Rhymes with fagging.
Socks: To wear with shoes. Washing is optional. Lasts one term, or till when the parents discover it.
Seniors: The opposite of juniors. Taxing, demanding. But also magnanimous and the ones who taught us the meaning of leadership. Sometimes we behaved badly, (much to our regret, for a many years), sometimes we stood by them. OG was OG because we had this hierarchy. However, like all institutions, we had places where the system was tested by testy individuals.
Terry-Cotton: The fad in our times. Keep the denim, you worker-class guys. Terry-Cott is the in-thing. The lovely feel of the synthetic fabric. Wow!
TV: Should read as color TV. We saw the migration from BW to Color. The EC TV that broke down and needed slaps to be revived. The coin showers. The Chitrahaar and Sunday movies. The one day matches that we saw (the entire Dubai series, Javed Miadad vs. Chetan Sharma) hiding in the bearer’s cottages as the MOD tried looking for us everywhere.
Trunks & Tuck-Box: Steel trunks that were heavier than us. Like the ones used by guards in railway stations. Carrying our eight shirts, six trousers, four half-pants, two gray, two white, eight pairs of socks, …. The Tuck-Box was something else. A store-house for all the goodies that we got from home. Often we had to share the good stuff with those who were good with locks, albeit unintentionally (Bhatta, you juvenile criminal, I have not forgotten).
Tiggi : Educational Movie
Understated love stories: Also unrequited love stories. “Dost dost na raha, pyaar pyaar na raha”.
Undy: Under wear
Valley: The glorious valley green. The pride of OG. The venue for all major activities. The chasm that separates the GS from BS. The beautiful road that takes the girls to the Chemistry lab (aptly for Girls) via valley and leads the boys (again aptly) for psychology class to GS (I do not know if it still is so).
Volleyball: Mr. Shukla, my house master. Volleyball (mark it, not basketball, not Michael Jordan court, as it is now). Basketball is cool but Volleyball was tough. More of a team sport, in my view. In the end, more of an intellectual than actual problem for me: both VB and BB need a reasonably sized player, not Danny Devito.
Wood-stock, Allen, SGC…: Our adversaries. They made our stay a special one, in their own way. Just to tell us how much better we were, for they provided that perspective.
That X-factor: I am struggling here. It is late at night… past 3 AM. I have office early and I want to finish this in a single sitting. So pardon my clumsy use of the last few alphabets. You can fill in. But OG had that X-factor and that is why we still love it so much.
Yoga: We had a batchmate. His name was A N Manikandan. Slippery as an eel, he could twist his body into strange and fantastic shapes. He was a yogi, but this (as in my case), is not the autobiography of a yogi…
ZZZZZ: I am out. Out of ideas and energy. This is for all of you to fill up, as with the other alphabets. Treat this as a quiz. Add as many as you can.
– Diptesh Ghosh (1992)