Monday, September 18, 2006


[Author's notes: A post on memories that will live and die with me.]


The earliest recollection of my school days dates back to my early years in Benjamin Garden’s nursery school.
Situated just above Kali Mandir in 8th mile, it was the nearest and then the most renowned among the pre-kindergarten schools of Kalimpong.
Though I remember not much of the two years spent there, yet on recollection, I am still fascinated by my experience in my first alma-mater.

I was not a sharp child and I frankly remember that I did not enjoy much of the curriculum events and the school.
Well, my boy, you got to learn the basics if you want to learn the language and I was not doing that.
My dad told me about how I learnt the English alphabet much later. He recalled that I was not able to recognize and write the alphabet even when he was pushing me too hard. Then, out of his sheer disappointment, he had slapped me once. And after this happened, It seems the formula had worked. I had mastered the English alphabet.

This is one story which my younger uncle distinctly remembers even now.

It is sometimes amusing how things shape up in life and how the formulas’ to make things work click. The upbringing of the child is altogether a different subject matter for different parents.

Even though my daddy is a stern disciplinarian and an autocratic symbol in the family, my dad never digresses in his ultimate goal, whatsoever may be his priority. This is what I respect in him among other qualities that he has.

Well, coming back to my early school days, my mother used to wake me up early at around 5:00 AM in the morning.
Those were the days when we had a small house, I remember, with around 3 rooms and a kitchen. Since there was no arrangement for water from the municipality, which as a matter of fact is still shockingly haunting Kalimpong even today, we had our own arrangement for water storage.
My first cousin, two years elder and my best buddy during my childhood, my mother and I used to go to our neighbour’s water place early to get ready for the day.

The water pipe, which was near a fish pond, had its origin in a perennial underground spring not so far, underneath a big banyan tree and it was basically the common water source for all in the village.

There used to be a long queue of water vessels of various shapes and sizes, waiting for its turn. Though I don’t remember much of the incidents there, I am still firmly aware that people used to gossip a lot while waiting for the slow water to fill up their vessels.

I liked brushing my teeth. My mother always tells me to brush my teeth slowly even because I had the constant urge to finish it quickly. When our task was finished, my cousin and I, normally delighted ourselves watching and playing with the fishes in the pond. The pond was dirty and smelly and was, on most times covered by straying yellow bamboo leaves from the grove nearby. Sometimes, we used to see dead fishes floating adrift and would normally take them home, hiding it from my mother. Further, we also found extreme pleasure in bursting plankton pods of the pond, even though we did receive reprimand from the owner at regular intervals.

The way back to my home from the water place was a long one, partly remembering the fact that I had to get ready for school. Further to add to my woes, I had the constant fear of a small brown dog, Bulu initially, inspite of the fact that my mummy was around to protect me. However, as time passed by, Bulu went on to become my best pet.

Up the hill, my role was reduced mere to carrying mugs, towels and brushes.
Sometimes, our young uncle used to accompany us as well. He was well built and had strong muscles.
He looked delighted when we praised him for his muscles and so never missed an opportunity to flex the same. At times, my brother and I used to hang on his arms and he used to lift us, treating us no more than fleshy dumbbells. He was a college going student at that time and like others during that era, was a big fan of Sylvester Stallone, whose latest movie “Cobra” was causing waves all over his generation. Interestingly, he had a poster of Sylvester “Cobra” over his bed, which we adored simply because we almost believed Stallone resembled our uncle.

During my early days in Benjamin’s Garden, my mummy used to carry me to school using the short-cut via St. Joseph’s Convent and the “Gothic” church, as I fondly call it even now. The Catholic church has always had an important presence in my life, owing to the fact that all throughout my latter years in St. Augustine’s School, I realized and know for sure that it protected me in all my endeavors.
As time passed by, I started traveling in a vintage car cherished by all as the “Momo” car, owing to its t-momo shaped appearance. Typical of its kind, as I remember, we had two such cars for commuting young toddlers to school.
I really enjoyed the ride to school and except for the games period, annual photo session and birthday celebrations never enjoyed the rest of it.

Birthday celebrations used to be a big event for us students. I distinctly remember one of those wherein we had received a Cadbury sweet each. I am not able to categorically say that it was dairy milk but yes, it was one that left a good impression on my sweet buds.

Mrs Marlene or “Miss Malini”-as referred by the locals was my first school teacher and fortunately, she also happened to be my next door neighbour. Now a great grandmother and yet very young and vibrant, she used to be the most versatile lady there in Benjamin’s Garden. We had another lady teacher Miss Pempem as we used to call her not aware that she was already married.

Our headmaster, Late Mr Shen, an Indian of Chinese origin was very subtle and so was his wife, Late Mrs Shen.

During our holidays, when I paid occasional visit to Chitra Bhanu, a community center near Benjamin’s Garden, where my maternal uncle, the head librarian of Kalimpong’s Basic Teacher’s College, had some of his meetings, Mr Shen used to give me some gifts, gifts like kites and toffees.

My memories about Benjamin Garden are limited to this yet it still remains an important part of my life and memoir.