Looking Back

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By Dr. Jayadeva Phurailatpam

My parents were open to whichever field I wanted to pursue. I was lucky in that aspect. Many parents are
 there whose choice of profession of their children starts with engineer and ends with doctor.

“I want to grow old, so at least people will not tell me what to do or what not to do!”  This has always been my motto in life.  Now that I am growing older and feeling the responsibilities and the burden of a family man, I wish I was the same old boy who used to ride a broken bicycle and caring least about his torn pants or soiled shirt. The only thing that I cared was the homework from school (which I thought was the biggest problem in life).

My childhood had been fun with all the games, eating every single piece of junks (without even worrying a bit about putting on weights) or playing in the mud, least bothering about falling sick. But one thing I never liked doing was going to school. I actually hated it for the first few years of my life. My first day of school. I obviously don’t remember it. But my parents told me, I cried a lot and never would let them go out of my sight.

After few days I was left under the care of the supervising teacher. But I still would be crying and scream for my parents. This went on for a month. My first teacher that I can remember was Oja Laskmi. She was a thin built lady with big-framed eyeglasses, reminded me of those 1970’s era actresses.  But she was very strict always holding a cane but good thing was she never used to hit any student. She had a high pitch voice that was enough to overcome the noisy classroom at any point of time.

I appreciate her patience of managing so many crying children at a time in a single classroom! I would have flip and ran away. Learning A,B,C had been fun and reciting poem was delightful, but never really understood the meaning of it in during those times. It was like a parrot reciting words. My elder sister was very proud that she has learnt her part of rhyme called, “chubby cheeks, rosy lips” and you would not believe she would recite the entire rhyme with her two fingers placed on both her cheeks and swaying her head to any guest that would come to the house!

I was kind of shy or introvert. I could not even think of doing something like that for the guest in our house. But one fine day, I suddenly got the courage from nowhere and told my mother that I wanted to participate in the children program being held at the GM Hall, Imphal for which my seniors had gone with our teacher. I was not allowed because they have an age limit and I was a year shy. I insisted so much that my mother took me directly to the function, requested the authorities to put me in non – competitive section and just let me recite my poem and be done with it. They obliged after much requesting. But when they called out my name in the loud speaker, I froze.  Suddenly all the hot air went out.

I went to the stage very reluctantly and for my first time in life I spoke through a mic. The first word I told was lingering all the corner of the hall! I got a shit nervous. No words were coming out. Then, I did what a 6 year old can do best; almost teary eyed I was searching for my mother in the crowd. And there she was standing on my right side below the stage. She was making gestures to comfort me, telling me to do what I came for and that she is here only standing by the side. Then there, I told the whole poem was recited at one full stretch.  I knew I was just another ordinary boy next door who stammers while recitation but the whole audience clap for me that day, for the first time in my life. It was delightful moment and ran upto my mother and hugged her tightly. Later that day, I got a pen and notebook from mother. She told me that I got these as first prize for my recitation. I was very happy because yet again I got a pen and a notebook for scoring ‘first’.

But I never knew until recently that all those ‘first prizes’ that mother used to give was given by her only!! I must say that, after receiving those pens and notebooks as ‘prizes’, I wanted to do more. Maybe I never got a real prize but those fake prizes that my mother gave were probably one of the few reasons for what I am today. In those times, Children’s day was celebrated in Pologround, Imphal with many children from different schools coming from all the parts of Manipur.

I went along with my grandmother and many other students from the kinder garden. We were supposed to stand in line along with my fellow students. But instead I came out of the ground without informing anyone and followed some of my seniors and went home walking with them!  I really don’t know why I did that till now. I came home happily and was eating the snacks that I got from the function.

On the other hand, my name was being announced on loudspeaker and all were much tensed. When they ultimately came home dejected that I am lost, they saw me playing happily with my cousins. Oh boy! I got the nicest scolding but thankfully no beating.  Watching TV was my favorite pastime. And my father was very strict about completing studies then only watching TV program. In those times, we never had the varieties of choices they have in television nowadays. ‘Dordarshan’ was the only option.

Sunday was the best day for watching TV. The day will start with ‘Rangoli’ at 7:30 AM and many other mythological series like Ramayana, Mahabharat and Chandrakanta followed by Disney’s Cartoon like Duck tales and Tailspin! It feels nostalgic whenever I see those programs in Youtube or in some other channels nowadays.  My siblings and I were very addicted in TV. This made my father very furious as none of us would study, except for my eldest sister (who is still a bookworm with glasses so thick that you can burn ants with those!!) that he look the fuse of the TV off and would repair it only on Sundays.  But still we had our own ways. We went to my aunt house, which was just next to us, and watch it there!

We had many cousins in our group- boys and girls, of similar age groups. Once we decided to play cricket. My sister was bowling. When the batsman hit her ball out of the courtyard, she instead of catching the ball caught hold of the batsman so he should not make runs!! We still make fun of her till today. Shifting to a new school and getting adapted with the new rules and new friends had always been hard for me. Being a person who interact less with classmates, it was not an easy task to make friends. Spending 6 hours in an unfamiliar place with no one you knew was really hard for 8 years old boy. But in every class there is always some few friends who somewhat comes out a bit similar as you are. Lucky for me, I found mine. Timid, quite and bad at sports was the similarities that we had. My friend was a boon to me. Every day, we would share our lunch and play together. We always call that friend ‘best friend’ who sits next to you and share your lunch. So, needless to say, he was my very own best friend!

Time went by smoothly, I became more acclimatized. I had many other friends with whom I shared my lunch. So technically, I had many ‘best’ friends. Then all of sudden things started changing.  The year of 1995, I was in my 6th standard. I was just a boy next door who would drool on good food and good games. Our only priority was to watch cartoons, bring GI Joe and He-man figurines in class as it was considered ‘cool’ and later play some destructive war games with it. Until one day, priority changed. As it goes with any Karan Johar movie, where a new girl comes to tinsel town, a new student came to the class and she was not bad looking. On the contrary, she was cute.

Until now, girls were considered ‘untouchable’. We never even go near them. If some guy speaks to a girl then all the other friends would poke fun and make him an outcast. But this time it was different. Or so I thought. She was not the most beautiful girl in the class. But somehow she was very charming. I used to quietly watch her from my bench at the last corner of the classroom. But she doesn’t even know that I existed. I never had tried speaking to her for fear that no words will come.

Time really picked up. We came to 7th standard. I dare not to speak a word still.  As the bell rang for the end of a hectic day, I realized that I was late and almost going to miss my school bus. I ran till my legs would carry me fastest. Suddenly, of nowhere I almost bump into her! She just looks up and said sorry and ran back to her bus.

A long lasting palpitation followed; I thought my heart was going to jump out of my mouth. Ironically, it was the closest contact ever, never spoken to her in my life till now.  My priority changed and I got new meaningful friends in later years to come. Every classroom will always take you down the memory lane. Some funny, some sad or some mixed emotions. One of the few memorable stories is the shocking revelation of the biology textbook. This was on 7th grade. Many of my friends including myself got shock to see the diagrams with male and female reproductive system that too with labeling!  Some of the girl’s books had shirt and pants drawn over both of the pictures as if the publisher forgot to cloth them!  

I can never forget our biology teacher shouting on any of the student whom she found giggling in the classroom during that chapter. Poor teacher, she had to deal the same thing every year herself. Class 10th board examination has always been the most important turning point in every student’s life. Mine was no different. Going for multiple tuitions was a trend. Best thing about going to tuitions was that you are not wearing uniforms! Next thing has always been the interaction with students from other colleges, if you know what I mean.  I still don’t understand how much you can benefit from going to 4 tuitions in a day and not getting any time for self-study. But who cares at that time. I was going to tuition riding my bicycle with my friends!

But now I am seeing that the trend is little different. They prefer bikes. I heard recently that some youngsters urged for a bike so much, their parents had to sell stuff for it. That is a bit overboard. We were far more than happy with my aunty old broken bicycle, a pair of jeans and a Bata sandal. Daily continuous night outs were indeed exhausting, that too with every relative asking me about my preparation for the board exams turn out to be bit annoying at times. What if I didn’t score good results? What if my relatives make fun of me? Will my parents be ashamed of me if I didn’t not do well this exam? So many questions keep lingering inside my head, but never dared to ask anybody. Getting good grades in my 10th exam was the topmost priority of my life. Now that when I look back, I see how trivial an issue it was. Everybody knows that 10th mark card is used only for seeing the date of birth. How ironic!

When the result came, all were happy. At least I did not screw up as I thought I would. Mom got a big fish and we had a small family get together feast. Everyone knew I would choose science field as I was interested in Biology and wanted to pursue my carrier in that field, maybe a doctor, zoologist or botanist. My parents were open to whichever field I wanted to pursue. I was lucky in that aspect. Many parents are there whose choice of profession of their children starts with engineer and ends with doctor. Different students have different talents and different thinking. They are all very unique in their own ways. Parents should be more acceptable in this issue by not clipping their wings. Let them decide what they want. Not what the parents want.

Last day of the school has always been emotional. All the students knew that they might never see his/her friend again. But still wishing them the best in whichever direction they go. We have written our best wishes in the white school shirts with markers so that it will always be a permanent memoir. After completion of my 12th board exam, I left my home for the first time. Leaving your loved ones behind was always an unwanted feeling. But we don’t have much choice. We had to leave to make a carrier, which will help me give back what I have taken till now. Coming to a new place, getting adapted and making new friends reminded me of my first day in the kinder garden.

People from different places of India with different background and culture were there. We had our own set of agreements and disagreements. But it taught me to be more interactive and to be patient. Being a junior in our college was like a war criminal.  Dancing and singing was a daily routine.  I was good at drawing sketches. But, it came as a curse rather than a boon. I had to draw diagrams of their assignments that consist of around 12 diagrams each for 8 seniors. Life was a hell during the first few months. I was missing my home terribly. The mess food was a torture. You cannot swallow. Until, few months passed and you no longer felt alien to the new place. I have got some very good friends and seniors alike. Ragging became milder and we could breathe the open year. Then suddenly realized that exam is right in front of you!

The best way to prepare, as for me, was to catch hold of a person who studies well and compete with him! I got my competitor. I would study till the room in his light is off. This sound insane, I know, but at finals, I got better grade than him!! My student life was over. Now I have to find a job and get married. I am going to take my first step in the real world. I am reluctant. Why can’t I be like the same old boy who roams around carelessly and only worry about his school and homework?

Once we are done and come out to the bigger pond, we started to understand the different aspect of what life is. As I grew older, I realised studies is important so as family values. The real sacrifice was with our parents, who save every morsel to feed us instead. As some wise man had once said, “you will not know the weight of an object until you carry it”.  Now that I am a family man, I started to slowly realize the weight of it: the weight of your familial responsibilities. Time changes everything. You have to go with the time or she will not wait for you. Childhood comes once in a lifetime. It is not going to come back. But it will always stay as pleasant memories till the very last breath.  And lastly I wish, if I could change my previous motto to – “I want to grow younger, so at least people will tell me what to do or what not to do”.

God bless.

(Dr. Jayadeva Phurailatpam is based in Bangalore).

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