When I look back and play those old dusty reels in my mind, I cannot help but recline in my study chair, look up and release a muffled smile. My journey into life thus far has been a potpourri of sweet and sour memories. I shall embrace and will play on those good old pleasant tapes but will hurl the bad recurrent ones into a bottomless pit of oblivion. The present, most often than not, compels us to look back at the path we have plodded as we travel this tentative journey of life. And it is always with a profound sense of nostalgia that I look behind and beyond my shoulder.
I came into being on a warm May Day in a mammoth three storey house on a serene peak bordered by giant pines and majestic oaks. One fine day, few months into my tender age of six, my dad lifted me like a ball of wool on his well-worked shoulders and headed to Chumey Primary School, three kilometers away for my admission. I was summoned by the headmaster, who made me hook my right arm across the summit of my head and touch my ear on the other side. Little training earlier with my father came in handy and I was in. Little scared, yet I managed to answer a couple of questions that ensued. That frosty March day marked the beginning of my eleven years at the school. (The school was later upgraded to Junior and then Middle Secondary).
Primary days were fun and carefree. No exam fever and no last-minute rush to cover the pages. In fact, it was the proverbial happy-go-lucky days. I was a regular in the school play ground pandemonium. Like every other little kid, school days were fun. I did not care what went inside my mouth along with that mixture of boyo and hastily fried chana; sometimes I chew my eraser, other times grind sand and dust firmly held inside the ‘world’s biggest pocket’. Occasionally bouts of belly-tearing ache would follow rigorous intakes of unhygienic concoction from the ‘biggest pocket’. I relive the memories of marble and hopscotch (‘am I right) that etch the canvas of my mind from the days of yore, when eating anything edible and looking untidy used to be the order of the day.
Time rolled by slowly and steadily and we were already two years into the new millennium. Elsewhere many things unfolded. The famed WTO twin towers in NYC came down a year before and 9/11 made its entry into English dictionary. Afghanistan metamorphosed into a modern day battlefield. Extremist Taliban dynamited world’s largest Buddha statue in Bamiyan. World heavy weight champion Lennox Lewis knocked out Iron Mike in boxing’s greatest showdown, and 17th FIFA World Cup came to Asia for the first time. I was but all eyes and ears.
As years passed on puberty peaked, testosterone rocketed, and I became a habitué of a discreet, comfortable cluster of dwarf bamboos few yards outside a snaking wall. Passion rose, but marks plummeted. All things-good or bad-should end, so did the covert romance when we bade farewell. My schooling at Chumey Higher Secondary School would go down in the annals of life as the most memorable.
To be continued........