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"Life in Retrospect" (Part 1) - Bits and Bytes of Early Memories

Life was not very easy for me as a kid. However with "long-long ago" added to the dramatic incidents of life, I now cherish those memories and find them more humorous with only a slight tinge of how I felt at that point of time.

Chapter 1 - Bits and Bytes of Early Memories

When I was about three years old we shifted to a new house at 31 A Road, Sonari in Jamshedpur. The earliest of my memory starts from here as I watched a kid of around my own age at the neighbor’s gate smiling at me. Hard to believe the two of us are still friends after about twenty-seven years landing in the same but a distant city in India.

In the lane next to my new home was a school St. Joseph where I started my primary schooling. I recall I was made to hold a pencil in my right hand with the teacher holding my right hand, guiding me to write the letter R and then she asked me to write it myself I immediately moved my pencil to my left hand and wrote a perfect mirror image of the letter R.

In the same lane of the school was a playground where I remember getting trampled while playing football by an elder boy who was then lifting me up and checking if I am not hurt. But still I was glad to be allowed to play unlike in cricket where even as the last option the selecting captain will simply ignore my presence and he cannot be blamed as I was pathetic, for nine out of ten catches I would simply drop cause I felt all eyes on me whenever the ball approached me, except for the one dive catch when I did not have enough time to think. Although I was allowed to hold the bat after the game was over. For football I was slightly better as I made unexpected use of my left leg, which also came to the notice of my parents when I hit a football off the street passing it to the players on the ground while walking with my parents.

At primary school I was un-imaginably dumb, perhaps due to the fact that quite consistently I bumped my head on the side rack almost every time I picked up my fallen pencil. Sitting next to me was a girl and we had a mutual dislike towards each other because each one of us believed the other to be the dumber one. And why should not I think of myself as better, as I was a frequent visitor to my principal’s office as the teachers who lost all hope on me would finally take me to the principal after I failed to do my homework.

Somehow I got used to the drill as the principal’s office had two things a wooden scale and a jar of candies. For every time after he was done hitting me with the scale on my hand he would serve me two candies right before I was about to break down. It was when he stopped giving me candies after the beating and started calling my parents that I started hating him. My mom being the visiting parent would try everything to make me learn. For once she burned my hand with a warm cooking utensil because I failed to memorize the alphabets. I did understand her desperation and somehow always managed to pass to the next class (Or perhaps no class teacher wanted to bear me for another year).

Chapter 2 - The Brotherhood

My elder brother studied at the same school but I do not remember much of him except for once when he along with one of his friend planned a fight with another two lads of the same age after the school. I was to hold my brothers school bag while he would fight, however he did lay down the rule as no one should hurt me else I would also be involved and that will be an uneven match with three against two (though I knew I will be less than a punching bag in any form of physical confrontation). I watched him fight using his friend’s metal bag and his friend with a belt as their weapons. The fight was over in much shorter time and with no injuries except some missing buttons on shirts. My brother and his friend were declared victorious by their opponents who were down on ground with the winners over them. I also happen to remember another of his fight when he rode on his opponent’s back. But do not misinterpret him, I happen to remember his fights because it was the last thing anyone would expect from him. He had far more friends than I had and he would help anyone at every chance.

Though for his fight with me I preferred to climb up things where he cannot reach like an Almirah or top of shelves next to a window. Although at times when I was also angry I would stand up for the fight and bear the consequences. Nevertheless no hard feelings as I avenged it on my younger brother.

I did love my younger brother although I also happen to be the one who tricked him into trouble, but I would always stand by to rescue. Like scaring him of ghosts and then tying him up at balcony and hiding behind the door watching him struggle and come to rescue if he starts crying.

One of his incidents I vividly remember is when he accidently locked himself inside a room and was unable to open the door with my parents guiding him from the balcony window for how to open the door for almost an hour. My parents do not know till this date that I was the one who taught him how to close the door.

While busy with all the foolery at home, the three of us became quite popular in our locality for one thing, as there was a fancy dress competition held annually in our locality, and my mom who only believed in winning will make us practice hard.

I remember the first time we participated, my elder brother (who was around seven) being the Joker from Raj Kapoor’s movie (with an emotional dialog from the film that I do not remember), myself (at the age of five) being Santa Claus (to sing jingle bells) and my younger brother being Mirza Ghalib (who was hardly three, but has memorized Ghalib’s poem). Each of us won the first position in our respective groups. This first win was so cherishing that mom took us to a studio to get a photograph while we were still dressed. Perhaps also the reason why acting came quite naturally to us was that we used to play a self-invented game where we enacted fictional characters named “Pandey, Chundey and Soumen”. The game was simple, just to talk and act like grown-ups.

Though successful on stage, school and studies were becoming increasingly difficult for me. The neighbor kid who also happened to be my classmate befriended me. He was the topper in our class and though he always helped me in studies but he added to my misery because my mom would set him as an example to compare.

Meanwhile my younger brother reached the age to join a school (actually a bit early for he was still less than three years old) but to my surprise he was eager to go to school. He joined a rising new school (NHES). Meanwhile after completing his primary education at St. Joseph my elder brother was moved to the same school for further studies. He passed the primary with flying colors ranking 2nd and was awarded a kitchen storage container filled with sweets (that container is still present after around twenty years at the kitchen at my native home).

Chapter 3 - The School Entrance Test

With both my brothers now students of a bigger school, it was decided for me to be moved to the same school, only I had to pass a simple test before I can be accepted at the new school (NHES).

By this time it was a general knowledge that I am a bit dim and different because I spent most of the evening wandering carrying a stick investigating plants and collecting stones while other kids played cricket. Though it might sound sad and lonely but I was alone by choice, I preferred to be left alone inventing things and also developed a skill of repairing things starting from electrical to taps or even slippers. The things that fascinated me included magnifying glass to understand stars or scorch the ants under the sun, magnet to wonder why it was used in radio, cardboard boxes that I can cut and design objects to my experimental needs, stones that I did not know how old they are or where they came from and other household wastes that I can find of any use in my experiments. But none of these helped me pass the test to join the new school and in order to understand my weakness my parents reviewed the test paper questions and started asking me the answers I wrote till they reached the question I dreaded. It was to list all the English alphabets in order and I did not know the answer, it was unacceptable for a student of 1st standard having spent around 4 years at school not to know such simple thing.

I was ashamed but also disappointed from the elders who never gave me any explanation for why the alphabets have to be in that specific order? Why does it have to start with A and end at Z? This failure helped me realize that the world follows rules that do not make sense to me.

Continuing at St. Joseph, I watched both my brothers as the top performers in their respective classes at the new school. Next year I appeared for the entrance test again at NHES, having learned all the English alphabets in their correct order, but that was not asked this time; however I managed to pass. Bringing back the lost hope of my parents and seeing my mom happy for the first time for my academic ability. I felt happy too and realized what it might feel like to be like my brothers. Though I would never score marks like them but I learned my parents will be happy with me even if I am an average student. And for me although I did not mind being anywhere in the class ranks (except for the last one) but to keep them happy all I needed to do was pass all the exams.

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