It was a bad day in the vernacular class for him. Some other classmate that day, for some unknown reason, deprived him of the position of being the most ignorant and innocent boy in the class.
For, as far as his memory could trace back, he had always walked in his classrooms and went straight up to the last bench, sat there with his back leaning against the wall with drowsy eyes, still face. He had always been ignorant, ignorant of what was yesterday’s homework and present day’s lesson and ignorant of the consequences of not knowing such vital matters as well.
The Jalpaiguri District School was the only respectable school in town those days. All parents who wanted their sons to grow up to be an honourable man would put their wards in this school. After all, the shaahebs (that’s how the Bengalis call the pre-independence white administrative officers of the town) had established it for the education of their own children. And at a time which immediately followed the independence, when memories of a missing Subhash were still fresh in their minds, most parents wanted their sons to study in one or the other prestigious school and become bongobhumi’s proud sons.
Understandably the class rooms were over crowded. The teacher student ratio was quite low which gave him all the rhyme and reason for being a successful backbencher. He has not known any such day when the teacher has managed to look beyond the first few benches and has paid any attention to him or the rest of them sitting with him.
But everything changed today. He could not find any other seat but the first row. He scratched his head for a while and managed to recall what happened yesterday in the class. He remembered Maashtar moshai (the Bengali teacher) did say something about preparing the character sketch of ‘moni babu’, a certain character from a certain Sarat Chandra novel.
Instead of face value or any other value Maashtar moshai conducts the class activities by place value. The activities are such – students sitting in the front rows are to stand up one by one and read out the character sketch which they were asked to come prepared with as a home work.
Our ordinary boy has never believed in troubling his grey cells for no cause, and a good cause for him would be the final exams. The question of studying at any other time but the pre exam days does not arise even though his mother would wake him up at 4 am and make him sit with books along with 6 other siblings all around one lantern.
Being a back bencher no teacher had ever bothered him for non completion of home work, so he wasn’t even quite sure how does it feels to be scolded or to be beaten up by a bet (a bamboo stick often used by Maashtar moshai to set naughty students right). And he has never been eager to learn new things in life so he thought “I better give it a try”.
One by one the good boys stood up and read out the characterization from their notebook. He was listening to them carefully and also watching.
Finally it was his turn now to read out his homework. He stood up held his note copy in both his hands and started reading out ‘moni babu’s choritro’. He read out for a while and then turned the page, then the next page, he flipped through three pages. He had noticed that on an average all of the boys so far flipped the pages 2-3 times. As he finished reading he closed the note book and kept it on the desk looking calmly at the maashtar moshai waiting for a permission to sit down.
“Sit down” said the teacher and looked at the next boy.
The ordinary boy spoke for 15 minutes impromptu pretending he was reading out what he has written on the note copy as homework, he didn’t stammer once, he didn’t go haywire once, he knew what he was saying, he spoke like it was him who created ‘moni babu’.
He is 63 today. He still doesn’t know, after living in the same house for almost 15 years, which switch is for fan and which one is for light. He holds out the cell phone a foot away from his body as long as it rings and puts it back in his shirt pocket when the caller gives up because he doesn’t know which button to be pressed to attend the call.
Well, what can I say that’s my daddy strongest an ordinary boy.