A few weeks back, on 21st April, 2010 to be exact, I went out to meet Sanjukta. All I can tell you about her is that she was in Arts section and I, in science. That’s right, that’s all I had remembered of her. I saw her up in Orkut after 13 years and aligned her in my friends list. Don’t really recall who sent the request though. I would often read her profile and browse through her albums to conclude that she was different and had volumes and shades of depth in her being. I summed up some courage one day and asked her number and called her up. You’ll get to read on later why I said “courage”.
She is as simple as she was and now very knowledgeable. What marked my heart was she welcomed me with open arms and views. She had not judged me or issued comments. A few of our school time friends had called her up when I had gone to see her. Definitely, she had been in touch with all of them; unlike me. She had even made me speak with Papiya and she could recall about me. Seema had hurt herself; had tumbled down and had received stitches. Though they were small talks and mostly around nothing, I felt very light- hearted. All that displeasure about the school and my school-life after entering LIS; that I had carried for all these years, seemed to wash away. I did make a mention about this to Sanjukta.
I had felt as if I was still a school- girl; and I decided to compile a write. Included hereunder is all that I could recall of my friends, class- mates and batch- mates. Though I do have to include another one about the teachers; this one’s for all the friends I could never have. Atleast, most of them.
My school- time in Lady Irwin, was spent worrying about the time ahead i.e., after passing out of the school. I had to opt to shift from Greenfields Public School to LIS in 1990. My father had abandoned my crippled and incapacitated mom and a minor girl a year back and had went absconding. Officially, he still is; I have tried to locate his whereabouts just a few weeks back. Even in school- GFPS, my days were as if over. I had “agreed” to sit for LIS entrance test soon thereafter and passed with few others.
LIS– what do you get as the 1st image in your mind- the hospital colored school building or Basant Panchami when the school gate opened after 10am for all outsiders to come in, though we utilized the facility in other way round? I recall of a nice elopings after the parent teacher’s meeting with Ananya and a few bunks with Sampada and once with Mansi. Now Girls, don’t kill me over this.
Did anyone know about Ruby ma’am and nivedita’s friendship– though it was blown out of proportion that they were “involved”. I and Sampada strolled around the office area one day, when a plastic bag threw itself down upon us, and all the cards that they had exchanged, fell open from over a cupboard outside the office room. Their “affair” cards were in there– I still have a few of them, Sampada kept a few. We had to be equal partners in that crime..
From the 1st day onwards I was being forced to read “Bangla” my mother- tongue as one of the main subjects instead of Hindi. I only could identify the albhabets and didn’t know how to read. I wasn’t made to sit in Bangla medium school or wherein they taught Bangla as one of the subjects; leave alone as vernacular. After much chasing around and support of Ms. Bhatia, I was nomore made to sit in Ms. Vohra’s class (special Hindi class for Bangla students), reading books that I had already- 2 years back. I used to feel so miserable to go and read out lessons that I had already read; I had felt- as if I was demoted, or have failed in exams and hence, had been detained in the previous standard.
Mary Biswas became a good friend. We lost touch after her marriage to Halim. I had once once met her outside LSR college and had met Halim too. After a couple of years, I had met her at Kalkaji Puja Pandal with now married to Halim. She may be in Dubai. I had sent her a few emails but had received no reply! Maybe she never received them. She was some what possessive and a lot caring too.
Pooja Manchanda was somewhat of a don and had overshadowed everyone else. Her attitude was more like of a matron or college senior ragger. In the next 2 years, Dona Mitra had changed; she no longer acted like how Pooja did. She had teased me as “Bheega hua kauwa”; I had short hair and mom so believed in oiling my head as if that would fetch good points in annuals. So, I resembled one of those demure looking geek with only a couple of hair- strands virtually pasted on my head. Rakhi Sachdeva was yet another one to have befriended me, other than Shalu Bhola. I have shared very close friendship with both the girls on 1-2-1 level. Rakhi is on my Orkut, Shalu is still missing.
Mansi Aneja had been approachable, and now looks like Mita Vashishth. I would often joke with her that she looks terrific and that I was so attracted to her. She was our class monitor. She is on Orkut.
Ms. Rakshit‘s class was so boring, her accent and diction was Brit-and she looked as if straight out of one of those Indo- English freedom fighting era books- very old world English charm. Sonali Saha and Deepanita Kundu were best friends. I had tasted Macaroni for the 1st time from Sonali’s tiffin. We had lost her within a few months; in an NCC camping. She suffered of brain fever- that’s all we got to hear and nobody was allowed to speak about that incident. What it came to us at that time was, that it was more of the teacher’s fault who had accompanied them. She had been careless with already sick Sonali, and while coming back she had breathed her last in the train.. Incidentally, her luck- line was very prominent. Ironical! She was called as Shausha -SOSA- Cucumber (SOnali SAha).
Teachers were all so not glam, and hence, my new school was like more of an old neighborhood. Teachers would only hover around Pooja (in my previous school, I used to enjoy that kind of attention). Excepting Ms. Saramma (chemistry teacher), and Ms. Sharma (Hindi Teacher), everyone else had seemed to be partial and biased. I picked up these terminologies here.
Dixita was in D section and stayed in the next apartment to that of mine in I.P. extension. We had shifted our house too- from Dilshad Garden after staying for about 7- 8 years to Patpar Ganj- I.P. extension.
These were just too many changes for me and as if to save myself of any more attachments; and hence setbacks later, I had denied myself of every possible thing around me. I had stopped talking to everyone in school; infact, I had never initiated to introduce myself- neither when I had entered the school in 8th, nor when the classes were shuffled a year later, not even when the sections were re- shuffled after boards. Anyways, the new comers were not so welcome; unless one knew how to stick around with the few hip ones. If I were to be treated as alien by teachers and students alike- why the heck even try- I had enough to balance at my side anyways. Ashu Malla was a great girl- probably elder to us; was very understanding. Ekta Dogra with her short curly hair and fair complexion, was very beautiful; I envied her. There was Swati and Amneesha in my section and so was Gurleen, Gunisha and Snigdha Chowdhary.
I had survived my 8th standard and now moved to the Senior School building. Outside the school- my 1st official boyfriend had happened- I had joined the league of “the girls”. To me, Boyfriends meant that someone who would carry my school bag from bus- stop till my apartment, and a movie once a year; if I graded well! And certainly, not looking out for spaces and places to make out- at the 1st available opportunity- as most of the other girls had carried a notion about. Pooja was no more in my section, infact, I don’t even recall whether she still was a part of LIS; how convenient. Shalini Saxena, a year junior to me took great fancy in me- no idea why, and befriended me instantly. She was my co- traveler in the bus; Dixita was my co- walker and would walk along after we got down from the bus till my society.
Strangest of the facts- my cousin Runa Samanta was also a LIS-ite. She had issued standing instructions that I just was not to talk to her in the bus (we traveled in same bus). Was she ashamed of her cousin- thats me here? Runa would appear in my other posts- its due, big time. She was Luna Biswas’s friend; elder sister of Mary Biswas. Mom was in close competition with her sis– my Manu masi. She had somewhat dared mom and mom in response, had relented that her daughter could also become street- smart and travel in public transport all by herself “and show it to the world”. Thanks ma, if only you could just not made me a pawn here.
There was Neha Dang, Sheetal Bagai, Pooja Bisht. I had once met Pooja, in 1998, while I was at PVR sitting with a boy- friend (that’s right a boyfriend, not the boyfriend, read: another post). There was Basanti Bisht and Shalini Sharma (she was Pooja M’s best buddy at one time), Pragati Bali, Paromita and Monika Dahiya. How Ms. Renu Arora (our 8th standard Maths Teacher) had commented upon Ambika for not wearing an undershirt to school. I believe that these are to be talked out with parents in PT meeting, or may be given as a note in Diaries, and not teachers going and talking to the kid- straight. But then, did LIS have a Diary system?
Shelly and Shalini were close pals- looked like twins, Shalini was a little broader in frame than Shelly (her elder sister was among the senior’s who had hooted and teased me after Aarti had asked me that “Virginal” question. There was yet another Shalini look alike- I have her face in mind- don’t recall her name though. If all 3 of them were made to stand together, she could be passed off as siblings.
Closing myself was the only best retaliation I could think of. An year had went by and I was promoted to standard 9th. Sampada sat on the bench before me; yet, I had never noticed her, except for her heavy long tresses. Anytime she would greet me, I would not know what to say. I wasn’t really hoping for anyone to talk to me at all. Sudipa remained my friend, Ananya also happened and so had Ritu Sachdeva– a lost contact case. She and I would sing sitting in the empty classrooms and Van- Mahotsav park (the semi garden type lawn). It had a mystic appeal. Sampada and I had talked about how she had wanted to get married and I had not- sitting there. Shalu Bhola and I would spend the whole day during result declaration when no studies happened- sitting and discussing boyfriends.. Iram and Rashmi were Ruby’s friends- there were two more, remember their faces- not name. One of them had attended her marriage too. The other one- was she Bharti? Sampada had changed her circle completely to be with me in 10th standard.
10th standard was Ms. Bhatia’s and Ms. Mandira Bannerjee’s era– who could have forgotten her? Could you guys? I am so glad that I had studied well- she had asked Joyita to put herself on leash and strap herself with that tree outside our class..!! Only 7- 8 girls had scored more than 80% in the mensuration test. I saw Ms. Bannerjee a few months back in Sarojini Nagar- she looked the same- no, I didn’t go and exchange greetings.
In my cocoon, Sampada and I were becoming lifelines- literally- she would appear in many posts across the blog. Arti Jakher would often pop up if I was still a virgin.. Seema Pandey was humble and so was Anju Jeswani. Once, it so happened that only 10- 12 of us appeared in our 10th- B; it had rained very hard. The sections- A, B, C were shifted in those Garage Rooms at the back of the school building. Mansi Bhatnagar– now Capt. Mansi, I, Anju and Anjali Sen were amongst the others who had made it to school that day. We had spent the whole day chatting away in glory. We had so decided on discuss on each others’ positives and negatives; quite a mature game for that age. Anju had said that what she liked about me was that I never gave a “Damn” to anything and that I remained undeterred by anything and everything. I wish; I could somehow burn my Brain Cells and get an embed code for the sound that still echoes in my mind to type it here, for all of you to listen to. For years, and for all this while, Anju had as if prophesied and had silently encouraged me as well- through the words she had spoken for me.
Shweta Manoria and Ruchi Sistu sat together and Joyita was the bench partner of Puja Sarkar; Deepti Jain with Mansi and Tamanna with Divya.
Tamanna Dhingra and Divya were the Laurel and Hardy, kept very much to themselves. What was wrong with the school- why all of us were so minding our own business (es) like shrewd peers? Wasn’t this the age to make “friends” with everyone without conditions and judgements?
I felt I had made it- Deepti Jain and Pallavi Gupta continued to be my friends; perhaps, I was amongst the very few Bongs who had so many non- bong friends to talk of.. Tanika Maitra would get chocolates for me everyday, Priyeni– another lost contact case was very sweet to talk to. She had thought that I was to act in one Dev Anand movie (?!); I had let her stay disillusioned till she herself realized that that was as hilarious as it could be 😉
I was not “in” the Bong girls circle, since I always used to hang around with the non- Bong ones, but that wasn’t deliberate. Puja, Kreeti, Sanjukta, Snigdha, Papiya, Anamitra, Mary Majumdar, Joyita Deb, Seema Biswas– I do remember a few names from then segregated Arts sections. There was one Kalyani in my 10th section too, remember her face.. Just when I had felt that I had adjusted, Ruby- Sampada changed her school and entered DTEA.
My Life had come to a stand still. My only class- mates then, Preeti Dhasmana and Shikha Aggarwal who had been very kind and accommodating to have made me sit with them for the entire 11th standard, were my soul- buddies. Preeti was thin, to an extent very thin, had light bown mid- length hair that she would keep plaited with a centre parting, a few times that she would tie it in a pony, she would look so glam. Shikha was fairer (both of them were fair actually) than her, with short hair that were extremely curly. I spoke with all, but with a hollow motive. Preeti was so naïve and Shikha very sweet and cute (she was not ugly but very adorable). They had as if tried to fill up the void that Ruby had left and had made me smile everytime they noticed me sad. I loved that stuffed karela (bitter- gourd) that Preeti would often bring in lunch- it had a distinct garlic flavored stuffing- and was not at all bitter. How can I not mention of Deepti Jain- who has vanished after a scrap on Orkut; who was also a very close friend of Pallavi- when talking of lunch boxes? She would bring guava curry often; something I have tasted and liked only from her box. I didn’t carry a Tiffin; I had told mom not to slog herself, many years back. I used to go home and have food, if that was prepared; i.e., if mom had managed to stand herself up for cooking. Had I been at her place, I would have died up on my daughter much earlier.
Deepti had once brought me a boxful of green chillie pickle; since, auntie prepared curry and pickles with very different flavored spices- on my request. Mom could just not believe that I had made friends with the school- girls.
Vineeta once told me that how she amazed at the obese woman wearing frock suits (A- line salwar suit; rage in 90s), and looked like Maharana Pratap without his sword. She had made me sing Ekla Chalo Re a few times, for she liked the song. CPWD meant Continuous Pregnancy without Delivery that our Maths teacher Ms. Bannerjee was instead of Central Public Works Department– how ignorant I was, thanks for the update Vineeta. Ananya and I would constantly bitch about Ms. Music Teacher. Do my classmates remember how we enjoyed in our Geography period in 10th ? Or that our “History” was doomed since they could never finalize upon a teacher in 9th? That dusky complexioned Ms. T. Rao was more particular about keeping my hair tied up even when they didn’t reach the nape of my back. How nicely she had declared that she taught Social or Political Science and knew nothing of History! Seema Kamal, Shalini Aggarwal, Nalini Pathak– all have gone missing. Joyita Roy I did notice in Orkut once.
There was this- a very pretty looking girl with brown and curly hair in 12th Science B, I guess that if Dixita’s section was Science- C and I was in A; she tied her hair in small ponytail, her complexion was milky, with prominent eyelashes, pretty trim (looked somewhat like Ambika)- everyone mused that she applied blusher..!! I guess she was Shilpi Sehgal; Farah- another batch- mate, tells me so.. she too is trying to trace her up..
Often I would go to the Arts section and sit with Deepti; or at times with Mary- her birthday falls exactly on 25th December. I had felt so alienated and left alone in 12th. I have forgotten one of those girls’ name. She was the one who had helped me with lot of notes. I would never go for Physics Practical class after I had attended one; how I passed my exam, only God would tell. I was so reluctant to enter the school building on the date of Practical exam; I knew nothing about batteries or those homozygously laid wooden slabs!! I felt very uncanny of Mr. Mendre. I would not open my eyes when I was to pick my choice of experiment..!! If anyone does or not believe in miracles- here is one of them- one experiment was of prism deflection (8th standard practical), the other one was- the only one that I had attended to- note readings from voltmeter..!@$#@
I ended up getting allergic cold each time that I attended my Chemistry Practical. Titration was fine; I was pleasantly surprised when that nerd looking “lab ass” (as we all referred him to be- an unkept professor look- alike with more of salt in his salt and pepper hair). He whispered the salts name in my ears- great, also the titration point mark- even better. No sooner that I had started writing them on the paper, all the salts had decided to play “unity we stand” game with me- I could just not write a single word about Magnesium or the other one. Dixita had stood next to me and even though that we hadn’t spoken much for some time then; (maybe her parents had asked her not to), she didn’t hesitate to help me even for a second- as she noticed my quizzical look. She shifted more towards me and started a dictation on my salts.. And I could do nothing, except for quietly noting down whatever she dictated on my paper. Once again- Dixita, I owe you this one– for years, I have been dreaming of you helping me, that you are passing your notes and telling me how to prepare for exams. I had kept all my feelings towards you to myself alone, never finding enough courage to call you up and be a “woman” enough to declare them. Here, I break this pattern and announce it to all, that it was because of you that I had passed my papers ever since I had joined LIS; since I could never adapt to the new study system or the school. Only, that the school has rewarded me with a few friends, who I can really refer to as “friends”.
Mom’s condition had been deteriorating day by day and I didn’t know what was to be done about that. I had no one to share my things with. I had known that they were too “matured” to have been discussed in a classroom. A few friends knew of it but not in details- certainly not about dad, a much. I had been branded and was mis- judged- a number of times by then. I had completely given up on everyone and had kept to myself. 12th standard was only about somehow passing my school. Dixita had always helped me with her notes and so did a few other classmates in my class. Rashmi was not so open to conversation back then, but had helped me a few times that I had asked for with her notes. She was friendlier with Sanjana.
Rouble had lost her father a year back (in 11th) and now, had somewhat regained her posture. I had witnessed that girl “growing up” in a fortnight or rather overnight. Her innocence was gone soon after the incident. Her behavior remained neutral and so were Anju’s and Seema’s.
I had met Aarti once at Mandir Marg when I had gone to sit for Brilliant Tutorial’s exams. She had been very humble in her approach and had apologized for her attitude towards me. She kept teasing me in 11th as if I was f*cking up high and low; and so what even if I had been? But I guess that was a very immatured age and hence, we all harbored under- developed thoughts. Rouble had constantly supported me back then. Arti was as beautiful as a Barbie with her best smile; often she sported blunt cut, a couple of times even mushroom cut. She was slim and looked wow. Shewas more of a model material. 12th was calmer- Anju had dissuaded her of her antics. Infact, it was more than calmer- does anyone remember of me to be talking to anyone at all?
My 11th standard bench mates had thought that it wasn’t a good idea to be “hanging” with me; I wonder what had brought them to change. Was it the constant gossip about me or my silence towards it? Off- late, I realized that with time, people evolve and so do their thoughts. Dear friends, there were things I couldn’t discuss with you then and that may have been a reason for that rift or drift. If someone is to be blamed, it’s my time and not anyone else. I have not held anything against anyone; it’s nothing short of a miracle that I could collect you all in my Facebook and have been able to write this up here. Preeti’s acceptance to my friend request pushed me to finally press this post today.
Meenakshi Verma and Nitu Singh joined us in 11th from different schools alongwith another salt- pepper hair colored girl- can’t recall her name. There was one Mridu– very fair and beautiful girl, she was seeing some Sumit Tayal (this was in 2000, I worked with Ask Me- a sister concern of 7 times 2; now 8 times 2). P Usha was very depressed; since despite being the school girl, the Miss LIS title had sashayed on Joyita Roy. She had underwent the same alien- like feelings that I had been carrying on as a burden since the 1st day of attending LIS. I don’t have any hard feelings anymore; have let go of whatever was buried at corners. As I had mentioned in the beginning of this post that after talking to Sanjukta, Papiya and Seema, I have become complacent, as if nothing bitter had happened. I feel so light now and absolutely bare- hearted. Girls, do you see any ring on my head; or does this post possess extra radiance or something?
Dear friends, I have loved you all and always wanted to be accepted in your circle- didn’t and couldn’t say so when in school. I had so remained a stranger while amongst you.
A sad note: Even though I was fond of GFPS too, I could not find anyone from that school anywhere. I lost contact of Parul Gurtu– a sister I could never have a few years back. Renu Arora who was my 1st close- friend is still un-traceable.