Thursday, June 02, 2011

Roll No 1

I finally found him. In Facebook, of course, where else (Thank you, Mark!). No, I did not send him a friend request. To begin with, he doesn’t even know I exist.

I did my early highschooling in Nagaon, the headquarters of the district in Assam, from class 1 to class IX. I was in the most prestigious school in town — The Government Boy’s Higher Secondary School. They had an entrance test in class V and only the best students from the town and the nearby areas were allowed admission. We had sky blue shirts for uniforms.

Today, I hardly remember much from school; they were not the best days of my life. I hated school. I would always wait for the classes to be over so that I can come home, have cold lunch and go to play with my friend in the neighbourhood till sundown. And the things we did!!

There are two things, however, I remember vividly. The first, my NCC teacher. He was a cheerful fellow, who would hang out with us, and make us do all those drills, the left-right stuff, twice a week, on the last class. Those who had opted for NCC would be exempted from attending the last class, and that was the motivation from me to join NCC. After the drill, we were given a shingara (samosa) or a kachuri; that was another motivation. But, most of the all, I was in NCC because the teacher (it’s sad, I don’t remember his name) knew me well. For some inexplicable reasons, he would call me Shankar, and for some inexplicable reasons, I never corrected him. Since he knew me, there was no way escaping the NCC drills. He would come to my class, section A (we had three sections, A B C), and call out my name.

Talking about section A, the other thing I remember about my school is the first boy of the class. He had always been the first boy of the section since class V. I remember it clearly because we shared the same surname (though he used an extra ‘H’ at the end), and because I was the last boy in the class. I think my roll number was 64 or 67; anyway, the last number in the roll call book. So, most teachers who’d do roll call at the beginning of the class won’t even call out my name, they would just give a present or an absent according to their whims; it did not really matter.

I wasn’t popular in school, neither I was meritorious; I was good before I reached highschool. I was very good at Assamese, and all the subjects taught in Assamese. English was really an alien thing, so was math. If I remember correctly, I used to fail in both the subjects in the annual exams, or perhaps just got enough to pass. That’s the reason I was the last roll number in the class; they’d rank us according to the marks we got. That’s the reason I remember him, T.S. — he was first boy, he got the highest marks in the class, he was very good at math, he could answer any question asked by the teacher. In short, he was a model student and I was in awe with him.

He was what you’d call a geek, loud and clear, thick glasses, braces and all. He had more friends than me, of course. But, as far as I could see, and remember, he was never close to anybody in the class, not unlike me.

Another reason I had the affinity with him was because we both were the members of the district library, just next to our school. During recesses, I would run to the library, it the best part of my day, and I would see him there, browsing, or issuing books. If we come face to face, we’d probably smile. I don't remember we ever talked.

And after so many years, I still remember him. That’s because I expected bigger things from him. I was sure he would be an achiever one day.

I guess he has achieved. His Facebook profile says he works with a telecom company, in a senior post. He did his engineering from Rourkela. The Facebook page has a photo of him with a beautiful woman and a young kid, the picture of a happy family. He lives in Bangalore.

It was nice knowing him — then and now.

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