By: Manab Manik
Those who have built such a beautiful school with heartistry, are none to earth in this world of time. This school shines and shines with the touches of hands and hearts of the artists. The school-wall is painted with great poets like Sukanta, Najrul, Tagore and what not? They gaze and gaze the people on the street. But none looks at them. The nearby drain is filled with filth. Huge garbages!!! He who one day took an oath, who dreamt to cleanse all the wastes and garbages on earth to make this earth habitable, is standing in front of dirty drain —– the poet Sukanta. Day by day he witnesses innumerable incidents. Oh how much injustice, humiliation, dishonour both within and without !!! Sukanta and Najrul are iconoclastic and idealistic poets who have sung the life-song of the labourers, now forgotten, neglected. Time has fully forgotten them.
I do not know much about the history of this school. One day on a holiday the poets on the wall stopped me. I saw the gate opened. Perhaps some has entered for any work. I entered but found none. My heart like a roe began to run here and there. All of a sudden, about a century old man in white dhoti was seen sitting at the farthest part.
I called, “Dadu ! oh Dadu !”
After calling many a time, he raised his head and said, “What’s happened?” His words seemed to be so clear like that of a young man’s. From him I came to know that he was hundred. Like the old man of more than hundred years of age in Talstoy’s story ‘A Grain As Big As A Hen’s Egg’ he can clearly see, clearly hear and clearly speak. I thought that I needed such a man.
“Well Dadu ! How long ‘ve you been watching this school ?”
(With a little smile) “Chap, before its birth.”
“Really? Is it?”
“Oh listen. Shall I tell you a lie?”
“Tell me Dadu, tell me its previous tale you ‘ve seen.”
“Will you listen to me? Then listen. This iskool ought to be at Kenchkapur but it didn’t become. The Modaks at Jhakra gave this land. Then this iskool.”
Taking and releasing a long breath, Dadu went on relating……..
“Time’s forgot the headmaster of this iskool — Ramesh Sarkar who taught long ago — sixty years to say the least.”
“Well, where did he come from, Dadu ?”
“Oh ho ! From Ghatal. Even with cycle.”
(Surprised) “Cycle! A long path with cycle !”
“Oh yes. What am I saying then! You ‘re today’s chaps. You don’t move without bike. You ‘ll turn up blowing loud horn with the stormy speed. Again, you chaps, what to say, ‘re moving and moving with ismart phones. Will you believe that?”
“Oh no Dadu, what you say! I ‘ll believe. Tell me now.”
“The headmaster called Jajati Mohan Ghosh ‘Jajati’ “
“What kind of a man was he?”
“Great !!! And he called everyone ‘thou’. Again you chaps call folk ‘you’ ‘you’. “
(With curiosity) “Then! Then!”
“Then Sholeswar Chatujje came. The earlier headmaster also called him ‘thou’. His brother Shantinath Chatujje was a great master who taught in a well-known college in Kolkata. I called him ‘Shanti’.”
“Oh is it? Well, very well.”
“Whenever his brother came, he touched my feet with head bowed. Even I called his father by name. My neighbours they are. You chaps ‘re the fig-flowers, hardly found now a days.”
“Then more, more masters came. But all changed, changed utterly. Any way, ‘ve you learnt from that master of Jara? What’s his name? Oh yes, I remember Shibakali. He came here on July 23, 1990.”
(Surprised) “Well Dadu, how can you remember
“Ha ha ! When he came, I ‘s here. How great ! How young ! His father ‘s also a great master
at Jara High Iskool —- Harisatya Roy. How well he taught Bengali ! His father too had a great name and was worshipped a lot everywhere. I called his father by name.”
“By name? His father ‘s an old teacher indeed. Even you too called him by name?”
“Oh ho ! I ‘m senior to his father indeed. Besides, I knew his father very well. (With sighs
and tears) Gre–a–a–a–t master was he !!!
Now such master ‘s no more. Well, he’s a chip of the old block.”
Listening to Dadu’s words, my eyes were filled with tears, as if I could see nothing, hear nothing. I went on saying ‘hm’ (yes) in a trance. After some time Dadu said, “Are you listening to?”
“Hm Dadu. I was his student.”
Hearing Dadu’s applaude about my sir, my eyes became tearful. I tried to know more from Dadu about my sir.
“Well Dadu !” What do you know about my sir?”
“Your sir’s great, great. All in this area love him. He’s a name to all. The power of love is great.”
(Mystified) “How’s that? I couldn’t understand.”
“Then listen. Lemme tell you an incident.”
Dadu began to relate. I don’t know what he will say.
“Once some people from without ‘re insulting and humiliating your sir in the iskool and your other masters ‘re secretly fanning the flame. On the surface they pretended in such a way as if they ‘re on the side of your sir. They ‘re torturing your sir like Christ on the Cross. It was as if your sir teaches wrong and unworthy sir. On that day your sir cried much. Then all the students and their parents locked all the masters in a room for insulting your sir. Ultimately victory came upon your sir.”
(With sighs and tearful eyes) “Very painful words, Dadu !!!”
“Nowhere ‘ll be found such a master.”
“Well, who ‘re responsible for this?”
“Who else? It’s your other masters who don’t like your sir. Here comes a proverb ‘A disguised enemy in one’s own house’.”
Hearing all these, I as if became unconscious. My two eyes were flooded with tears and tears. From outside the gate one yelled, “Why is the gate opened on holiday?” Hearing that yell, I as if quaked and woke up from a trance. I looked at Dadu with dim and blurred eyes. There’s none, none, none. Only the statue stands still……..
Note: ‘Dadu’, a Bengali word, means ‘grandfather’.
The word ‘master’ is synonymous with ‘teacher’ when people without formal education utter in village areas of West Bengal in India. Among Bengali speaking people this word is very popular and full of innocence and love.
About the author:
Manab Manik is a bilingual poet and short story writer who has already published his two volumes of poems ‘Dreams Shattered and Other Poems’ (2019) and ‘My Poetic Offering’ (2019) with great critical responses from the critics in India, Australia, Canada, USA and so on. He has published his stories and poems in different magazines both online and print. His poems and stories draw tears of the readers like that of Wilde’s and Tagore’s. Now Manab is teaching English literature at Mugbasan Hakkania High School about 70 miles away from Kolkata in India.