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Walking On Footprints of Time

By Kumar Sanjay Krishna | PUBLISHED: 10, Dec 2010, 14:00 pm IST | UPDATED: 15, Apr 2011, 14:00 pm IST

Walking On Footprints of Time

Turning to one’s past and replaying those moments bear special significance in life. People individually and collectively explore those days when they grew up and led a life facing many odds and braving numerous difficulties. Recalling the days spent in a school to fashion the future fills the heart with new spirit to reassess one’s potentialities to take on the challenges ahead. The pages of history offer us the examples of celebrated personalities peeping in to those periods when they studied and worked hard to reach out to the unknown realms.

Every phase of history making departures from its preceding phase explores the deep recesses of by gone era to get perspectives soaked with ancient wisdom. Karl Marx once while answering a question as to why during renaissance and reformation, people turned to ancient phase of Greece, said that people always looked at their childhood days with great love and affection. If a revolutionary like Marx explained the desire of people to look back at their childhood days with such warmth then one can well imagine the irresistible yearning of a lesser mortal like me to rekindle the spirit of student days so nicely spent in the class rooms and play fields of the school in Jorhat.

Nostalgia helps us to revisit the past which is much more than the chronological period encapsulated in years, months and dates. It is romance associated with a place and institutions and myths and memories surrounding them.  The events defining the era have resonance the frequency of which is captured by all those who remain tuned to it even after passage of years and centuries.

Nostalgia takes us backward and recalls happy memories and at the same time invests our present with energy and strength to shape our future. Even the words never spoken and yet integrally connected with the years gone by resonate in the hearts and minds generating impulses and impacting every fibre of the being. The nostalgic feeling of visiting a school where I studied during 1969 to 1976 truly energises me. It is well said that “To look backward for a while is to refresh the eye, to restore it, and render it the more fit for its primary function of looking forward”.

As one harks back to those days one fondly remembers the lessons taught in the class rooms. Unlike the   highly commercialised educational institutions of twenty first century India, we have had the benefit of getting educated in an atmosphere which was free from the dominance of greedy commercial instinct. The dedication of teachers, their love and affection, their guidance left deep impress on our mind.

The joy of walking to the school and later riding a cycle to explore the corners of the town added as much to the shaping up the consciousness as the valuable education imparted in the class rooms. It was 40 years back that we joined Jorhat Government Higher Secondary Multipurpose Boys’ School as a student of class 4 after a written entrance test. It was then a prestige issue for each good student of primary schools to get into our school. Once we got into the school, we believed that we reached the ultimate without realizing that it was a small first step into the world which over next 40 years changed unbelievably so much!

We had our first class room in a building right to the main building. It had three class rooms in one side and a bigger class room with a gallery in other side. Our first class teacher was Sri Ramakanta Bora. He was a very soft spoken, good looking, gentleman, who left us midway when he was appointed as Judicial Magistrate after his selection in Assam Judicial Service. I always carried good memories of him as being my first class teacher and was delighted at the prospect of meeting him many years later when I was posted as Deputy Commissioner, Tezpur in 1990 where he was also posted as District Judge.

It was my bad luck that he suddenly passed away in the very first week of my joining in Tezpur. It remained an unfulfilled dream to meet him after 1969! In school for next six years, we were taught by teachers like Sarbashree Wilflake Goldsmith, Rohini Dutta, Deben Dutta, Munin Kotoky, Chandra Bordoloi, Kalyan Bhuyan, Niren Singh, Lakhyeswar Saikia, Biren Barua, Jogen Gohain, Gunaram Das, Tilok Chutia, Loknath Kalita, Gunin Dutta, Anima Saikia, Niru Gohain, Anil Borkotoky, Abdul Matin, Anil Sharma, Gajen Chakravarty, Kumud Sharma, Karuna Goswami, Dwijen Bora, Sarat Dutta, Joguram Das etc, who were stalwarts and left everlasting imprints in my life. They were ahead of times. I remember when Lakhyeswar Saikia sir came up with an objective type mathematics paper in class 6 with not more than 2 marks for each question. It was revolutionary then to have mathematics paper with more than 50 questions.

Years later when I appeared for IAS preliminary examination, I remembered the day in class 6 when we were prepared by a teacher to appear in an objective type examination keeping the restricted time factor in mind at the age of 10 to get ready for all India examination of same type many years later!! It was this capacity of teachers, their foresightedness, their love to experiment for the benefit of students, their strictness and discipline made all the difference in my life. Who can forget the war story telling abilities of Biren Barua sir! Till today I have not seen or heard anybody telling story like him! I can never forget the administrative skills and teaching techniques of Sarbashree Zehirul Hussain as Principal and Gopal Bordoloi and Tirtha Sharma Barua as Vice-Principals.

It was the age of radio. Possession of what was popularly called   transistor was a measure of the status of the family. Any information transmitted over radio was considered as sacrosanct. Even time announced over radio was accepted as the most accurate time. Popularly known as radio time it became a standard to set the time of all clocks and watches.  The regional news bulletin in the Assamese being aired as part of the morning bulletin through medium wave of All India Radio, Guwahati-Dibrugarh set the tone of the day to keep ourselves abreast of the information. Who can forget programs like Geetimalika, Kalpataru and Nokowai bhal during that period. My grandfather used to take me to occasional circus shows in winter, which was another yearly entertainment in Jorhat then.

One of the dominant feature of that age was the emergence of Shrimati Indira Gandhi casting a spell across the length and breadth of the nation. Her charisma was as captivating for the grown ups as for the young students studying in schools. Her slogan Garibi Hatao electrified the nation. There was some kind of a spontaneous and emotional outpouring of support for her.

None in India had the capacity to rival her popularity and fame. The discourse of Indian politics and public life was singlehandedly determined by what she said and what she did not say. I remember accompanying my grandfather in summer of 1971 when she came to Jorhat to address in court field. India’s military victory in 1971 war was unprecedented in our history. She was the architect of that historic triumph. We all remember huddling around a radio to listen to the news from the war field and feel proud on hearing about the success of our armed forces. The rare thrill one got during those formative days of life will forever remain etched in my memory.

Cinema in India is a unifying force. As youngsters our imagination was greatly formed by the songs of the films starred by the super star of the time Rajesh Khanna. The melodious tunes from his films were on our lips. The fashion he set in wearing a dress or adopting a hair style became the defining fashion of our time. That age saw the emergence of Kishore Kumar as the singing sensation of the nation and rise of Amitabh Baccahn as an actor. Even while walking, doing some work or whiling away some time one never missed the opportunity of softly murmuring the lines of the popular tunes of the time. Assamese cinema was also at their best then.

Starting with Dr. Bezbaruah, Baruar Sansar, Jog Biyog etc were real entertaining movies then, with evergreen songs. Though interested to see English movies on Sunday morning in Eleye cinema hall, I didn’t have the courage to ask my parents to allow me to go for it, so we had to be content to hear all interesting aspects of those morning shows(!) from friends like Siddhartha Bordoloi and Satya Neog on Mondays!!

The teenage sensation portrayed in Bobby and songs of that film set a new trend. Even while getting chided by parents to focus attention on studies we stole some time to watch the movie which was a rage across the country. Studies combined with entertainment made life joyful. Getting a first division with letter marks was the deeply nursed longing of a very good student.

None ever dared think of ninety percent. In fact it was impossible on any body’s part to reach that high figure. Even to get 75 per cent of marks was a distant dream for majority of students then. Hardly anybody mentioned the percentage of marks secured.  It was the division which defined the academic standard of a student. None now refers to the division. The grade or percentages are so high that anything below ninety is treated as average now.

One was so playful that it made learning joyful. The adolescent pranks to experiment gave ample opportunities to explore diverse realms of life. While spending seven years in school, we met so many boys. Some of them became friends for life. As these years were formative years of one’s life, the friendship formed during that period is permanent, without any selfish motives, full of innocence and it is a treasure for life. Among others, Nawab, Deepaka, Anuj, Siddhartha always remain my best of friends and we are always in touch with each other wherever we may be. I still fondly remember playing cricket in front of my grandfather’s house with Tapan and breaking door and window glasses!! The nostalgic feeling one gets in going back to those days actually connects one with infinity. The simplicity and innocence of the age and on top of it the non-polluted atmosphere made life so healthy and hopeful.

The pace of life was slow. Even in the smallest of small things one could see the larger aspects of life. It was best reflected in one of the songs of Pakeeja “Chalo Dil Dar Chalo, Chand Ke Par Chalo”. As years advanced and we entered the closing phase of the twentieth century one could hear a new song confining love to the tune “Aaati Kiya Khandala”.

Nostalgia teaches vital lessons of life. Remembering the past does not mean remembering only the good things that we experienced. It is said that “Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson: You find the present tense and the past perfect”. The past was never perfect. It had its problems and ordeals. That era as other eras posed many challenges. It was the age when India was living from ship to mouth. As teen-agers our parents had difficulty in giving us the best of the things which the children of our time are getting from their families. It was the period of struggle for us to do well in studies and translate the success in academics to success in larger sphere of life.

To look beyond the frontiers of school and the college and to think of doing the best at the national level was nothing short of revolutionary in those days of limited communication and contact. Yet the school provided the setting to dream and think big. The dedicated teachers fired and fuelled by idealism triggered the thought process to break the barriers and forge ahead. The school taught me to combine success with values.

I owe a lot to that era which immensely shaped my personality and harnessed my energy to stretch my arms to embrace the larger aspects of life. It is therefore instructive to look back. Let me refer to a quotation. It says “Distance not only gives nostalgia, but perspective, and may be objectivity.” In exploring that era and revisiting it I have enriched my perspective and objectively assessed my strength and shortcomings for facing my life more positively.