As the Dipanwita ran with him in tow, Sangbad got the answer to his thought. She was actually checking out in the way whether a’one had been left out or just loitering around. He found the group of student he had seen a few moments back was following them along with few more.
As they came out on the balcony through the door of the adjacent room, running parallel to the other three big rooms, Sangbad saw the field was not rectangular, but, it was like that of alphabet L. He had seen the head before and now he was seeing the leg. The field was tiny, a bit of land between the brother-buildings and the sides were decorated with big cornered leafed trees and few more decorative trees. The most striking feature was a guava tree, standing at one side adjacent to the balcony.
“Pawan…come here…” Dipanwita called out in a high voice.
Sangbad was seeing around the field and thinking he knew well; he was actually recollecting the vast field, and the time he had spent there playing hide and seek, treasure hunt and many more games, from his last school. The call of the name brought him back to the field. His eyes first went to the guava tree.
“Yes…Miss…” a heavy frail voice disturbed his thought.
He looked at the boy. He was a tall and lean boy; he was elder than him it can be deduced easily. Sangbad attention got caught by the eyes of the boy. They look like the one of that dinosaur from Jurassic Park…Sangbad heard the voice again.
“He’s new entrant…see, where he can stand…Mrs. Sen is already here…do it quick…” Dipanwita said quickly before going away to the other side of the field—at the leg.
Sangbad saw queue had been formed for the Morning Prayer. There were four at the stretch while three more at the breath of the L-shaped field.
“Hi, I’m Pawan…and you…” the boy reintroduced self after he signaled Sangbad to follow him.
Sangbad replied in the first name only.
Pawan doesn’t reply back. He rather started checking a queue standing at the extreme left on the length of the field. His action reminded Sangbad of his Didi who perform the same action of checking; the only difference she does that with her assorted small collection of books and he was doing that with students to find where Sangbad can fit in properly. After three tries, checking height by shoulder with two boys, he got a place ‘fore a tall boy with a baby face.
“All ready…silent now…” Mrs. Sushmita Sen voice was heard.
The field became quiet. Boys like Pawan who were in charge quickly took their place. Sangbad saw Pawan stand in their queue immediate after the boy behind him.
“Where’s you diary…” the boy standing behind him asked in low voice.
“What…diary…” Sangbad turned his head to understand what he had just said. There was no such thing like this in his last school. So all this were new to him like the school and its students were.
“Hush…Madam is coming…” Pawan said from behind alarmingly.
After a round of walking among the queues, Mrs. Sen took her position in the mid of two queues.
“Take mine…and hold it little high, so, that I can read it…” the boy from behind passed him his diary to Sangbad with a page already opened.
“And read the words…nothing el–”
“Will you two shut up…” Pawan again said as Mrs. Sen looked around suddenly ‘fore starting “Our Father…” in her Madam Baritone.
Sangbad at first couldn’t get what was happening. He just kept looking at the words and tried to chant the Prayer, but, as everyone said Amen he was at ease. He was feeling hot and he was perspiring profusely. His fair face had gone red and the face was full of beads of sweats. The 10 AM summer sun was acting harshly on him.
“Now, put the diary in your pocket and gather your fingers and put it up on your mouth…from today we’re going to pray another Prayer…in Bengali…your Ratna Miss will lead the chore…” Mrs. Sen announced before changing her position and going among the other teachers standing at the joint of the L-shaped field—at the junction of the length and the breath.
“Put it in your pocket…” the boy said from behind.
Ratna Miss starts singing “Asado Ma Sadgamaya…”
“Can I sit beside you…” Sangbad asked the tall boy, his guide in the Prayer queue.
“Sure…why not…” the boy took up the bag and made a space for him. He was sitting at the last bench.
“I’m Priyotosh…and you…” the boy introduces self after Sangbad gave back his diary and took out a pink towel kerchief to wipe his face.
Sangbad introduces self and had a sip from his bottle.
“So…what was your last school…” Priyotosh asked.
“Who’s this towel boy…” A girl had come up.
Sangbad looked at her. She was pretty looking. Her hair was plaited in two tied with a rubber band.
“Am Sangbad…and you…” Sangbad replied while taking his seat.
Another boy came up. He was very much lean and looked ill.
“Am Anushka…” the girl replied and was going to say more when a teacher enters the classroom.
“Will you like to have lunch with us…” Sangbad asked the boy who was with Anushka in the morning and sitting beside her.
He didn’t get a chance to came up and introduce self to the boy ‘cause the aunties were coming up as soon as one class ended. It was another new to him. In his last school, it was ritual to call teacher aunty and there was only one aunty who used to take two to three periods—back to back.
As the recess started, Sangbad finding Anushka nowhere around walked to the third bench to get acquaintance with the boy. He somehow disliked Anushka. It reminds him of Sree from his previous school.
“No..actually…” the boy stammered a little showcasing his discomfort.
“Am Sangbad…and if you want to enjoy the lunch, you can come to our bench…” Sangbad didn’t give him a chance to speak and walked away to his bench.
Priyotosh had taken out his Tiffin box and was waiting for Sangbad. He had found hard to understand Sangbad. He was talkative but at the same time serious while studying; he spoke lots of his last school especially of s’one name Suman. At the same time, he remains lost often—thinking nothing, but, seeing around blankly as if he was searching s’thing.
“Will he come…am hungry…” Priyotosh asked.
“Let’s see..” Sangbad replied shortly.
He takes out his lunch box—a plastic blue one. Priyotosh looked at his unknowingly which was long and slender aluminum box.
“You know that Abhirup was my classmate at my last school…” Priyotosh said to start a conversation.
Sangbad sat up on the high bench and keeping his lunch box on his lap, “so, why didn’t he came up…”
“He is like that…” Priyotosh replied while adjusting his position as Sangbad hanging leg had touched once or twice his knee and Sangbad was unaware of that.
“Do I call–” Sangbad was going to offer a proposal to call Abhirup up when he was interrupted by an “excuse me” in a narrow voice.
It was the boy from the third bench whom he had offered their company.
“Wait…Priyo could you sit aside…’cause am loving this position of mine on the high bench…”
Priyotosh moves aside a little more and was surprised as Sangbad came down and let the boy sat while he again sat down on the high bench at one corner.
“He’s Priyotosh…you two should know each other ‘cause the class had started two days ago…” Sangbad asked while wiping his sweat off the forehead with his kerchief.
“No…actually…by the way I’m Saibal…” the boy replied abruptly.
“I’m hungry…can we have our lunch…” Priyotosh interrupted as he started opening his box.
“What do you have…” Sangbad asked.
Priyotosh opened his box and screamed, “not again…roti and curry…”
Sangbad smiled and looked towards Saibal.
Saibal opened his box—enamel Tiffin Box, then “I’ve Maggi…”
Sangbad looked at his box and saw the hot Maggi had turned to a cake being under compression.
He was going to say s’thing where Anushka showed saying “you boys are so rude and mean…”
“Why…what happen…” Sangbad asked.
“Can I be among you…”
“Sure…sure…actually you were…”
“It’s okay…I have roti and dry potato curry…what all you’ve…” Anushka said while opening his plastic Tiffin Box being standing there.
Sangbad came down, then, said “Saibal, get up here…let her sit there…”
“Why…am going to sit here…” Anushka said while putting her box on top of Sangbad’s who was holding his box in his hand.
She sat up and open the box in her lap after taking up her box.
“What you have…” Saibal asked Sangbad who was standing and finding words to say to Anushka.
“Cake…what’s that…” he replied incompletely as s’thing at Anushka’s Tiffin Box had caught his attention.
“Nothing…it is nothing…” Anushka said while hiding s’thing.
But, before she could hide what she wanted to hide Sangbad snatched her box, dropping his on the lap of Saibal, and took out a small compressed rectangular box.
Before Anushka could protest, Sangbad opened the box and cried out “rasogolla**…”
He put in his mouth one and then the second one.
Anushka face became red. Saibal was thinking what to do. Priyotosh had torn a piece of roti and put it in his mouth forgetting to smear it with curry.
“I love them very much…” Sangbad said while chewing the sweet, “you can have the cake…it’s of Vanilla flavor and I hate that flavor…and if you want more…Saibal you’re eating with spoon, so, there’s my bag…inside that…yes in that pocket…you’ll find a thonga…take it…it’s full of Éclairs…oh…if I can have one more of this…is not it is from Dey Brothers…”
Priyotosh was surprised again. Sangbad was a ten-year boy, as he had said in the second or third period, but acting like six or five; Saibal was thinking what a funny boy he is though he looked much older than his age—he might be twelve or s’thing like that…
The thing they all missed was Anushka’s fair cheek had got a shade of pink as Sangbad through Saibal passed her the Éclairs. She looked at Sangbad who was chewing hard the two sweets in his mouth in élan with closing his eyes in satisfaction.
She took the Éclairs and asked him “when’s you birthday…”
Sangbad took a sip of water from his bottle and after gulping down the water replied “twentieth of April…three days from now…now take the cake and let me have a roti ‘cause the curry smells good…Priyo, do not try to hide yours…am going to have that also…and Saibal keeps a slice of the Maggi cake, though it’s salty, for me as dessert…”
Those beautiful days
And our naughty hearts
How I miss today
Our Juicy talks
Our nonstop chatting
While lazy walks
Outburst of giggles
Without any cause
Those were years
Of You n Me
That innocent age
Was so carefree!
Those sweet memories
And juicy we!
An Ode to Golden Days–Meenakshi Sethi
Rasogolla—popularly known as Rasgulla is famous Indian sweets. These are dumplings balls made from chhana (a sort of Indian cottage cheese) dipped in sugary or s’thing sweet equal to that. These are popular mostly among the Bengalis of West Bengal.