“B..A..N…..Ban,” the teacher in the village school was teaching English to the students of Class V.
“B..A..N…..Ban,” the students repeated.
“M..A..N…..Man,” the teacher spoke loudly.
“M..A..N…..Man,” the students followed in a sing-song voice.
“C..A..N…..San,” the teacher again announced.
“No. C…A…N is not San…It is Can…CAN,” the class was interrupted by the loud voice of a frail woman who had just walked into the classroom to hand over lunch to one of the students who had forgotten it at home.
The teacher was indignant and shouted, “ C..A..N is San, not Can. Do you know better than me?”
“Yes..Of course, I do know. My elder son is studying in the city. I have heard him saying C..A..N Can, not San,” she retorted without any hesitation.
The teacher felt even more humiliated and almost shouting at the top of his voice said, “Then you take away your son from this school. I’ll not teach him. Take him to your city school. There is no place for him here. Take him away…Right now,” he grabbed the boy by his arm and pushed him towards the woman. The child almost lost his balance but the woman held him midway and saved him from falling.
The frail woman was bold and fearless. She stood straight, “Yes, yes! I also don’t want my son to sit here in this school and learn wrong things from a fool like you, Master. Come with me, son”, and she walked away from the school holding the tiny hand of a nine year old scared boy.
SCENE 2 (YEAR 1934)
Two months later, a small boy with closely cropped hair and silver rings in his ears feeling very conscious was sitting in the last row of the classroom in a Govt. School in the city of Saharanpur in western Uttar Pradesh.
“Look at him. He looks like a scared mouse... Ha..ha..ha”, said one of the fat affluent looking boys of the class.
“Mouse? Yes..yes.. mouse… Let us drag him by his tail,” said another trying to grab his choti (a bunch of hair on the head of Hindus) as the third one actually moved towards him to enjoy the fun of pulling his hair. All the other boys in the class watched the fun and giggled.
The little boy was scared to his bones but fortunately for him the Maths teacher walked into the class at that very moment and the bullies retreated to their respective desks. After the attendance, the teacher opened his bag and took out the monthly test notebooks. In his tough strong voice, he said, “Ram Chander?”
“Yes, Sir,” as he stood up, his legs were shaking with fear.
“This is your note-book, Oye Murkiwale (the one who is wearing earrings)?,” the teacher’s tone was stern as usual and the boy was gripped with fear.
“Yes, Sir,” he replied in a shaky voice still going weak on his knees fearing the worst.
“Come here in front,” the teacher commanded in a thunderous voice and a chill went down his spine as the little boy very hesitatingly moved towards the teacher who in the mean time again roared, “Hasn’t your mother given you any food today? Move fast!”
As the little boy quickened his pace and moved towards the teacher fearing caning on his palms, the teacher came forward, caught hold of his trembling shoulders and turned him towards the class. With his hands still on the boy’s shoulders, he addressed the class, “He is the only boy in the class who has scored ten out of ten in the test. Well done, my boy!”
He patted his back.
Next, the teacher announced looking at the three-some on the last bench, “Oye Fatso! Oye Blackie! Oye Fox-Face! All three of you come here. You rascals, don’t you study at all. All of you are a blot on my class, getting big zeroes in Maths. Come here fast,” the teacher’s tone was as brusque as it could be.
What followed after this, the meek little boy had never imagined even in his wildest dreams. The teacher handed him over his cane and asked him to lash the three boys, who were torturing him a few moments away. “Cane them on each palm five times, one each for one mark lost. As the little boy was scared and hesitated to comply, the teacher yelled again, “Do as I am telling you or you get the caning.”
Whoosh…whoosh…whoosh…the sound of the cane resonated thirty times in the classroom for the next three minutes.
Then on, the young boy became the uncrowned King of the class.
SCENE 3 (YEAR 1940)
A small room in Dehra Dun near Mata-ka-Bagh. Two small cots placed side by side. A wooden plank kept in the middle joining the two cots. A kerosene lantern placed precariously on the plank providing light to both. Two youngsters aged 14 and 26 sitting in their respective cots and pouring over their books. The younger one is studying for his matriculation.
Exams are on the anvil. The lantern is flickering.
“Go off to sleep now. The lantern is flickering. It is running out of kerosene,” the elder of the two said.
“But I have not finished my revision,” the younger one replied.
“Why don’t you understand? There is no kerosene in the house now. I’ll buy some for tomorrow if I get my tuition fees. Put away your books and go off to sleep. I will also sleep now.”
The flame flickered one last time and it was pitch dark in the room, kerosene fumes filling the room. The elder one pushed his books onto the floor and stretched himself on the cot.
The younger one picked up his books and quietly slipped out of the room. Next moment, he was perched on a tree trunk lying on the roadside under the lamp post. The study session had continued uninterrupted.
|I have to carve|
SCENE IV (YEAR 1942)
“Your Inter result has come. It is time you start looking up for a job. I’ll speak to someone and you can easily get a clerical job somewhere.”
“No Bro! I don’t want to work, I want to study further.”
“I can’t afford your fees. It is better that you start earning now.”
“But I have topped in the Board exams. I’m sure some college will condone my fees”, there were traces of a new found confidence in his voice.
He took a train and reached Cawnpore (now Kanpur) and met Dr. Kalka Prasad Bhatnagar, the then Principal of DAV College, Kanpur. Seeing his mark-sheets of High School and Intermediate, he was given admission in the College with tuition fees, hostel - boarding & lodging expenses fully condoned.
This is the time to prove. This is the time to make big in life. This is the time to break the shackles of poverty and come out. This is an opportunity for laying foundations of a meaningful, satisfying and rewarding life ahead.
|In DAV College, Kanpur (1946)|
Seated on the left.
SCENE V (the year 1946)
January 1946. Examinations for MA (Economics) are scheduled to start in April. The lecturers are trying to finish the course at a frantic pace. There are extra classes every day. The principal Dr. KP Bhatnagar is a hard task-master. He would not let go of any lecturer if the course is not finished on time or if the performance of the college students is not up to the mark. It is a question of his personal prestige. He is aiming to be the Vice- Chancellor of Agra University, the biggest University in northern India shortly. The atmosphere in the college is charged with hard-work and anxiety.
And suddenly, he is suffering from high fever. The diagnosis is typhoid. This miyadi bukhar (fever with a minimum specific time-frame) will take at least 21 days to go. No grain is allowed to be eaten during this period. Fruits, he can’t afford. All this would be followed by crippling weakness for days on.
The fever has come down but he is still very weak. But he has no option but to get out of the bed as early as possible. It’s a question of “Do or Die”. He pulls himself out and goes for his bath but weakness overpowers him. He faints in the toilet. His room-mate manages to assist him back to the room. He is trying to convalesce as quickly as possible.
One evening, the roommate enters the room and announces with concern, “Ramchoo! Wo saale sab bahut khush ho rahein hain (Those fellows are feeling very happy.) They are saying that now that you have become so weak and would not be able to study, their friend will top in the exams.” He sits up in his bed, “Jaa ke bol de un saalon ko, top to main hee karoonga.” (Go and tell those fellows that I will be the one who will top in the exam.)
|Study....study....and study...The focus is clear.|
Next few months, his focus is even sharper. He does not know when the sun rises and when it sets. The books are his world. Reading, assimilating and reproducing as notes is the only activity he is aware of. The room-mate provides him all the moral support and keeps him pepped up. In turn, he would read his laboriously prepared notes when he went off to catch up on his sleep.
Time flies away like leaves on a stormy summer afternoon. The exams come and go. The result is announced.
He stands tall amongst the successful candidates holding first division and first position in the University.
Thus ended the first phase of his life bringing him to the threshold of a new and bright world with hope, expectations and cheer as his companions.
|Taking the salute on Independence Day|
as City Magistrate,
Bulandshahr (UP) in 1959
25thApril, He was born this day in the year 1926. Yes, today is his birth anniversary. Had he been alive, he would have turned 86 today. Although he has left his physical form, he is still alive in all of us, his children, who treat him as the source of light in our lives. He is also alive in the hearts of all those who came in contact with him, the poor, the needy and the downtrodden and the people who worked with him.
He lived for his ideals. He lived for justice. He lived for righteousness and honesty. Even after his demise 15 years ago, his ideals are alive in us, his children and continue to lead us.
May we and our future generations continue to be inspired by you and your ideals, dear Father!
May we and our future generations continue to be inspired by you and your ideals, dear Father!