FACES OF SANTINIKETAN-PART-1
FACES OF SANTINIKETAN-PART-1
This is going to be an incredible series for sure. We are here to capture the spirit of Santiniketan in it’s many hues – it is the story of the people-scape, an integral part of the psyche called Santiniketan. Naturally the observation plane and the time frame will be defined by the narrator. I believe each one of us has a lot to narrate; so the topic remains open ended. I present only my version; and urge others to present their visions too. This website ‘Muktodhara’ will be very happy to publish and consolidate such narrations of people-scape.
I would like to start with Khokada, Monoranjan Ghosh. My association with Khokada starts from the times of summer vacation when I was studying at class VII or VIII in Patha Bhavana. That was around 1971-72, I think. In those days, newly crowned with official football boots, our age group of boys was absolutely keen to try our mettle with the seniors at the Ashrama ground in summer vacation time. At vacation days, in depleted Santiniketan, players of all age assembled at the Ashrama ground each evening, going for a friendly, yet highly competitive football matches. We, the youngsters (more accurately the kids, led by one Bhup Narayan Singh-more about him later) were very eager to get into the scene. It was kind of a status symbol for us-getting a chance to play along with seniors meant that we have actually arrived in the playing arena of Santiniketan. We shall practice hard, run hard, kick even harder to catch the notice of the elders; and one fine afternoon some of us will be called in to have a go from the sidelines. Sooner or later our group of boys got an entry into the hot scene of Ashrama football.
Khokada was a regular player then. He was a very strict disciplinarian, with fascinating football skill and with a great left foot. Getting into his team was quite a head ache for us; as we would be often scolded by him for not being able to be in tune with his standards; which was far too high for most of us. He appeared very serious on football field; and we had to take the whole exercise very seriously. In spite being a great admirer of him, we were always a bit afraid of him. He was the ‘rough and tough’ guy for us in football field. Gradually, Monoranjan Ghosh withdrew him from the football field, as we took over the mantle of Ashrama football from him.
At the fag end of my college days, right during my initial phase of service life, I again got associated with Khokada, when he used to lead the team of ‘Benukunja’ boys in almost all cremation of the just dead Ashramites. I used to join the boys of ‘Benukunja’ at Ratanpally crematorium sometimes; and watched Khokada intently as the director of the cremation team! Even then the expertise was enviable. I heard that Khokada has put to ashes more than 100 bodies; some said it was 200 or even more. It was actually a great social service provided by Khokada for more than a decade to Santiniketan. By that time he became a teacher of Chemistry in Patha Bhavana. In between he served as a hostel warden, and in those days the hostel boys, much junior to us, were extremely wary of the strict discipline he maintained, In fact, just like us on the football field, these hostel boys were quite afraid of Khokada- he ofcourse did not allow the boys to create any nasty pranks! Some of the youngsters complained to me; which only made me smile! After all I was quite familiar with his tough ways on the football field decades ago! He retired a few years back; interestingly he taught my son at Patha Bhavana and my son quite liked Monoranjan Ghosh’s strict methods of conducting the Chemistry practicals.
Though Khokada, Monoranjan Ghosh, is very much here in Santiniketan, I do not see him much these days, except once in a while in the Bank when he comes for some banking job. My association with Khokada while chasing a football over spread green grass in a football field; or among the fire and the crackling sound of the bones and finally the ashes in crematorium ground was both eclectic to say the least. The last photograph is one of his last class in Patha Bhavana.
This is the great Bhup Narayan Singh in pale blue shirt beside me. He was a wonder sportsman in the sense that right from his school days he used to come first in one hundred and two hundred meter sprints in the University meet! He was obviously a great hero for Patha Bhavana sporting fraternity in his schooldays, as few school boys in those days could make the college ‘dadas’ bite dust! In college he was very much in the University Cricket, Football and Basket Ball team, and invariably grabbed the best athlete award in all University sports meets.
My association with Bhup was much closer than only on the playing fields as he was my classmate in Patha Bhavana. In summer afternoons we would sneak out from our houses and go on rampaging other’s garden in serach of mangoes anf guavas and Coconuts and Batabi Lebus- in fact whatever we could grab our hands on. Bhup, the son of Sri Muktinath Singh (in Bengali ‘Muktinathda’r Byata’) was invariably the gang leader. We were so fast runners that we could never be caught by anyone, in fact I do not remember any incidence where we were caught; and the whole locality became extremely petrified by the gang led by ‘Muktinathdar Byata’! In fact Bhup was already a popular figure at class VI or VII; and being his obedient disciples (Chelas to be more specific) we shared the fame as well. My mother, after being fed up with barrage of regular complaints from neighbours and others from Purva Pally and Seva Pally area often used to issue me ultimatums to sever ties with Bhup Narayan Singh. But, naturally severing ties with Bhup Narayan Singh would have meant a huge loss of mangoes, coconuts, guavas and what not, which was absolutely unacceptable to me! Later when we grew up, we often led night rendezvous of garden raiding even when all the members of the targeted house were awake, watching TV or talking with each other- such was our mastery in the trade! For me, we were compatriots in the playing fields right from our childhood; so the association flourished. Bhup Narayan Singh has a loads of stories attached to him (I do hope someone among us to deliberate of those funny stories too); with a quick wit he is still a game on hilarious wise cracks. I still remember, nearly a year back, a lunch with a bit of warm drinks, along with Prosit Mukherjee (Boltu), Bhup and myself in a restaurant, ultimately became a tearful event for all- incredibly we laughed so much remembering the good old days that uncontrolled tears came streaming down our cheek. Ohh—the good old jolly fellows!
Next to our generation it was fascinating to watch Kundal Sasmal (Sankha) on the playing fields, be it football, cricket or sports; he had a great flair for all of them. Style was his forte, aided by a great deal speed and skill. He maintained his popularity with both the boys and girls. I will not recall names; but I came to know from the very genuine sources, that there were a group of hostel girls appearing for the Madhyamik test at Patha Bhavana. Each morning before the test, they had to have a look of Kundan(read Darshana of the great Almighty!); otherwise they believed that they would fare poorly in the final exams! Till date, I do not know of any other lad enjoying such a almighty status with girls! Well, he was equally deft at dribbling a football as a left winger/right winger and the ladies fanciful hearts in his heydays- quite an iconic figure indeed! He was also the first male lead in a Tagore dance drama directed by Arup Mitra of Patha Bhavana for the first time in Santiniketan, where boys other than Sangit Bhavana took part in a big way. Since then, till date, Arup Mitra has put on stage many dance drama of Rabindranath by Patha Bhavana where boys have taken up lead roles with elan. More about Arup some other time.
Kundan was our neighbour at Ratanpally. When he was at the primary level in school Patha Bhavana, with a height of around 3feet 6 inches; my very proud father caught a Katla Katla from Lalbandh which was a wee bit taller than Kundan’s height! So an idea was mooted to take a photograph of them together for record. Accordingly a photographer was called in from Bolpur. Seeing the huge Katla beside him, Kundan unleashed a shrill cry and jumped to his mother’s lap never to come down again! I still remember that amusing scene!
I know there will be a plethora of stories about Kundan. I again do hope that others will contribute as well!
The last photograph was taken on a school leaving occasion on 8th Poush in recent times.I know many of these lads will have a lot to recollect as years pass by.