OH, THE GIRLS OF OUR TIMES!
OH, THE GIRLS OF OUR TIMES!
Got fairly bogged down, or lets say even a bit bored, by writing apparently serious stuff about Santiniketan and Visva Bharati. Let us move on to the lighter sides of life.
Prayer hall or Kanch Mandir was often a very convenient place to exchange old footwear for apparently newer ones (like it happens elsewhere too). In our times, the most popular foot wear was ofcourse the Hawaii Chappal, now elevated to quite a life-style statement courtesy our Chief Minister Ms Mamata Banerjee. Usually when the hawaii chappal had to be supplemented by a safety pin punctured to keep it in wearable conditions, it was high time to go for a swap. To avoid this unholy swap, students usually kept the relatively new hawaii chappals specially marked.
One evening I silently left my safety pin supplemented hawaii chappal and picked up another almost new. Next morning I went to college, with my gait bolstered by the recently swapped hawaii chappal. In the evening, relatively nicely attired by standard of those days, with the stolen hawaii chappal worn with pride, I landed up in the Ashrama area, in front of Sree Sadan for a date fixed with one of the girls. It was a craftily conceived new venture for me, and a compelling reason to exchange the old hawaii chappal for a much sparkling newer one! Out she came from Sree Sadan, almost sailing like a bird, with a hidden smile beaming in her eyes. Few girls naughtily wished her an anticipated absorbing evening. After a few steps together, looking at my new chappal she jumped up in the air and proclaimed “Oh it is you, who stole my chappal?” Pointing out to a almost invisible tiny mark on the chappal she proclaimed “That is the mark I put on just yesterday!” Now, the emerging affair got severely nipped in the bud- actually ‘mutilated’ should be the proper expression. She was adamant not to have anything to do with a chappal-thief. I had to walk back home bare footed and never re-surfaced anywhere near Sree Sadan for about three months or so. I was terribly afraid of the dreaded Sree Sadan lady gang, lest they address me as ‘Choti Chor’ whenever they managed to get hold of me!
I understood in no uncertain terms that why in Rabindranath Tagore’s time everyone moved bare footed in Santiniketan, people were naturally much wiser then! It was a great far sight of Rabindranath Tagore in those days in Santiniketan as being bare footed was highly gender neutral which naturally reduced a lot of unforeseen complications like the one I had to endure. From that fateful day onward, I became quite suspicious of Hawaii Chappals as it was never a gender specific foot wear- you never knew whether it was meant for the ladies or the gents!
Till today my ‘one unfulfilled date’ old girl friend never exchanged even a hello with me inspite of coming to Santiniketan several times specially on Poush Mela days; and I could never muster the courage to invite her friendship even in Facebook or other social media even after nearly three decades.
There were many such curious mishaps in my life while interacting with the ever mysterious girls of our times, in and outside Santiniketan.
In my school days, on a visit to Digha with my mother and few others, I was on the beach on my own. Waves were in simple harmonic motion gently splashing on to the sand and quietly moving away. I was etching my name on the sand of the sea shore, invariably to be washed off by the next tiny wave. Somehow I got hooked to the game, each time I wrote my name- at times quite emphatically, the next wave would invariably flatten the letters into a smooth layer of sand. A girl, of my age-I reckon, in nicely clad flowery skirt silently tiptoed in and watched me for a while and said “Why are you writing your name on the sand? Write your name in my heart, it will not get wiped off.”
Actually in Bengali she said ‘Balite naam likhcho keno? Amar book-e lekho, muchbe na!”. I got simply blown off, thinking how could I possibly write a name on the flowery and puffy chest (the literal translation of ‘book’ in Bengali!) of a girl, that also in broad day light! The girl waited for some eternal moment, and left with a jerk suggesting the unspoken words ‘What an idiot, you are!’ When she was away by 20 yards or so, realizing that she was actually probing the nuances of the heart, I felt a sudden impulse to run to her and make some cherubic presentation to her heart; but in reality I watched her slowly move away and be lost among many people on the beach.
The truth is, me being a Patha Bhavana boy, was never smart enough to catch up with girls of our age, right from our school days.
Even in my college days, though personally I was never too petrified about spoken English, we specially avoided convent educated girls because we never felt too comfortable with their ‘phot’ ‘phot’ English often mixed with Bengali. I distinctly recall once after watching a movie in a popular Calcutta cinema hall, I was blown out of my wits when few girls discussed mode of transport back home- “Dhoro A Bus and Go Home Baba!” It took me quite a few minutes to comprehend what they were actually conversing, whether it was Greek or Hebrew! I was initially a bit tempted to interact with those rather smart looking college girls, but conversing in pure Bengali or in English was one thing, but to tackle this special brand of ‘Benglish’ appeared to be a tough proposition, and I refrained. In those day ‘Bong’ was not an in circulation phrase either.
To top all these when I was a 3rd year graduate student, I had a chance encounter with a first year convent educated girl from Shillong who took admission in Visva Bharati. She was on the basket court in the evening; where as, I was practising cricket on the bitumen road near the Ashrama play ground with few others. We just got introduced a few days before, seeing me wielding my cricket bat on the bitumen road, which was supposed to be a road rather than a cricket pitch, she walked up to me and said “ You are a nut”. I was desperately searching my brain for a suitable answer, after all a 3rd year lad is not supposed to be ragged by a first year girl so I shot back without thinking much “Oh is it? Then, you are a nut with cream, delicious to eat”. She promptly quipped back “As if you tasted!”, gave me a tantalizingly naughty look and moved away. So many things could have happened after that, my taste buds were always sprightly alive in those days; but I went numb in my brain to the convent educated street smart intelligence, I never had the instinct to follow up the interaction. I just watched her move away to Benukunja, then to her hostel…that was effectively the end on the story, well naturally!
Do you think all these episodes are real? Well, may be or may be not, maybe some are real, some others are imaginary. I leave this to the the readers; but the essence of all these stories of a Patha Bhavana and Santiniketan lad’s interaction with girls, is essentially true.