People almost always have an affinity towards their own language. Not many can detach themselves from their own mother tongue and carry on with their cosmopolitan existence. Somewhere down the line, the “apanapan” in them “jaag he jaata hai...”!! Even, when students leave their home, one of the first things that come to their parents’ mind is that it would be better if their daughter/son finds a roommate/classmate/friend/colleague that belongs to the same region or speaks the same language.
“Ideas ka exchange aasani se ho jata hai, you see”
And / Or
“woh tumhe zyada behtar samajh sakenge..”
I remember how I used to make it a point to speak in the same language to my fellow ‘same-language’ classmates in Delhi. Sometimes it was forced but I carried on, maybe the language had a wonderful “sugar-syrup” quality attached to it. Remember, that interesting episode in the Akbar-Birbal story, about a man knowing every language, so well that nobody could decipher his mother tongue. But then, Birbal always had different ideas.
Ok, so cut to July, 1993 -
Our family was transferred from Mumbai to Baroda. I had just completed my class 5 then. Marathi was a part of my course in Mumbai and I was just getting a hang of it, when the transfer order came, my tryst with the Marathi language came to an abrupt end.
(Flash forward to July, 2008, the forgotten language came back like a long-lost boomerang in the Australian desert carrying Pandit Nehru’s famous words “tryst with destiny”. Enter the local train. Anyways that’s for later.)
Back to July, 1993.
So, when I reached Baroda, and entered my new class 6 - I saw this guy with a lanky frame, long face, and trying to be the hero of the class types (a few months forward again: I too would become of the same type - cutting out the lanky part, of course).
Enter class 6 classroom. Watching this “trying-to-be-hero” guy and his tall structure near the blackboard, I instantly started to have a dislike for him. Maybe it’s with the tall guys or maybe it’s with the idea of intimidating the class with your overbearing persona and ya maybe coz I m “not-so-tall”. To add to my “new-classroom blues” - the teacher hadn’t come and as a result it was time for monitors to mind the class. So, you see this lanky guy is a “monitor” aah...
As soon as he was near the blackboard (green board in our case) he selected a chalk-piece from the lifeless chalk box and started drawing something. No, it was not the drawing, but what he used to draw that irritated me. The drawing would consist of just one face - the side-view of a macho guy with a cigar on his lips and long hair that would extend till his shoulders. (Oh the other day I saw Nirmal Pandey at Lokhandwala market buying Naturals ice-cream. Same pinch. Even I love Naturals)
So now you know what that chalky figure on the board looked like. But Nirmal Pandey hadn’t graced our screen then. So, classmates felt that the lanky guy was trying to sketch someone like Sanjay Dutt in Khalnayak. Back in 1993, it was one of the super hit films, combining Dutt's real and reel life. Remember the 1993 Bomb Blasts case.
But wait, after the drawing came the most irritating part. Mr. Lanky would stand back and admire his sketch and would turn to the class and shout the most absurd thing that you would have heard.
"Ye waqt hamara hai.."!!!
Reference: even "Waqt Hamara hai" - a Akshay Kumar, Sunil Shetty film (then he was Sunil and not Suniel) was released in 1993. Thus getting clearly inspired from the movie, he used to do this stupid act. Oh, so maybe that chalky figure was of Akshay Kumar!
"ye waqt hamara hai,
ye waqt hamara hai"
Day 2 - Class 6.
The teacher enters the classroom and announces that since this is a free lecture, she will take Gujarati subject. She asked us to open our Gujarati textbooks. Now having studied in Mumbai, I never had Gujarati as a subject - but the irony is that my mother tongue happens to be Gujarati. But I was never taught to write.
I could speak, yes, very well.
Read: well, very slowly.
Write: A big No.
Although once my mother came to know that we are going to get transferred to Gujarat, she instantly told me that you will have to learn Gujarati now. She taught me for two or three days before I lost patience. Writing Marathi is much simpler due to its proximity to Hindi. But Gujarati, well I was never ready for it.
But here I was, the teacher had asked now to take out our notebooks and she started dictating. Mr. Lanky was sitting besides me. The class started writing. I was clueless. Words from her mouth came like the arrows in a Zhang Yimou film. They shot my head like a rocket. I could only match her speed of dictation for one or two sentences. Eventually, in the web of familiar words but unfamiliar territory of writing, I lost her. I thought I will look into Mr. Lanky’s book and start copying, but as soon as I tried to do this - Mr. Lanky turned the page. Now I was helpless. I choked. I couldn’t comply.
To everyone's amazement in the class, the 12-year old inside me started crying. The teacher stopped dictating and came to me. On knowing the reason she smiled. She told me to take Mr. Lanky’s notebook for copying at home. She said "practice". In a few days I would catch up - she promised.
The guy gave me his notebook. His mother tongue happened to be Hindi. Amazing irony!
Since that day onwards I started taking his notebook to home. During all the exchanges, I started seeing Mr. Lanky in a different light. I came to know his name: Shailesh Gupta.
The moment I made friends with him - school was never school. From then on, I so enjoyed coming to school. Sitting on last benches, we always had our comments reserved for every classmate, teacher, and peon of the school. We used to cycle together to the railway tracks to watch the brand new Shatabdi Express pass at 3 45pm in afternoon. We made sure that we go as far as possible from the station, so that we see the train in its maximum speed. One fine day, oh sorry, one fine night we were also caught by a police constable. Memories, I tell you.
In class 8, the Gujarati teacher was so impressed with my essay in the exam that not only she gave me the maximum numbers, but she brought my answer sheet from the junk and handed it to me saying: “please read this essay for the class”
The essay was called “shaak-bhaaji na market ma ek kalak” (An hour at the Vegetable Market) I remember describing the vegetable market (Kadak Bazaar near Baroda station) as a melting pot for people, vegetables, voices, noises, cows, cowdung, cow horns, car horns. (in Gujarati - it read - “Jo aam chaale bai, ne vach ma chaale gai... toh kya jaai aapda bhai...?)
Quite an achievement that was from the guy who once cried for not knowing how to write the language. Sorry for this last self-appraisal post script. But I loved that few seconds of celebrityhood.
© Copyrights 2009 www.bhaandgroup.blogspot.com. All Rights Reserved. Hardik Mehta