The others

I was in class 6 at that time. By virtue of being the first boy in class, I also was appointed the class monitor. I enjoyed the position a lot: any 11-year-old boy who can boss over his friends and appear important while settling disputes is sure to make merry. A recent re-shuffling of the two sections of our class had brought a whole bunch of new kids into 'my' section. Along with them this new Muslim girl had moved into the class, who passed muster as 'beautiful' for me.

My young heart had a fascination for this kid. I call this a fascination, maybe a crush but it definitely wasn't love as I understand it now. Nobody in the class really knew what love meant at that time. It was cool to have a girlfriend, everyone in the movies had one, and to have a special girl-friend in class 6 was almost the coolest thing you could do. Now, being the class monitor meant that I was supposed to keep tabs on everyone at all times, especially when a teacher was absent or between periods when the class suddenly transformed into a zoo. I used to stand close to her bench at these times, or give sudden glances in her direction observing her discreetly. I knew of an "I love you" etched on the wooden desk in one of the back benches, but didn't bother about it until she came up to complain to me that someone had scrawled 'something' on the desk behind her. When I asked what was written there, she refused to answer it and I was secretly happy that she had refused so. ;) Then one day we were playing football and she returned from a vacation and suddenly clasped her hand over my eyes asking me to guess. Oh my, you should have watched me in the field for the rest of the day's play that afternoon! In short, we had our sparks.

Then one fine morning in December, 1992 we heard about this Babri Masjid being demolished. Our school was closed for about 3-4 days, and then our classes resumed. Things were, however, not "as usual". We used to have hushed discussions among ourselves regarding the state of affairs, with friends putting in as much spices as they could. "You know, they were spotted with a machine gun at the Radhanagar Mandir" or "Man, new violence has broken out in Tamil Nadu it seems". And suddenly things changed between 'us' as well. No more did we hang out together or share chit-chats after the class was over, no longer did we share tasks at the SUPW classes. During the tiffin break, I would notice her sitting with other Muslim guys and girls, hunched together in some discussion and sharing their own banter: these boys too had stopped joining us for our football games in those breaks. On the face of it nothing had changed, someone else had become the monitor and we still had our regular share of games and fun, but somehow a distance grew. Very soon I think she failed in the class or shifted schools, and I moved into a boarding school away from home the very next year.

All the rhetoric of communal harmony and secularism had never touched my heart so much when I read them or wrote essays about them. It had all been a logical point of view, since it seems utterly stupid to me to be shaking hands with two people without knowing their religion and then suddenly going and washing your hands when you learn someone's faith. But I was reminded of this girl from my class a few days ago when I read a newspaper article by someone with the same surname. Somehow the incident had made the schism very personal for me.

Comments

  1. So many events happen in our lives that touch us in some way or the other, things that we can never forget subconsciously and occasionally something in our current lives come up to spark those memories.
    A very personal post and I enjoyed reading it.

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  2. A nice post and one which shows how things look different when you look at them with a child's vision and how yet they morph further when the same child looks at them years in the passing.

    Sky

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  3. Hey,
    Good one. Some incidents from childhood, do leave a strong print in our hearts.

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  4. Took me back memory lane as well to about the same grade level..was reminded of those sweet crushes :). Touching post - somethings just seem so unfair.

    ps: first time here - really like the colors and look of the blog. very classy.

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  5. Must have brought back some memories. Nostalgia can be sweet and sad at the same time.

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  6. How an incident far away can change even kids' feelings. :-( It seems more than spreading peace the followers of religion spread hatred. I often wonder would this world be a better place if we have no religion?

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  7. Mala, thank you... and yes this was a long-forgotten memory.

    Sky, thank you. P.S. - Why does your comment seem like a review?

    SK, yeah this one did stir up a few memories.

    Harshi, welcome aboard! Yes life is unfair a huge lot. And thanks for the compliments about the look: I can just claim credit for choosing the design from the web :)

    Hari, true: sweet and sad at the same time.

    Alka, you know, the problem with a world without religion would be that there will be no hope and faith either, no trust in eternal bliss.

    Janum, hey, long time no see! And thanks, of course! :)

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  8. This post has come out beautifully, from beginning till the end. I particularly loved how the ingenuous sentiments in a child translate into unnatural ones, having really no roots in ground. Why ? Because the schism you wrote about was not between you and her. It was between the rigid dogmas of two religious groups. Its a shame to see such a rift between common individuals based on religion, caste, creed and even color in a country like India. Why do we boast about a sense of secularism at all ? It sounds phony to me. But at the same time its a hard reality that good and evil coexist and we have no other way but to accept things the way they were, are and will be.

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  9. It was really very poignant.Have you read this book called The Riot by Shashi Tharoor.Your post was as touching as the book.

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  10. SUPW means Socially Useful Productive work?

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  11. Blogrolling you finally - janina eto din keno korini.

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  12. Lavender, thank you for the thoughtful comment. Yes, you've echoed most of what I have felt when I wrote this post.

    Spirited, welcome onboard! Thanks a lot for the compliment. Now that you mention it, I will try my best to read it sometime.

    Shrinidhi, yeah something like that: we used to call it Some Useful Periods Wasted :)

    Mala, ahh... finally you recognize the genius in me! :)

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  13. Loved this post Sudipta. It touched me deeply. To add onto that,I have been thinking of the whole Babri Masjid incident recently so your timing was perfect.

    Sometimes I do dream of our nation becoming truly united one day, no matter the caste and religion.

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  14. Yeah...some people and incidences never leave us quite the same. Sometimes we are the better for it.
    The post is so touching. :)

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  15. communal differences in class 6?..thats kinda strange..May be I was never aware of what was going around me.My GK has always been weak :-). That monitor thing is very nice!In our class we used to have a monthly rotation of monitorship.I think that was the first and last time I had an opportunity to boss around!None after that.
    How on earth do u manage to think such minute details and pen them down?Hats off to u :-D

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  16. Syrals, yes... I too dream of that elusive unity. Thanks.

    Sanyukta, that is a new way of putting it: "sometimes we are the better for it". And thanks, of course.

    Bristi, exactly... in class 6 all that mattered to me was if I passed a ball to you would you be able to score a goal. And don't worry about the bossing around... you shall have your own territory soon! :)

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  17. It was a touching post about how people get strewn by irrational judgements as a consequence of societal or religious unrest. How we all dream about a world unblotched by such disharmony, the sentiment is felt large in this post of yours. But altogether, if each one of us strives to be a good individual, we can somehow contribute ( although a little ) towards peace amongst humans of race, color.. on earth. Lovely post.- Ms NMA

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  18. Love it so much that I will comment on it again.It was lovely!And how was your stint in USEFI?Do write a funny post about it.

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  19. Hey Sudipta, long time since I visited a blog....Great to see you going on - Sajid

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  20. This has been one of the most beautiful posts you have written. Very touching and there was so much to say at once.

    I still remember those days... were weird to say the least. Our school was closed for a month.

    S

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  21. Miss NMA, thank you :)

    Spirited, now, thats flattering! Will post something funny about something else, dear... that topic can be a little dicey :)

    Sajid, hey! Glad to see you again as well! And thanks -- drop me a mail!

    Supremus, thank you so much. It was heartfelt, yes.

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  22. Aaaaaha Mr. Chatterjee.....So now I see why you think you are this cool dude ;););) Itne fans jo hai tumhare ;) They keep you cool! Btw this entry was interesting...on second thoughts it also goes on to show ki tum baachpan mein bhi baade badmash the ;) Jokes apart...nice reminiscent piece :)

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  23. This post reminds me of Fouzia, my best friend till std 4... Things strangely change so much... Now I dont even know where she is.

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  24. I loved reading this one. Just shows how a single outside incident affects us so much and changes thing in a momemnt even when we are just children.

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  25. Arlene, jee huzoor, ye khasiyat to hum mein bachpan se hai! :)

    Ships, I wish for you that you meet her once more and let your friendship flourish.

    Supratik, thank you. Yes, in retrospect things do seem a bit weird and childish. And welcome!

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