I hope you agree with me that our nostalgia for the good old days will never go away entirely. … It turns out we can realize we’re living the good old days right now. So remembering my initial days in Munsyari and my college is a great feeing for me. I feel happy in sharing them…
After passing Junior High School from Shama, my father decided to send me to Munsyari for further studies though I was dreaming of going to Nainital. The thing that touched me most in connection with my going to Munsyari was parting from my mother. She was more worried about my stay and food away from home.
At that time Munsyari was not connected by motor road, so my father accompanied me. It was some 60 kilometers’ journey. We reached Munsyari next day after halting overnight at Quiti. To me it had been my longest but eventful journey; but the first sight of the large college building covered with corrugated tin seemed to have rewarded me for all that I had undergone in order to reach Munsyari.
The great ‘Panchachuli’ representing five mythological Pandavas stood proud before my eyes. Their legend forever ensconced in the five majestic peaks of the Punchachuli range was giving me ethereal feeling. At Munsyari my father took me straight to Didi’s house, which was her in-law’s house. She welcomed us and very soon arranged for my stay in one of the rooms adjacent to her room.
All college going students remember their first day at college as it is a memorable experience of their life. I do remember my first day..
Though I don’t remember the exact date and month of my first day, I remember that I was feeling very happy and proud of being a college student.
My first day at the college was quite eventful. I was dressed in a new trouser, shirt and a new sweater knitted by my father. It was made of Australian wool which was very soft. I remember when I returned I was caught in rain and got wet. My sweater had shrunk a little bit and I found it difficult to get out of it. I was also sporting earrings (‘Murki’ as called in Shauka language). When I saw how all the boys were dressed, to my embarrassment I found none of them wearing earrings. I began to feel quite uncomfortable. I decided to get rid of this as soon as I go to Shama (my village) in my coming holidays.
After having been admitted in ninth class, I found myself in difficulty because I did not have books. In the entire Munsyari there was only one book-shop cum stationery and this shop had only Primary School level books. Didihat was nearest place to buy books. The other choice was to find a boy/girl who had cleared his/her High School and was ready to give his/her books.
Going to Didihat (80 Kms) was a costly and time taking affair. So I took the trouble to find the boy who had cleared his High School. I found one, but he was not ready to give me the books without paying him 50% of the cost of books. The condition of the books was also not good. It appeared to me that the books had changed many hands before. I had no option and bought the books. Later I found that some pages of books were missing and there were marks of ink, tea, food on many pages.
For a couple of months I stayed at Didi’s house. Though I had no serious difficulty in staying with her, I wanted some space, some privacy which I was missing there. So after two months I decided to live separately on my own against the wishes of Didi and my family. It was a tough decision on my part.
I took a room in the market area on rent and started living alone. The great responsibility of being free of having to think and plan for myself was an exciting feeling. This was my first experience of living alone. It was like suddenly turning a youth of 14 years out in the world to provide for himself. There was a shopkeeper at Munsyari who was our distant relative and also a good friend of my father. So, on my father’s request he became my local guardian. He arranged a ‘Charpoi’ (Cot), a kerosene stove, a kerosene table lamp, some utensils and some kerosene for me. But I didn’t know cooking. Why kerosene lamp..? because there was no electricity in Munsyari.
There were many restaurants available in the market that offered meals (lunch and dinner) on a monthly basis. Their monthly rates were reasonable. I selected the one which was quite near to my place of stay. This restaurant was run by one Mahendra Singh Nitwal, a young and handsome guy from Sarmoli village. He had many student customers on a monthly basis. All cooking was done by himself. He used to serve meat twice a week, but he gave only two pieces of meat. I think his meat preparation was superb. At that time the meat seemed to me to be absolutely the most tempting thing. I, then and there, resolved that if I could get enough money, I would order a full plate of meat and relish it.
While I was happy with lunch and dinner at the restaurant, breakfast was a problem for me. As I mentioned earlier, I did not know cooking. At most, I had some idea of preparing tea. Moreover, there was no bakery and getting bread was out of the question. Even eggs were not available in the market. Sometimes I would go to a nearby ‘Tea Stall’, run by one Gopal Singh Rawat of Jalath village. He was ‘Gopal Da’ to his customers. ‘Da’ means elder brother. Apart from tea; milk, boiled chana (beans), boiled and fried potatoes were available in his stall. But this was a costly affair.
Soon I discovered that a friend of mine, who was also a customer of Mahendra Singh Nitwal, the restaurant owner, shared with me something which was quite strange and unusual. He disclosed that he used to steal two/three chapatis (Roti) while taking dinner and keep them in his pocket or under his belt without getting seen by any. He encouraged me to do the same. I somehow agreed and did exactly what he had explained to me. Thus I brought the stolen chapatis to my room which I would eat next day with tea prepared by me. It continued for some time and my breakfast problem was solved to some extent. But somehow I was not happy with this kind of stealing as it was unethical too. When I told this to my father during his visit to Munsyari, he got angry and scolded me not to do this and to stop it then and there. However, he increased my monthly expenses limit (money) which he used to send me on a monthly basis. I was happy that due to this episode I got an increase for monthly expenses. So I started going to Gopal Da’s Tea Stall for my breakfast as money was no more a problem.
I am sharing this with the hope that it inspires you to write your College/School experience. Would you?
See you soon with a new post. Take care.