The smooth drive up through Rohini gave a feeling, of whether the deep-rooted radicalism has bought in some quick overwhelming changes, and how some might seriously debunk my parochial Kurseong mindset of mid 90s. Don’t remember the name just in case it had one, the elevated lane (well elevation surely can’t be a highlight for Kurseong) through the congested bazaar, Baba – remember the Hanuman temple. Thapaa’s Inn – (they were Thapaas’, the senior Thapaa , i mean the oldest among all, his grand kids were my boarding mates; he was around in his mid 70s then, stout like a mountaineer, ran an authentic Napali Kitchen for his late evening neighbours) has been revamped into a departmental store with no mention of the Thapaas’ for good.
Kurseong is changing; at least i could see some. Chicken flavoured Wai Wai in the plains is not even half, of what it tastes while you boil it with the spring water; does that mean you need to climb all the way up just to hog that one local bowl – hope you will definitely find some better reason to climb up. Didn’t see any eloquent change in the tourist lodge starting from its serene partners to its limited edition coffee shop menu. Baba – Rs, 40-cab drive to Himali and a neutral gear drop down with no extra charges, still we used to search for those old fiat cars as it made our deal much better with just 30. However, i always preferred those long never tiring walks through the weeds making all sorts of peculiar pretexts, in case Baba – decides to take me down town for one last time before i am dragged into that facade fencing for next few months. Those old down – shops has disappeared, so finally Himali managed to fight them all out in the best interest of some dissatisfied boarders. The brown field has been cut short with few dwarf structures, classes for some young kids. The abandoned shed with four walls didn’t look any different, wonder how is it used today. For me it has been fight club for the super seniors, away from all the peeping eyes, you can’t complain of the bruises; then once you convince your girl for a jiffy date under that shade; means you are up for your sultry moment. Tried my hands at wall graffiti with some quick English popular lines like Knock Knock Knockin on heaven’s door, yes it has sheltered and nurtured soo many, in their split upbringing.
Feb – boarders have not yet returned for a fresh start....met a group, well they represent the super senior bunch at the dormitory, yes its the same 3rd floor dormitory where i was put up as a rookie. Yea the same yellow paint all across, but now they have a LCD; yes believe you me !!! Inside their dormitory and i have been told that they can watch it through the wee hours of the night. Two storied dormi beds are not jumbled up any more, lot of free space in between, just want to believe this is how a super senior dormitory always looked. Went looking for the gigantic bathroom on the 1st floor and all i wanted to see; was pipes oozing with hot water and unceremonious clamour by bunch of Nepali didi(s) with hard scrub in their hands and if you dare give them a tough time, they won’t mind planting couple of raw slaps just when you are left with no cover. Some of them were curious to know how this place exactly looked during my time, i had piles of things to share, some of them knew Sir Donald, he is no more around the hills gone back to his native Kochi. Sir Donald’s cane did most of the talking; and i was quite a regular customer when it came to his canning. While going around the empty classes, trying hard to recollect my desk, all i realised is i have grow huge in size. Must say this man has not changed and probably won’t in some donkey years to come; Sir Pratap, after few minutes of serious pondering i could again reinstall him as our house teacher, well he was definitely more than a teacher, led the school volley ball team, was nothing less than a tactical coach to the football team and his action with Victoria boys supporters in one of the matches was quite popular in the senior dormi buzz.
Some body from the parlour, told its time for Robi Sir to visit his office in the main building. Yes yes !! the same Robbie Subba our Principal then and now one of the directors of Himali. During my time, he was the gaudy pin up man of Kurseong, eldest son to Major and Mrs. T.B. Subba, the family from Myanmar, which also fought the second world war in Africa. It was one of those heavy Sunday evenings, our School prefect, who looked like a henchman to a dead Egyptian mummy started banging the elongated metal though it was still not time for dinner. Our movements were like rhymes, even a small change in it bought, both frugal joy and prodigal suspicion of fear. We were introduced to a new member in the Subba family; Robbie got hitched with a tall sparkling female, overheard some of the seniors saying; this is the best thing that could have happened with Robbie and for us it was feast time with lots of chicken and rice for dinner. Some of them looked dubious and had too many things to ask in a jiffy; like – do i still remember the oldest dormitory warden, who was the school prefect?? do i know anybody from the school cricket team??? Ok at least you would be knowing this old lady, they say “she knows each and every boarder by face” Come!! “lets see whether she identifies you as a boarder or not.”
Now he is one of the senior staffs of the administrative office, but i know him as a trying quack of medicine. He had very few varieties at his disposal for us, mostly some generic tabs nearing expiry, he almost tried everything, like for yellow fever, he would start with parcetamol, antibiotic and would continue trying, until the last file of liver tonic was off from the shelf. Now there are some house doctors to diagnose the exact aliment before packing boarders to their guardians.
Kurseong is yet to have its first ever chain of restaurants or Cafes, don’t think riders would be chasing down with pizza or donut from darj, so local bakeries and irregular local joints are still widely popular among the boarders. Actually i had given up on him, ‘Tin wala Chachaaa’, every afternoon he came down by the sloping lanes and squatted outside the dormitory main gate. It was like those huge army tins, had enough evening snacks for those who could afford to miss dinner. The upper tier of the tin was stuffed with two types of pattie – the ones that had only boiled alooo with little bit of Haldi in it, and the other type - had two proportionate size meat and never in the history of that green tin – a pattie was made which had more than two pieces.
The clamouring crescendo of rain on the vast tin roof – The “HALL” right at the top of the old building; the amateur crust for everything which flourished in day’s light and for so many things which never found its way out from the HALL. The “HALL” hosted all the major and special events – saw the first ever BIOSCOPE series, played entourage to BASSANIO in the court of SHYLOCK; learnt and was caught copying, special classes just before term exam. The “HALL” inevitably has preserved all of it.
This was the longest ever walk down to the town – no hurry to catch the last Canter, did not go for a free –fall transgression rather weighed ever moment, who knows!! When will i come this close again - Yes, i wanted to ask this ‘present’ and tell my friend, that how much i know about ‘him’ from the ’90s’. Just like a fine wriggle line of hair on the upper lip might surprise your parents for the first time but won’t confuse them ever. The dwindling light, just bought one more end, the last oldy left the green bench at the station in stoic silence, the cabbies beneath “Shyaams” persuading the last few passengers with happy hour fare, shutters falling down every minute and i was waiting for the last cup of tea which i was told was a special one.
The denizens of this land of white orchid are flummoxed with their share of change and development; some prefer to stay ignorant from the exchange of words and ideas, as they are higly calibrated for a miniscule section of the town. Whereas; i would love ‘Kurseong’ to hold on to its ‘90s’ for some more decades to come, until i sound like a beige narcissist.