Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Back to School

The best phase of my primary schooling years happened in Shillong, at a Kendriya Vidyalaya near Police Bazaar, nestled in the lap of nature in a bungalow aptly called Forest Lodge. My life took elusive turns ever since we left Shillong and shifted to Mumbai in 1980, but the tranquil times dating back more than three decades are firmly etched in memory. Hence, the thought of paying a visit to my Alma mater was always at the back of my mind throughout my years of employment, wedlock, fatherhood and beyond. But I had little idea that the search for my school would be far from a leisurely walk down memory lane.

As many as two visits, accompanied by my wife and son, proved futile - in May 2010 and 2011 - as my memory failed me on both occasions, rather fooled me, as I lost my way in the maze of the lanes and by lanes around Raj Bhavan, a route I preferred whenever I walked all the way from school to my home in Laitumkhrah, but still quite far from my school located in the cantonment area near Civil Hospital. The concrete derangement of the city (not to mention, littered roads and traffic congestion) in the last thirty years made the task even more arduous.

But something about the third trip this April 2016 told us we would not return home disappointed. And Lo!

We finally found my school, now the residence of the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Meghalaya. The primary school was moved to K V EAC, Upper Shillong in 1994. The old structure en route the Pine walk trail is still intact, albeit renovated and adorned with a fresh coat of bright paint. The long, winding footpath semi-circling the school is now a tar road but the shortcut to Police Bazaar is no more a public pathway. Precisely why it was impossible to spot the school bungalow without divine intervention.

It was my wife's brainwave that put a decisive end to the celestial search and helped us get the geography right. She had the presence of mind to ask a NCERT book seller on Keating Road for directions and pat came 'The Reply' which finally led us to our prized destination. Not Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan, not Shillong Post Office, not Shillong Tourism Board, not Shillong Forest Office, it was this kind-hearted book seller who showed us the way. Needless to say, we have bookmarked him for life.

In the same trip, we traced many cherished landmarks, all reminding me of the wonderful time I spent with my mom and dad as also at school with my friends Akhilesh, Deepak, Suman Kaur and Hemant Kalita and teachers Miss CM, Miss Lingskon, Das madam, Dev Madam, Lama madam and Nigam sir. Steeped in nostalgia, I simply can't express my sentiments in words, hope this photo tribute does the needful on my behalf...

Mr. Ajay Singh, our God sent guide who showed us the way to the school

My School - K V Forest Lodge, now residence of the Conservator of Forests

School gate - wish I could step inside for a quick tour - my son would have relished it for sure, being a proud KVite from Thane!

Forest Lodge - the place still bears the old name - I am so glad..

The erstwhile shortcut to Police Bazaar en route Keating Road

Anand Hotel - we stayed here for two weeks way back in the late 70s - the place is now (pathetically) run by a new management - even the food is no longer authentic Marwari. My dad relished the Missi Roti of the old place. It's off the menu now and worse, the current manager is so wooden, you can easily carve furniture out of him.

We often dined at Hotel Eee Cee - a cozy Police Bazaar hotel then - even today it's a decent accommodation option - we stayed here this time round just for old time's sake...

My dad's office - The Secretariat building

Laitumkhrah circle - close to Prantika Cottage - our home in Shillong! I tried hard to locate 'Bombay Stores' which sold the best chicken chilly in the world but to no avail - the guy probably sold the place! Miss my friends Dipankar and Shubo from Prantika Cottage

Civil Hospital - near my school. My class teacher (and Math sir) Mr. Nigam once got me here for some first aid - after I had a nasty fall in school premises...

Laban - my mom took us to a family friend's place here one afternoon - for a sumptuous chicken lunch!

Asgard Cottage - another 'home' in Shillong near Laitumkhrah circle.

Post office close to Asgard Cottage - it was here that we (mom, myself and sis) collected the Reader's Digest book titled "How to live with Life" that my dad sent us by post while he was touring in Arunachal Pradesh. The Post master helped us trace the Prantika Cottage during our last visit. The book has helped me cope with life, to an extent, but more important, it's a great souvenir that reminds me of my dad and his love for books.

The auditorium near Central Library - we once watched a puppet Show 'Alladin's Magic Lamp' here as school kids!

Mohni Stores - My mom's Shopping adda at Police Bazaar

Heritage city bus of Shillong (now endangered) - my usual mode of transport to school - we had a royal tour from Baraa bazaar to Upper Nongthumai and back - relished every moment of it.