It was a bad day in the vernacular class for him. Some other classmate that day, for some unknown reason, deprived him of the position of being the most ignorant and innocent boy in the class. For, as far as his memory could trace back, he have always walked into his classrooms straight upto the last bench, sat there with his back leaning against the wall, drowsy eyes, still face. So ignorant has he always been, ignorant of what was yesterday’s homework and present day’s lesson, ignorant of the consequences of not knowing such trivial matters as well.
Only one big school in the town, most of the parents who wanted their sons to grow up and be something would put them in this school. After all the shaahebs (that’s how the Bengalis call the pre-independence white administrative officers of the town) started it for their children. And there was just no scarcity of such high ambitious Bengali parents in the time, which immediately followed the independence. Memories of a missing Subhash were fresh in their minds, all sons of bongobhumi wanted to keep the honor. Coming back, the class understandably was a bit crowded. The teacher student ratio being very low giving him all the rhyme and reason for being a successful backbencher. He has not known any such day when the teacher have managed to look beyond the first-benchers and has paid any attention to him and couple of other boys like him.
But everything changed today. He could not find any other seat but the first row. He tried to scratch his brain a little and managed to recall yesterday’s class. Maashtarmoshai (the Bengali teacher) did say something about the character sketch of ‘moni babu’, certain character from certain Sarat Chandra novel. Instead of face value the teacher goes by place value. Those who were sitting in the front is to now one by one read out the character sketch which they were to asked to prepare. He has never believed in troubling his grey cells for no cause, and a good cause for him would be the final exams. The question of studying any time other than the pre exam days does not arises even though mom would wake him up at 4 am and made him sit with the books along with 6 other siblings all around one Hurricane (a kerosene lamp is known as in Bengali). But the trouble now is that being a back bencher no teacher have ever bothered him for any thing, so he wasn’t quite sure how does it feels to be scolded at or to be beaten up by a bet (a bamboo stick). And he has never been eager to learn new things. So he thought “I better give it a try. One by one the good boys stood up and read out the characterization from their notebook. He was listening to them carefully, also watching.
Finally it was his turn now to read out his work. He stood up held his note copy in his hands and started reading out ‘moni babu’s choritro’. He read out for a while and then turned the page, then the next page, he flipped through three pages, he had noticed that on an average all of the boys flipped the pages 2-3 times. As he finished reading he closed the note book and kept it on the desk looking calmly at the maashtarmoshai waiting for a permission to sit down.
He spoke for 15 minutes impromptu pretending he was reading out what he has written as a homework, he didn’t stammer once, he didn’t go haywire once, he knew what he was saying, he spoke like it was him who created ‘moni babu’. He still doesn’t know, after living in the same house for almost 15 years, which switch is for Fan and which one’s for light. He holds out the cell phone I feet away from his body as long as it rings and puts it back in his shirt pocket when the caller gives up, cause he doesn’t know which button is to be pressed to attend the call. Well, what can I say that’s my daddy strongest… Love you dad.