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|Volume 11 |Issue 37| September 21, 2012 ||
You'd think your blue- bird dresses, hand-embroidered by Mum with “shalwar” trimmings, were not something of much significance. But today, decades later, the image of these items seemed to be etched into one's mind, never to be forgotten. One was orange and pink georgette with frills and ribbons on the yoke and the other was layered pale pink georgette worn on a single birthday. Then there were the pair of Lady Hamiltons, one white, and the other grey, to stand for Cinderella's step sisters, on stage, or simply to sing on the stage. The white sari with straw coloured touch of floral embroidery, worn with black and red pleated slippers, donned on the last day of the school, was a sure winner. The white silk sari that you wore, with their tiny silver motifs, worn the day the day the school annual results were declared, and there was a gala party of celebration, was a sure success. As for the world of elocution, Winifred Fernandez and I went over Robert Herrick's "We weep to see you fade away so soon” along with “Stone walls do no a prison make'' with endless ease and fervour. “Fighting Temerier” was another favourite, along with lines of the “The Barrets of Wimpole Street”, just as much as we adored the lines of “Oscar Fingal O Flaharty Wills Wilde”, and his inimitable “Ballad of the Reading Goal”, and “The Importance of being Earnest” with painted mustachios for the stage, and men's apparel for the tall girls who played the gallant heroes and long skirts were designed for “Miss Prism” and the likes. “Good Wives” was another favourite, as much “What Katy Did” and “Under the Lilac Tree.”
Debating was a part of one's existence. “Should euthanasia be allowed in the east?” and “Sex education for children---How far in the Subcontinent?", “How far must one follow the west in having a global outlook” and subjects like “Should we revive the Banglar Dhol, the buffalo, horse and such animals”, “Are we losing in our quest for industrialization”, “Simply catching up with the tide of life?” Reading “Gone with the Wind” and “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” was as vital as knowing “The Nun's Tale” from Chaucer, or knowing
One saw movies like “ Henry V” and “Elizabeth I”or even Henry IV” and films like “Macbeth”, 'with the three witches cackling over the burning pots and the so called moving “Barnam” woods, the throttling of Desdemona, and selection of wealth boxes in “Shylock the Jew”. One felt it normal to quote from Malory's “Idylls of the Kings' or John Donne or even William Blake, the accent might have been soft, eloquent and Anglais. It went against recitation of American female poets and other ones like that contained words like “float some and jetsam”. Frost and the like did not cut much ice, although Tolstoy's “Anna Karenina” always did. So did the the Russian writers, like Chekhov. Their plays read aloud were sure favourites. Just as girls loved Russian Ballet, of Nijinsky and Pavlova, so they loved the reading aloud of Boris Pasternak and his Dr Zhivago and his Lara.
We had not mastered the Miltonic sonorous onomatopoeia. But like Yevtochenko from the Steppes of Siberia, we liked to say aloud that we bring only disappointment for the mother, and that we are like broken bicycles---nothing to write home about. Like Solzhenitsyn, we are weary of our toils. Even a day in our lives bore us to tears. Accumulated passage of time does not necessarily provide us with joy and repose. Celebration days are far and few, even when we have worked like Trojans, and expect the star of Bethlehem to guide us along.
Winning the debating cup for the college was a must. One had to bring home the trophy with joy for the entire Josephines. C'est la vie! No honour was left to go by. One had to bag the whole lot. There was no humming about. One just did it, as easily and naturally as breathing and eating. Just as in England boating and cricket were “done” things for young men, so winning the debating prize for the school and college, came naturally; like drinking water. Such was our glorified existence. It was all like one big merry-go- round. And one enjoyed every bit of it.
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