I remember the story about a Punjabi who went to England. He incessantly talked about the land where he came from - the flowing milk of Punjab, the vast wheat fields of Punjab, the beauty of Punjabi girls and what not. When he came back to India from England, he could not stop talking about the splendour of England. Everything seemed to be so much better in England than in Punjab. Whenever I have the desire to talk about my Delhi days, I cannot stop recalling about this Punjabi.

            I remember myself thinking on the mornings of Tuesday and Thursday every week, 'My, what shall I do today? My English is so insufficient, my Hindi is like a mini-skirt in a congregation of orthodox villagers, my knowledge of Delhi bus routes and streets are like a presentation of the name of Thingsulthliah to the non-Mizos. Lord, help this simple tribal boy who used to sit in the back bench in the class all through his high school and college days but landed himself on the porch of University by sheer luck...'  Tuesdays and Thursdays were the days of Field Work when we had to go out to the slum areas and schools to try to help people. While the spirit inside us for field work was immensely weak, the maxim of the school was quite clear : "You can avoid illness, but not your field work!" While sons of the very rich (!) and big officers (!!) of Aizawl kicked the dried cowdungs of town streets back home with their Reebok originals after they got down from their father-provided bikes, students of our school sneaked out of the school gates with Khadi bags and dejected soul. There in the field, we met people of the lowest class beyond the fashionable facade of New Delhi streets. I remember my success in providing sliced breads for the children of the community beyond Yamuna River.


I also remember the day when I went to a community near Jesus & Mary College (I hope I remember the name of the college correctly). The menfolk of the community were sitting idly in groups outside their dilapidated huts. From the looks of the huts and the whole surrounding, no sociologist was required to tell that their living condition needed some improvement. The people had no reason to be satisfied with life, nor they had the wit and strength to improve their living condi­tions. They talked so very lazily while smoke from their hookahs inched upward romantically! Emboldened by the little stir I caused with my arrival, I mustered all my Hindi together and said, 'Aap kya karte hain?' (What are you doing?) With halfhearted interest, one of the famine-ridden look idlers shot back, 'Hum kya karte hei? Aap dekhta, hum baithe hain. Aap kya karte hain?' (What are we doing? You can see that we are sitting. What are you doing). Then my courage began to falter. I began to feel that for once, I had become the butt of jokes as we often saw in the Hindi films.


I could not tell them that I was a student of Social Work, that I had come there to find out about their conditions and my main purpose was to try to help them, for the simple reason that I did not know how to say 'Social Work' in Hindi. I stood there like a Takam who had lost his dao. Collecting my mini­skirt Hindi, I simply blurted out that I was there to find a way of helping them. The famine-idler became a super-comedian who just could not find a place in Bollywood when he said to me, 'Toh, paisa do. Paisa!!! Rupia janta?' (So that's it! Give us money. Money!! You know money?). My mini-skirt Hindi became a loin-cloth then and I left the place hiding my tails.


 Acceptance. Confidence. Understanding. I was trying to cross Niagara Falls without proper means. To appear to listen to the teachers and think about Suman, Renu, Sangeeta and others in the next row was no difficult task. But this was for real. You cannot work with people who do not understand you nor have confidence in you. Maybe you can work for them. But then, that's against the principles—for you have to work with them.

I remember the jokes of Freddie. Freddie was a darkish lad from Garo Hills who seemed to be specially put on this planet to tell jokes. Freddie had finished his College studies from Shillong and was studying Anthropology at the time. While Freddie was studying at Shillong, they held a meeting of E.U (Evangelical Union) and one Mizo boy, who was a newcomer was asked to pray. The meeting was conducted in English. Not accustomed to refusing an invitation to pray, our Mizo boy reluc­tantly agreed with feeble nods. When everybody of the meeting bowed their heads closing their eyes, our friend called out with marked unfamiliarity, 'O Lord!' Then a frightful gap of silence reigned over the meeting. Then came the next line of prayer. "Bless us!" Considerable silence followed. And a capital letter calling, "BLESS THESE PEOPLE!" Silence. "BLESS US!" As Freddie put it in his own language, 'After a lo-n-g-g-g 1-o-n-n-ng' silence, as if to surprise the Almighty, our friend ended with, 'I FINISHED!'


I remember my piece of language problem similar to this. We had a meeting in the afternoon one Sunday with Naga, Garo, Kom, Kenyan-Negro and other friends. All others except myself had some experience of having a meeting of prayer in English. Our Negro friend was so fluent in his talking that I had great difficulty in understanding what he said. While his normal talk was already quite a problem for me, he was like the chief who just had lady's finger for his lunch when he prayed! Then they asked me to pray. I never knew what kind of silence reigned over the meeting in between words, but I remember how I minced my words, how I paused after every word and how I used ordinary words and how relieved my friends were when I finished. Maybe I could withstand the laborious torment of  my prayer but it appeared that my friends had no mind to repeat their suffering such agony. They never asked me to pray again.


I remember our School lawns where we used to sit and strum the guitar in the evenings. I can still hear the beautiful voice of our Khasi friend when I strain my ears a little bit to the sounds of the past. Everytime we were in the mood, we suggested that we should sing and my guitar, which was the only one in the whole hostel, would be called for. Some would go for Baa Baa Black Sheep and some would chose Paul Anka's numbers and some would come up with a number from the Beatles and some with ABBA's. By the time the initial suggestions were tried one line each, the whole attempt at singing would be abandoned and some would go to the market while some would suddenly remember some important thing in his room. Anyway, Bee Gees' 'Tragedy' always reminds me of those days and I will always remember Niraj's courage when today I hear somebody sing a hot ABBA number without any instrument nor any knowledge of musical notations.


Common room and dining hall were places of dispute. Some would prefer Hindi newspapers while north-easterners would think that such subscription was a downright insult to their cultural and social identities. The arguments were worthy of preservation in the national gallery of oratory (if ever there was one!). Communal tensions broke out, dangers of physical attack were imminent, tense atmos­phere reigned the campus and teachers were alarmed. Funnily, the one who started such arguments and the chiefwhip of all objections was the one who only read the comic strip Laxman's Corner in the whole paper. Likewise, what meat was to be served, what curry was to be prepared and what was to be  purchased were all fuses for ignition of discord. Sometimes the result could be quite disastrous. Here too, the ones who complained most about the food were the ones who skipped their meals most frequently.


Looking back, I do not have a particular desire to meet the then Joint Director of Supply at Kohima, but I would love very much to meet my dear Naga friend, Imkong. There are so many things one remembers when one looks back to one's school days.


After some fifteen years from now, one would remember so many things about today:  this friend, that problem and what not. The problem with my remembering so many things is that when I think of them, I simply realise how little I ever learned!