Posted by: Tanmoy Chakrabarti | October 28, 2008

Durgapur – I

It was during the mid-term of my class six when I came to know that we were moving to Durgapur Steel City, by the end of my final term. I was not at all pleased given the fact that I was well settled in St. Lawrence High School in Kolkata, just started stepping into adolescence with my friends in school, establishing my self in the then vibrant quizzing circuit of Kolkata. However, these things were rightly never decided by me. Thus, in the summer of 1990 (I think), my parents and I boarded the Poorva Express from Howrah Station to Durgapur. My grandmother also accompanied us and the promise that she would be there for three months with us was perhaps the most exciting bit for me in the entire move.

My father was already somewhat settled in his bungalow quarter in Aurobindo Avenue in Durgapur since he had moved from Kolkata six months earlier than we did so we had Baba’s first Fiat 1100D car waiting for us in the station parking to be driven by him to the Durgapur Steel Plant Township. I don’t have exact memories of how I felt at that time but I must say I loved the bungalow. Though it was very old but in comparison to the dingy pigeon hole apartments where we stayed in Kolkata, the British type bungalow with well laid out garden, garage, drive way was a pleasant surprise. I don’t recall to have seen so many trees at the same time as much as I saw in Durgapur unless we went for our vacations from Kolkata and that contributed to a collective happiness of my parents and grandmother. I for myself was still feeling the pain of leaving my friends behind, leaving a busy Kolkata and only having Ramanath and Robi for company who worked as cooks in the neighbouring Mecon Guest House. These people along with Mitra Babu (who was the caretaker of the Guest House) and Jadavji (who was an employee of Durgapur Steel Plant and used to stay in our out house) were constant visitors to our place. I felt bored within and hated my Baba for putting me through this agony and waited to get enrolled in a school.

Father Wavreil took an hour long admission test for admitting me into St.Xavier’s School. If I remember correctly, there was a pre-set question paper with questions covering all subjects and since I was the only student taking the test I was locked inside a class room with a person named Jit da (I may get the name wrong), patrolling me from outside. I am not exaggerating, but Jit da actually latched the room from outside and I don’t know why? Baba was waiting in Father’s room and as I finished Father corrected my copy in front of me. He discussed some of the answers and I found out that I have got one sum wrong. Admission tests were never my cup of my tea (for that matter any examination which requires me to answer a set of questions). I remember I got the spelling of cake wrong (I spelled in Kake!) when I took the admission test for class one in St. Lawrence High School. During the same time in St. Xavier’s Collegiate School, Kolkata the father made me sit on the ground and test my patience (it was in the guise of asking me to do a “dhyan”) and I repeatedly kept on telling him I am finished. Anyway, I was selected by Father Wavreil and was allowed to join St. Xavier’s School, Durgapur.

The first day in school was not very exciting at all. Since, I was a new student nobody actually talked to me barring one person who still remains my friend. In the entire year, I was sitting with the weirdest of people in the class (the ones with whom none wanted to sit) and I hated most of the days. I remember that some of the boys found me too pricey and my move from Kolkata was the main reason for that. I distinctly remember twice two teachers even made fun of me in front of the entire class. I was far from wishing to settle down in a new ambiance. Even the physical education class which was so much fun in Lawrence was not at all interesting in my new school. With due respect to PT Sir, I wonder why he made us students cut the long grasses on the school field during some of those classes. If that was meant to be educating us to be self-sufficient I wondered why we were not told so. I used to recall the Yoga sessions, Cricket and football coaching sessions in St. Lawrence a lot. None bullied me actually but I felt bullied by the situation. Slowly things had to change and I don’t remember the day they changed.

Unlike in Kolkata, I did not have any friends in the neighbourhood so I was too dependent on my parents for company. Ramanath used to visit me every evening to play cards and for occasional evening walk. Ramanath took pride in his intelligence and he taught me Orissa’s favourite card game 29 only to beat me in that. We also went for walks at times but once Ramanath started getting beaten by me; he did show his distress to me. However, Ramanath provided good company to me when I was slowly coming to terms with this new place where life appeared too slow. I don’t know whether I should quote names of the other friends that I made but there were a couple of them from school who used to stay nearby. One of them had a cycle very similar to mine (a kids cycle basically!) and occasionally we used to go for biking in ground that belonged to A-Zone Multipurpose School, just near our place. I remember another person from my school (who later became a very close friend of mine) came there in a relatively bigger bike and told me, how demeaning it was for me to ride the kid’s cycle despite being in class seven. I was offended and felt miserable without realising at that time that everyone was trying to find faults with me being an intruder in a new city.

My first year in Durgapur was understandably a challenging one with few friends, not too decent results, nowhere to visit after sundown, frequent monkey visits to our bungalow (thanks to an intoxicating mohua tree in the courtyard) and general feeling of a loss.

However, they were brighter aspects too which shaped up my years to come. Among them the foremost was studying in St.Xavier’s Durgapur. Whatever may be the school’s status to-day (or even with the teachers pulling me up in the initial days and weird physical education classes) to me, the school was miles ahead than St. Lawrence that I had left. I loved Father Wavreil’s welcoming of me in the new school and though he could not prevent my feelings when I was in class seven –B but still he cannot be blamed for that. I have been privileged to meet some good Christian missionary teachers and Father Wavreil was undoubtedly one of those who had left an impression upon me. Though after my admission I had little interaction with him but memories of his smile do remain forever.



  1. 1at of all,a very HAPPY DIWALI!! and thanks for visiting my blog. I have had hardly 4-5 visitors since the day i started blogging about 3 weeks feels frustating at times to think, that nobody cares what i m writing. but i have slowly come to terms with it. the answer is simple-i write for myself! and i see the same passion in ur writings too-writing for oneself!
    Btw, i cud’nt write any further on ur India on moon’.i am having some turbulent times my mind really gets blocked at times,resulting in loss of interest in certain things for a period.anyway,i never had to suffer the pain of changing schools.but i did have some friends like u too,whom almost nobody else talked too! 😉 keep posting!

  2. Nice reading, Tanmoy: I didn’t know much about your early days in St. Xavier’s Dgp (though I know that St. Lawrence was in a pretty bad way until Fr. Wavreil – once he had left SXS Dgp – cleaned it up). It was to St. Lawrence that boudi and I went to invite him to our wedding!

    Eagerly waiting for Durgapur part II.

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