Posted by: Tanmoy Chakrabarti | October 29, 2008

Durgapur – II; regained confidence

I always take pride in my success rate in quizzes. Like old cricketers remind everyone of their records I still tend to remind me that I have a huge proportion of success in any quiz that I have participated.  My Kolkata quizzing exploits were at a pause when we moved to Durgapur. During that time, I was on the verge on establishing myself in the Kolkata quizzing circuit by winning couple of really tough quizzes. I was getting used to people like Neil O’Brien and his sons as well as Dalhousi Institute which used to be the Mecca of quizzing in Kolkata but I was totally unaware that quizzing in Durgapur would catapult me to gain some sort of reputation in my new school.

After clearing the school preliminary round, when I was selected to represent St.Xavier’s School, Durgapur in the Maggi Zonal Quiz Contest, I was happy. Though I don’t remember the name of the fourth teammate of mine (who was in class seven, a year junior to me), I was happy to find me being one of the team.  I was looking forward to participate in the event and along with my parents (who always made it a point to attend my quiz events) and with one of my teammate and his sister, we went to Bidhan School.  We did pretty well in that quiz. We got all answers correct in the preliminary rounds and were favourites to win the final rounds. Though, Loreto School of Asansol gave us a fright towards the later rounds but we won towards the end magnificently. I knew that time and know it even now that I performed well along with my team mates and it was a success worth remembering. It was more special because until then none really considered me worth noticing in Durgapur. None of the teachers found it worth investing their time on me, to ask me whether I was coping up well enough and I did not have many friends. I was very happy and to-day I realise how important it is for a youngster to adjust to a new environment.  I was not helped by anyone other than my parents. On one hand I feel happy that I could get an opportunity in terms of participating in the quiz contest and regaining my confidence, on the other I do feel schools can do a bit more perhaps to help new students in adjusting to an environment.  I was a little unhappy that ours was the only school which did not have any teacher in the event. We students felt a bit left out and jealous of other schools despite our win. This one learning of adapting and being accommodated in an alien circle has been part of my life from then onwards in terms of my later moves in profession. I am thankful to Durgapur for providing me with the first major opportunity to learn adjusting to a new environment.

The evening of us winning the quiz was like never before. I remember at least 25 of my school mates thronged our courtyard. I did not know most of them personally. Like they do it in football matches, I was on their shoulders. Everyone was rejoicing with me. For the first time, I felt important. I made new friends.  The following day at school was no different. We went to some of the classes, displaying our trophy and the new Titan wrist watch that we had won. We were proud to have won the trophy for school and so many people congratulated us. This was the time when for the first time, I came to know Suvroda and I entered the library. Our trophy was displayed in the library. I remember when I was leaving the school after my boards the termites did attack the case and cannot say what happened to that trophy finally. To me however, it remained an achievement and a turning point in my life in Durgapur.

This one quiz helped me regain my confidence and all of a sudden my results improved. More importantly, I had a post-school occupation. I had friends to play cricket with on a crescent shaped field near Tagore Avenue (if I remember correctly). I was part of these bunches of boys from school and we played cricket. By then I was also a proud biker on my “bicycle from grown-ups”.  I enjoyed my status and went on to win two or three more quizzes in Durgapur.

During this time, I also learnt to drive and my love for the beautiful roads of Durgapur started to increase.

If school and the friends were taking most of my time, there were other developments in me otherwise too. I cannot claim to be a nature lover but I did enjoy my parents involvement with their gardening activity – something which is very common in Durgapur. I loved seeing the roses, chrysanthemum and dahlia’s blossom. More than the flowers I guess I loved the fruits on the trees and the vegetable garden. I could not believe that these things could be grown in the backyard. I was unaware and thus my surprise was two fold.

I used to enjoy the uniqueness of our status whenever we visited Kolkata. We were treated as guests and I used to feel people used to take special care. Whatever one may say, I still enjoy this feeling whenever I visit Kolkata and our stay in Durgapur initiated this process.

Durgapur was a small town and most of our relatives loved visiting us. Though I have heard many people say that people from Kolkata considered Durgapur a small hamlet but my relatives always loved visiting Durgapur and I always looked forward to their visits. We did not have many places to take them to though. I still remember that even going to the Steel Market (near Benachity) was an event to me. Somehow I can even picture all the shops there that time – Milani, Janata Variety Stores etc. I wonder whether they still exist (I have not visited Durgapur after 1995). Benachity was one of the most densely populated places I have ever seen. I never liked going to Benachity especially because of the cycle rickshaws. It reminded me of the crowded alleys of Behala where I used to go to meet my aunty when I was a child. Though cycle rickshaws are such a common thing in India but somehow I always felt scared while riding them or even being near one of them. When I was a child, I had a fall from a cycle rickshaw once that nearly took my life and that was one of the reasons for feeling that way but whatever it may be I never really liked that mode of transportation. Having said that, if one is in Durgapur steel township one cannot avoid Benachity. Whenever we had to catch our early morning train to Kolkata, we would typically go to Benachity to catch a bus to the station. While Durgapur was unique in itself in naming its streets on eminent scientists and world leaders but parallel to that it could not rightly do away with the local names. Thus, whenever we used to take the bus to station via Bhiringi More, I used to wonder why the square is named after Bhiringi. Benachity was unavoidable and necessary part of our township life especially when we stayed in Aurobindo Avenue and despite mostly hating going there I remember feeling a bit of pride when I bicycled till that place without my parents. I felt like a grown up and being adventurous.  Forgive me, for not remembering the names but I particularly liked the street where Akbar Road met with the street which had a Samavayika (the first ever super-market I have ever seen in my life and I wonder whether it still exist). I don’t know what was special about those streets but riding my bicycle on those streets gave me immense pleasure those days.  While I have been writing this memoir, I can remember each and every shop at Steel Market which I preferred to Benachity. There was even a desolate post office there.

Other than Benachity, there was Kumarmangalam Park – sort of pride of Durgapur, if I may say.  This huge park in the steel township was famous for it’s lighted up fountains during the evenings.  For the first few times, I used to really enjoy the show but perhaps beyond a time I started getting bored. Nevertheless, my parents seem to have never outgrown their love for this park as they still get nostalgic about their morning as well as evening walks.

By then I was very sure that certain things formed a huge part of Durgapur. Love for garden – wherein every township was trying to outsmart each other in their efforts to have the biggest blossoming roses and bicycles – everyone had one in their house (so much so that even my father wanted to learn riding albeit he failed) being the most prominent ones.

A city is known by its people and I did not find Durgapur unusually different from the rest of Bengal. I remember that some of the boys I came to know in school did not even visit a cinema theatre in the first 13 years of their lives and though I was surprised but never really thought that was any criteria to brand them lesser smart. In fact, I always loved the kind of importance St. Lawrence gave to sporting activities making it one of the best schools in football, hockey and cricket but I wonder despite having some really good footballers in the school why St. Xavier’s Durgapur never really gave due importance to that. Durgapur as a city was mainly of professionals – at least where I lived it was mostly where engineers lived and I did not find it  loud when compared to Kolkata. In fact, for me its quietness was intolerable some times. Though, I must say I hated it when everyone used to run towards the bus stand as the train from Kolkata touched down the Durgapur station. I know it is not at all a phenomenon which is unique to Durgapur and thus cannot be attributed to the town but in my mind it did not fit into the picture that I saw of Durgapur. I cannot remember anything unique of its people but considering that most of my life has been spent in bigger cities and especially the last few years in Delhi, I would prefer Durgapur any day even if the town has degraded from where it was in 1994-95. At least, if not anything else people devoted time to honorable hobbies like gardening unlike in bigger cities.

I would not say that in the second year of my stay in Durgapur I fell in love with that place but I started liking the town. It was not an alien place to me any more largely because of the friends I made in school.  As far as my school life is concerned, I would say the third year was the best year of my entire school life along with class four in St. Lawrence High School, largely because of the immense contribution that two teachers had in shaping my ideas. If not for anything else, I am privileged that my father was transferred to Durgapur because I was about to be in the class of my life.

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