Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Rolling Stone's Moss: Why Things Happen: Thane 1999

I have travelled a little so far in life. I continue to. Starting today I’ll try and recount some of those stories in this new travel series, The Rolling Stone's Moss.

That was the second time I cried while I was in school…on the 8th of September 1999. It was also the last time. I moved on to go to college soon after and had to pretend to be grown-up and strong due of the turn of events. I did too…pretend. Ten years have passed since.

All those years I was in school, at least for 9 of those 12 years, one of my dreams was to be a teacher on Self-Government Day…be a teacher for one day on Teacher’s Day. Of course, the ‘teacher’ bit changed to ‘Headmistress’ somewhere on the way but Self-Government Day was a dream close to my heart. It seems silly looking back on it but at that point it meant the world to me. Every year around Teacher’s Day I would go all dreamy-eyed and day dream about teaching English or Biology to a class of 60 odd children.

So the day they announced that the school’s self government day for the academic year of 1999-2000 would be on the 8th of September my heart broke for the first time in life. I was travelling on the 6th of September to Thane for the State Science Seminar. It was not something I could have backed out of. So I cried. Thankfully the announcement was immediately followed by the short recess and saved me a lot of embarrassment.

And I hated that I had opted to participate in that District Level Seminar in the first place. The one whose consequences were making me travel to Thane. I hated the whole idea.

This is the Rolling Stone’s Moss…all these memories, stories, acquaintances, friendships, experiences…it’s gathered while I travelled…to places some of which I might never go back to. But I was never the same when I turned around to return.

So I did get over that broken dream and managed to get excited about travelling to Thane…for the first time. We were to arrive in Thane on the morning of the 7th of September 1999 for the seminar slated to be held the next day…the 8th of September…the day of Self-Government. All seemed to go as per plan when panic struck; a train carrying gas had got derailed somewhere on the tracks of the Western Railways and all trains had got delayed, some indefinitely. In the moments spent waiting for the train and wondering if we would make it in time for the seminar (it takes 15 hours to get from Nagpur to Thane) we swore we would never travel with such less buffer again (by again we meant the National Science Seminar the next month…one always hopes).

With good fortune, we made it to Thane on the evening of the 7th. Thane then was a sleepy shadow of Mumbai and many people travelled to and fro between the two cities daily on work. It seemed to be a pretty regular city that way. Our hosts lived in the Eastern part of the city, one that was a stark contrast to the buzzing Western Thane. They were very sweet people who lived in the Railway Quarters in Thane. For the two days that we stayed with them, they felt like family.

We arrived at the venue the next morning for the seminar, the auditorium of a local school. People from all over Maharashtra were present for the seminar, mostly teachers and students but also a few scientists and officials from educational bodies and Zilla Parishads. That is when I realized how big a deal it was to be where I was.

Nagpur is the second capital of Maharashtra and the seat of the Winter Session of the Legislative Assembly and yet in spirit it is a small town. It is fast growing out of that reputation today but at that time 10 years ago it was a hard-core small town. And for all the confidence and self-assurance I always carried I couldn’t help but feel apprehensive meeting those participants from schools in Bombay and Pune. I automatically assumed they would be better prepared.

The seminar began and proceeded to the presentations from all the 14 of us who had come from the 7 divisions of Maharashtra, 2 from each. I finished my presentation midway and answered 2 of the 3 questions correctly but my hopes were hanging by shoestrings the way other students presented their material, in particular this girl from Solapur. By the end of the day I had lost it mentally. I thought I stood no chance. But vindication for the small town came with the result announcement and all apprehension was quelled. Ah sweet victory!

What struck me hardest at the seminar was this teacher from a village in Maharashtra who had brought a young boy of 12 to the seminar. Only students from classes 8th, 9th and 10th could participate but this 7th standard kid was one of the few literate ones in his village. The teacher told us he had been making that boy participate or watch these seminars for 3 odd years so he would be prepared when it came to his turn. I was awestruck by the teacher’s dedication to his profession. He asked me questions about what sources I had referred to while preparing, why I had chosen the topic I had chosen etc. The boy listened intently the whole time. I do hope he went on to participate and win in the later years although I never found out.

We had half of the next day free and we decided to go see the town. It was around 10 AM in the morning and we landed among a sea of office-goers, one that I am part of today but not in the same crazy stressed out way, on one of the city’s main roads. There as we ambled aimlessly amidst people who seemed to know their way with their eyes closed (most of them walked with their eyes to the pavement) I realized how out of place I was in that crowd and that city. It is one of the reasons the idea of Mumbai makes me jittery (no I haven’t visited yet)…that pace of life, that robotic lifestyle…existence as opposed to living. I came back from that city on the run to my sleepy city, mostly relieved.

Thane isn’t too much of an engraving on my mind except that it was my first exposure to big city competition and reaffirmation of the fact that it is what is inside you and not what is on the outside that matters. It is who you are as a person that makes all the difference no matter where you hail from.

Thane also was the stepping-stone to New Delhi and October 1999 and one of the most special events of my life so far. I am celebrating 10 years of that stepping stone today and of that eventful journey.

Oh yes, Thane has been long forgiven for its clash with Self-Government that year. Self-Government would have been a parallel Universe where Delhi and a million other things that make my life memorable wouldn’t have existed.

What is it they say again? About everything happening for a reason? About everything happening for the best…

6 Thinkers Pondered:

Nirupama said...

I really enjoyed reading it with the feelings expressed just right by you di.....because I guess every small town guy or girl goes through the same when exposed to a 'big' city.... :-)

Smita said...

Hmmm...Don't we all have hesitation in making a move out of our safety cocoon?? I can't tell you how scared I was when I was moving to IIT Roorkee for my P.G. Though I had already stayed in hostel for good 4 years but I was hesitant to move into a Co-Ed!!! But as it always happens things always fall in place if you want them to...:-)

BTW loved the spirit of that teacher who was preparing his student!!!

Waiting for more such travel stories :-)

manvi said...

Very nice post Anupama, its so true that everything happens for a reason and watever happens is for the best. But the feeling of uncertainty and anxiety that one undergoes till the outcome is known just bugs us before we know that it turns out just the best way possible.

eye-in-sty-in said...

wow! what an eventful journey... presentations in a different city when ur in school! I'm impressed.... I have stage fright... still... :-)

Eveline said...

I had a teacher like that who quite pushed me into becoming the person i am now. It was her wish that i'd become a teacher, it was mine too when i was much younger. Despite not following that dream there are times i get to share to my knowledge, my interests and that's what i'm grateful for.

The internet is a might finer place with you in it.

Anupama said...

I am sorry for the delay in replying to comments, work's been crazy :(

Hey Niru!

Yeah I guess you can relate to this quite well right now...that strife to make your own place in the world...thanks for the comment :)

Hey Smita!

Your comment reminds me of Ram Shriram's quote - it is important to leave home otherwise we never leave that emotional cocoon...thanks for the comment and will keep posting more such stories :)

Hey Manvi,

I would agree with that...even with a hard core belief that everything will turn out well somehow apprehension manages to make an appearance...thanks for the comment :)

Hey Spike!


I had stage fright too but somewhere along the way I started enjoying and getting addicted to the feedback and the encouragement people offer...nothing mattered after that...thanks for the comment :)

Hey Eve!

Thanks for the sweet words :) is a triumph for a person, who he is, when he can inspire someone else to become him or take up what he does...kudos to your teacher for invoking that feeling in you...and as always, thanks for the comment sweety :)