When the world lay at our feet

Independence Day somehow brings back memories of childhood, and of Doordarshan in its early years. Those memories relate to Calcutta where I was born and grew up. The day brings memories of school and college, especially school. Of being present there for the flag hoisting and returning home early because there would be no classes.

Don Bosco, where I studied, was hardly four km away from home. It would always be a walk through the Park Circus Maidan, with three friends of mine. We were neighbours, studied in the same school and in the same class! These walks to and from school were accompanied by ceaseless banter, about cricket and tennis, about films, and, yes, of course, about pretty girls. There was one sweet little thing I particularly looked out for – she stayed around the corner from school. Occasionally, she would give me a coy smile, but I never ever gathered the courage to speak to her. After sometime, I stopped seeing her and, well, that was how that story ended.

Independence and Republic Days also bring back memories of walking in the rain, of clear blue skies, of eagles flying high, and crows flapping their wings in the rain. It was from my dining room window that I would look at the skies and the rain, and from my bedroom window, the pigeons that built nests opposite.

Then, there are memories of long walks with my good friend Badsha. We started our walks when we were in Class 9 or 10. And continued till we left college. The walks would invariably start from my home in Park Circus, or from CCFC (Calcutta Cricket & Football Club) on Gurusaday Road. We would sometimes stop outside Modern High Girls School to have puchkas. But usually, we would head towards Park Street, turning left from the Park Circus Maidan.

As always, Park Street was the place to be. When both of us joined St Xavier’s College, we felt we belonged there. Ice cream parlours, video games, Trincas, Flury’s, Loreto College, and some of the best-looking girls! We hardly had a care in the world then and, as the breeze blew into our faces and drove the smoke away from our cigarettes, life indeed seemed great. From Park Street on to Chowringhee and then New Market. There would be stops for cups of tea and egg rolls. Our favourite spot was Bihar, near New Market. We would take the same route back, splitting at Gurusaday Road. A good 12-km walk in three or four hours. This exercise would be repeated week after week, many times more than once a week.

Those were early years of Doordarshan too. I remember getting up early to watch the Prime Minister unfurl the national flag in Delhi. On Republic Day, I remember watching the parade on DD. There are other memories as well – of waiting the whole day to watch in the evenings Chitrahaar, Desh Bidesher Khela, or Phool Khile Hain Gulshan Gulshan that Tabassum hosted superbly. Of waiting for father to bring Sportstar, Filmfare and comic books. And, yes, of tuning into All India Radio to listen to Lunchtime Variety in the afternoons, Jayamala at 7 pm, and Chaya Geet at 10 pm.

I do not remember buying small flags or pinning one on my lapel. But, yes, we were full of India in our hearts.


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