In class four at the Maria Montessori School in Fire Brigade, Mustafa and Razia were newly enrolled. They had just come from Canada. It was my only co-ed school before I moved to a convent. The teacher asked us if anyone knew what a cow shed was. Mustafa promptly replied “Indira’s house has a cow shed.” He probably thought I looked like a milkman’s daughter (nothing wrong with that in retrospect). But I pounced on Mustafa the moment the teacher went out of the class. I am guessing I enjoyed this fight as my sister recollects me sitting on top of Mustafa and giving him some sound punches. Of course it ended with the teacher’s “shhhhh” entering the room. The year was probably 1978.
For a few days on end, I have been wondering about Mustafa and his sister Razia and that it would be so good to find them. And more than that, I am constantly wavering between the past and the present, to the point where I am pre-occupied and feel like an anti social. I have not read Anjum Hassan’s book, but if you were to ask me what I feel right now, it is “lunatic in my head”.
For a few weeks now, Facebook has taken over my life in a way it has never done before. I am constantly turning to the page on Shillong – it takes me to every nook and corner of the town I grew up in – Donbosco Square, Police Bazar, Ward’s Lake, Kalsang restaurant...to name a few. I get a whiff of the smell of momos, the taste of channa wala, ghoogni... The page screams home.
And in those moments of walking down memory lane, the world gets small on me. It is like running into a life I had left and miss so much. Nostalgia is a good word right now.
Unlocking every memory and sharing it with friends who grew up the same time and at the same place is such a happy exercise. For who would forget Enter The Dragon and the beginning of the Bruce Lee mania that swept our little home town. Bruce Lee shoes flooded the market. My brother recalled waiting three hours in the queue to get a ticket. Those days the black markerters had a field day with every new release of movies but for those who could not afford their prices, standing long hours for a ticket was worth it, especially when it concerned the cult of the time. Shillong’s cinema halls – Kelvin, Anjali, Dreamland, Singhania, Bijou – each had a certain uniqueness and linked to a particular genre. I watched Grease, Saturday Night Fever in Kelvin – movies that were not only commercially so successful but had the power to remain etched somewhere in memory, even after eons. Of course, there were plenty, plenty others but I cannot think of more offhand.
But this is not what our hometown is known for. Our schools were the best – from the teachers to the environment to the extracurricular activities to the myriad friends. In all this, there was randomness with strangers too. We exchanged stories with people in cabs and buses, lanes and bylanes. There are so many more bits to fill up on but that would take a book to complete.
To Shillong Era 1960-1990, keep the memories and the laughter alive. It means our bodies might be somewhere but our minds and mouth are still in Shillong. I wanted to write a funny post but I guess old age is catching up and I am wearing my heart on my sleeve. I love this group, it makes me feel unconditionally accepted even by people who I have not met because we are all part of Shillong. Holy cow, I can trash the TV now but not Facebook J