Friday, 13 June 2014

The first library that I was a member of

    The first library that I was a member of, was the library in Calcutta Boys’ School (there was no ‘The’ prefix during my time, since there were no branches and thus no need to highlight the main branch, as there is now). I think it was from class 3 when we were allowed to be members of the school library. The library, through all the years I was in school (1991-2004), was situated on the top floor of the building also housing the physics, chemistry and biology lab. The library was connected to the Chapel Hall (which was the junior chapel hall during my time) via a flight of stairs. I am aware that the library is no longer there. It is now in the open space which used to be the senior chapel hall. What used to be the library in my time, is now a classroom. That room, the library during my time, was a long, rectangular room with an antechamber (to which students were not allowed entry). The long, rectangular room had rectangular tables and stools beside them. The walls were lined with cupboards containing the books.
    There were two librarians in my time. First there was Mrs. Lala, and then, during the last 4-5 years, Mrs. N. Bhaumik was the librarian. Among library assistants, the only people who come to mind are Khokon-da and Mansur-da. Mansur-da was the library assistant, sold patties during lunch break (people sold food in the open courtyard behind the library building and the middle building -- I wonder if the open courtyard is still there, as I had heard after I passed out of school, that it was to be utilised for something else), and was the cook during school picnics and teachers’ day celebrations. Continuing with Mansur-da, I must mention two images that come to mind. One is that during both school picnics and teachers’ day celebrations, very often the fire was lit using broken chairs and tables! It is one of those images that have stuck in my mind. The other image is that during teachers' day celebrations, the meal for the teachers was cooked in that open courtyard. Students also used to play in that courtyard. Quite often, the little rubber ball that some students were playing with would fall into the open drain. The students would pick it up and continue playing. Sometimes after that, the ball would again fall into the huge tubs in which the food was kept. I remember this image of Mansur-da picking the dirty ball out of the food, throwing it to the students and instructing them to go play somewhere else. Well, those days are long gone. I hope no one feels yucky after reading this!
    During my time, we had an official library period once a week. This was when the entire class went to the library, returned books, issued new ones and read through other books. However, when we were in our senior classes, we realised we could also do this at any other point of time in the week as well. It helped to have an official library period, so as to avoid overcrowding but it was not as if we were not allowed in the library at any point of time other than those designated 50 minutes per week.
    I remember the first book that I borrowed from the school library was a hard-bound book with a colourful cover. I think the book was called What Katy Did. A Google-search reveals that it was written by someone under the pen name Susan Coolidge. I never read that book! I just borrowed it during my first ever library period because it had a colourful cover.
    I never made it in life as a serious student of the sciences. This was probably because I never borrowed a science book during my entire school life! I remember when we were in class 5 and thereabouts, the most-wanted books in the library were the Hardy Boys ones by Franklin W. Dixon. The books were so much in demand that there used to be a queue of students lining up to that specific section in the library housing these books. Where there is a queue, there is usually jostling. Students in class 5 used to rush to be the first one to reach the library in order to be first in that queue and not miss out on a Hardy Boys book. My elder brother is about four years senior to me and was not a student of Calcutta Boys’ School. However, he had already built up a Hardy Boys collection at home by the time he was in class 5 or so. So, I had been introduced to Hardy Boys when I was in class 2 or thereabouts and by the time I was in class 5, I did not feel the need to be in this queue. I had already read them years back at home!
    From about class 8 onwards, I used to borrow PG Wodehouse and books of similar humour. There was a small group of about 10 or so students who read PG Wodehouse. He was not as popular as Franklin W. Dixon. Also, by class 8, most of my fellow class-mates had moved on to science books. I felt left out of a desire to know more about the sciences. I was content with my PG Wodehouse and my Jerome K Jerome. Ignorance is, often, bliss. Unfortunate yet true.
    One of the other things I remember about the library is this large, framed, rectangular drawing (or perhaps poster) on the wall, of a little girl with her finger to her lips indicating ‘Shhhh, silence is golden’. Silence is one of the things I remember about the school library. Even though we were extremely noisy in the classrooms, we were quite quiet in the library. Perhaps it was because there was no teacher whom we had to follow. We could do whatever we wanted. A lot of people slept in the library. Good decision. I think it was time well-spent as it was time spent according to one’s own will.
    The antechamber that I mentioned earlier, was a room where the librarian retired for lunch. That was also a room which had books that were not to be lent out. I remember there was the Encyclopaedia Britannica in there. I looked at it once. But it was imposing in itself -- in a room to which students were usually not allowed entry, not to be lent out, rarely used and hence dusty and thus even less inviting. The advent of Wikipedia has done away with the Encyclopaedia Britannica. I am glad about it!
    There were some Biblical paintings by Victor Nag, former art teacher of Calcutta Boys’ School whose paintings also adorned the walls of the Junior Chapel Hall, that were hung up in the library. There was also a framed photograph of Rabindranath, who was otherwise quite absent from our school life except for the stray poem, short story, or essay which was part of our curriculum.
    There was also a framed photograph of Clifford Hicks, the much-hated and much-respected former principal of Calcutta Boys’ School, which was put up in the library later on (or maybe it was there all along, I forget now, it has been ten years since I left school and I am fast progressing down the way of all flesh). I have a photograph of this photograph. My photograph was shot in 2004, the last year I spent in school. Those were the analogue days before digital cameras, mobile phones, indulgent parents willing to lend a camera to their children, or pocket money enough to buy rolls of film and get them developed. During my last year in school, a lot of us brought a camera once in a while and tried to capture their favourite places and people on film, to keep a tangible property linking them to those places and  those people, in the life to follow. So photographs of my school days are very few and hence quite treasured.
    However, the most treasured photographs are not recorded on any film, but in my memory. I know it is a cheesy way to end this, but I like it!

No comments:

Post a Comment

মন্তব্য করুন