Slates and chalks were rare during those days. Notebooks and ink pots were allowed only in the second year of the primary school or later, when one had already become familiar with the alphabets and numbers.
The mornings were busy. A small writing board of wood with a handle was needed to be rubbed with black colour. The filling of a worn out dry battery was mixed with water to make the paste to put on the board. It was black enough. Or one used the dying colour instead. Eveready or Jeep were the brands of batteries available, small or medium sized. The board with a handle was than left in the air or sun to dry. Then with the bottom of a drinking glass or a bottle it was rigourously rubbed to shine. One used both the hands to do so if father was not available on some days to help.
In a small metal container, may be an emptied can of condensed milk called milkmaid, was dissolved in water the white soil or chalk called ‘Khari’. It was frequently available local product, just like the red clay soil. There were made two holes on each side of this white ink pot, into which two ends of a thread were tied.
A student had a cotton bag on his shoulder. The Blackened and shined board was there in it, along with a neatly cut small stick of bamboo. One end of the bamboo stick was turned into a pen. In one hand of the student hung the white ink pot. This ink had to be stirred often while writing, else the chalk settled at the bottom.
The Bell held in one hand was being rang through a hammer, held in another, by the monitor of the school, calling open the school day. The student ran up the climb, which was paved with stones; at the top of which was the monitor, in front of the school, was ringing the bell. The student was careful not to spill the white ink from the pot hanging from his hand, else it will soil his dress or the bag.
Once he lost his balance while running on prompting of the bell, managing the bag on his shoulder and the white ink pot in his hand. His head hit a stone and blood oozed from the wound, while his ink got spilled on the stones paving the way, and its pot lost in the fields down somewhere. He was taken to the hospital which was very near, and the doctor applied dressing on his wound. That smell of medicine lingered in his mind for a long time.
Classes ran in open during winter. It was why his father was happy, that he will remain warm in the sun for the whole day. ‘Ka’ Kha’ ‘Ga’ Gha’…. the alphabets came alive shining white on a shining black board. They dried in sun soon. Now on the other side of the board number had to be noted, which the teacher was shouting.
Oh what a shit! One had lost the thread needed to dip in the white ink and than use it to draw lines by holding the thread soaked in white ink with his both hands and then touch it on the other side of the black board at regular intervals. Then from the two other ends of the Black board or ‘Pati’ the thread put lines on it, to make almost even squares. After drying those squares were filled with the Numbers ‘Ek..do…teen…char.’
Watching a documentary of Tony Hagen on Nepal’s Bajang district brought those memories alive.
It is one of the most fraudulent type. Most of such authors, who wrote in this line, have won so many literary accolades that they may look almost unassailable. But they are fast becoming out-dated, as a more literate world has become more discerning in the matters of literature and art. It is slowly realizing that they have lost touch with matters totally, in their efforts to write about the things they had no first-hand idea about. And then live up to the burden of their accomplishments, so celebrated in their adopted world. Mostly because they apologized very profoundly in their work, on its behalf. But, notably, they are being taken very skeptically by the academia–with its new found consciousness of the world–of it, nowadays; while they continue to be celebrated in their original countries, which they often deal with very severely–to the extent that they almost appear disowning it.
The most celebrated writing by immigrants in English is about rubbishing the former colonies in every manner. And present them as if they were always meant to be colonized. Preferably by the British, as it was of a superior kind of colonialism than–say Spanish or Dutch.It must have been hard for these writers to disown their own culture to the extent that they begin to be liked by the far advanced ones–in terms of science and technology. Their blindness to their new adopted world, to which they have tried to belong so rigorously, mostly in their writing, betrays how limited a vision they had for the literary matters.
It is revealing when one reads the work of an Indian writer, who tries to write about his adopted city like London, instead of the one where he was born. This borrowed sensitivity, from the classical literature in English, by someone like Charles Dickens, begins to read like a parody. Unlike the language of science, the language of art is not same across the cultures. Had they put the same efforts in defining even a rural countryside they had known, they might have created a better literature.
This was about the first generation immigrant writers.
About the second generation ones, or their next generation: one has little idea about the country from where their parents immigrated or the ones where they were born and lived. The later might be because they inherited the xenophobia of their parents to the extent that they were unable to look closely around at the culture which was so different than their own. For the instinct to preserve their own culture is the most strong among the immigrants.
There are very few who have written about their new countries entirely bereft of an idea of their origin. May be in the coming days we will have that, when a generation appears which has been fully naturalized in their new countries. The little literature which is available so far, from this generation, is mostly a lament about the hardship and racial discrimination they and their parents suffered, in the process of naturalization over the generations. If someone will break this limitation is not sure, for the racial feelings are so deeply entrenched that two or three generations are not enough to bridge them. More so, when the world seems to have taken a step back, when it is said to have taken a step ahead. As the voices against immigration are becoming ever more strident, as the world looks as if it is failing.
So, the literature too seem to be fulfilling its limited intended purpose, like most other things. Its failure to change the world hauntingly resounds–as manifested by most of the defeatist type of it being celebrated the most. Something full of ambition is absent.