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Krishna had appeared his standard tenth board exams and was in the eleventh standard. He was in the same school where he studied for all these years, so were his siblings. He had many friends who lived nearby and many of whom were his classmates. These were the fantastic years of his life. He had a perfect childhood growing up. Despite all this, Krishna was unhappy. He wanted to go to a college. College is fun, and he did not want to miss it. Some of his friends had already moved to colleges in other cities. He had tried in few other colleges but was not successful so far. He wondered how to approach his dad.

Krishna walked into the drawing room. He saw his father seated in the sofa reading newspaper.

“Dad, this is a total mess, I don’t want to study in this school.”

“What’s the problem son? You are in eleventh grade now. Complete your Plus-2. These are very crucial years for you.”

“Dad, my friends have all gone to good colleges. I also want to go to a college.”

“Son, you have not got a seat in any college, have you?”

“Dad, please listen to me, I want to go to a college.”

Krishna’s father put the newspaper down. Krishna said to himself, this is my last chance; I need to find a good alternative, dad won’t say no.

“I want to go to Kolkata.”

“So it is now Kolkata!”

“Dad, the colleges there have just reopened and probably admission is going on. Please let me go.”

“Son, if you do not get a seat within 15 days, you are coming back, do you understand?”

“Thank you so much. I love you.”

“This will be your first time you will travel alone. You should take care of yourself, understood?”

“Yes, dad!”

 The following day, he was at the railway station the middle of the night to take a train to Kolkata. He did not have a reservation for this travel. After he had purchased a regular ticket, he stood in the waiting area for the train to arrive. What was this little boy thinking? He was off to college now, but his dad gave him 15 days’ time. That’s not fair, he thought. How could he get himself admitted in a college in 15 days? He did not even know the names of colleges. He had already experienced the ordeal of getting the prospectus, admission forms, etc. He but had failed to obtain so far, but he desperately wanted to go to a college.

“Only 15 days, dammit! What do I do? Where do I go? Whom do I approach? I will run into trouble if I can’t. I have to succeed.” He felt dizzy as he thought about what he had left behind. He would miss his childhood friends, his school, and teachers; nevertheless, his parents and siblings. He was also leaving a safe and secured township of Belpahar and had embarked on an 8-hour journey to Kolkata. He heard an announcement, “6002 up Bombay Mail via Nagpur to Howrah arriving on platform number 3.”

Krishna quickly picked up his baggage and walked out of the waiting area towards the platform number 3. As he walked over the over-bridge, he could see the headlight of the train approaching fast on the tracks. He ran down the stairs to the platform. The train had already entered the platform and was slowing down. Passengers were running on the platform alongside the train as it slowed down and came to a halt. Passengers pushed each other to make their way into the compartment. The train would halt for only two minutes. Everyone tried to board as fast as possible. Krishna boarded the train in one of the compartments. He saw all the passengers were fast asleep in their berths. Lights were off, dark except for one or two night lamps glowing. It appeared to him like stars at night. At the far end of the compartment, the light was still on. He walked past the entire compartment looking for a vacant berth; he could not find any. He had a heavy baggage on his shoulder and had to drag himself as he walked through. “This bag is heavy. My shoulder hurts.” The last berth was vacant.

Krishna put his bag down and sat down and looked out of the window. The whistle blew; the train left the station. It picked up speed quickly and was racing down the tracks. His heart pounded when he thought of the risks he had taken.

The ticket examiner had arrived. “Ticket please.” Krishna reached to his pocket and held the ticket in his hand.

“Sir, can I get a berth please?”

“Fifty rupees.”

A sleeper berth costs only rupees twenty and no more. The ticket examiner asked for an exorbitant sum of money from him. He reluctantly took out rupees fifty and handed over to the ticket examiner.

“Your berth number is 71.”

Krishna is on his way to chase his dream, a young lad from a small town. He has left his school where he could easily complete his twelfth. What was wrong there? Nothing apparently; he was studying in one of the best schools within 100 square miles. Krishna felt he was in jail. He had to wear school dress every day, see the same old faces around, and the same teachers and the strict discipline. He wanted to get out from a small town. He wanted to see the world. He wanted to be a free bird and fly high. He wanted to explore the world.

The train went past a few more stations and had not stopped at any of them. As he opened the shutter of the window, a cool breeze blew in. It was dark outside. He looked out of the window, and the train crossed many villages. Krishna watched the moonless night sky aimlessly deep in his thought about his future. As the time passed, fatigue took over, he yawned and dozed off.

He had reached Howrah Station at around 8 a.m. He had to take a suburban local train to reach his hometown of Hooghly. He knew the route very well. He had been here many times with his parents. The journey is an hour from Howrah. He went to the ticket counter and purchased a ticket to Hooghly. He had to travel north on a suburban train. He saw the train at the platform number 2 which would take him home. He boarded the train and took a seat. The suburban trains travel at a high speed. They halt at a station for a minute or two. The train stops over at several small towns every few minutes. As the train traveled, it went past the coconut trees, ponds, and lakes, paddy crops, and villages. Krishna could see farmers working in their fields, cranes flying in the sky. The smell of the fertile land of rural Bengal energized him. He had traveled through this route many times in past but this time, he was jubilant to travel independently.

Krishna was trying to figure out which college he should try first. He decided to try his luck at Hooghly Mohsin College. This college was where his father, grandfather, and aunt had studied.

Krishna reached Hooghly. He hired a cycle rickshaw to take him to his home. After a good 30 minutes, he was at the front door of his paternal home. The house was a two-storied building, approximately 75 years old. The main entrance was a large door with 2-inch thick door panel with wooden carvings on it. It also had an arch made of plaster above it with floral designs. The door had a ceramic plate fixed from inside and his grandfather’s name engraved on it. It read, “Dr. Jamini Mohan Mitra.”

His grandfather was no more. He had passed away many years ago. His uncle’s family resided in the house along with his grandmother. He walked up to the door and knocked. His grandmother opened the door. “Oh My God! Krishna! You have come; so good to see you. Look, who is here!” she acclaimed in astonishment.  All his family members came down one by one greeting him on the staircase on his way upstairs. He met with his uncle, aunt, and his cousin brother and two cousin sisters.

“So, what brings you here?” uncle asked.

“I am here to join college,” replied Krishna.

“Good news! The colleges are issuing forms now. Check it out tomorrow,” replied uncle.

Krishna walked through the huge arched entrance of Hooghly Mohsin College. The gate was wide open as if inviting him. There he could see hundreds of students of his age, many of whom were here with their parents or elders, few others seated in the portico of the classrooms chatting among themselves. He walked up to a person, probably a staff, distributing handouts to students as they came in.

“Where can I get the admission forms?”

“Go to the Main Building, straight ahead.”

He walked into a huge archway, an extended part of the Main Building, a grand entrance to the building. As he walked through, the archway led him to two huge doors adjacent to each, the entrance to the Main Building. This building was called Perron’s House named after French General Perron who lived in this house, now a college.

As he entered through one of the doors, to his amazement, he saw a huge flight of stairs on the either side reaching to the floor above. The roof was very high, around 25 feet. He noticed cobwebs hanging from the roof and along the walls. He had not seen cobwebs in his school building. He stepped on staircase holding the wooden banister, “Dhum!” a sound of a drum echoed all around. The staircase was a well-carpeted wooden staircase. On each step to the top sounded like the drums of beating retreat of an army parade, welcoming him all the way. He went up the staircase, the sound grew louder and louder and then died out smoothly. At the top, he stood before a large hall, which appeared like a dance floor.

“So, this is the place where damsels danced. Wow! What a treat it might have been!”

He could visualize the bygone era. He saw guests and royalties drinking and merry making seated on the 6-inch mattresses on the floor and some musicians seated at one corner and playing some antique instruments of unknown kind.  At the center stage, three dancers sang and performed before the guests.

Suddenly, he realized that he was in the college bustling with activity. He saw students all around busy talking to each other as they passed by. As he walked past the classrooms on either side, he could see a placard, “Administrative Office” at the end of the hall.  He walked into the room. He saw staffs were busy collecting forms from applicants.

“Where can I get the forms please?”

“Go to the cash counter over there.”

He stood in the queue at the cash counter. After standing for half an hour, he received the application form. The cashier told him that he had to submit the forms by 4 p.m. tomorrow, the last day of receiving forms. Krishna rushed home. He filled up the form and affixed his photograph on it and signed it. Furthermore, he needed a signature of a government official to make it complete. He had to wait for his uncle to return home. After his uncle had come home, he met with him in the bedroom.

“I need a signature of a government official on this form. Where do I get it done?”

“Don’t worry son; I will take you to my friend’s office tomorrow, relax.”

“Oh, I need not worry. I will be able to deposit the form before 4 p.m.”

Krishna was very pleased.  He had done all that it takes to be in a college of his choice.

The following morning he accompanied his uncle to his friend’s office, a high-ranking government official, who put his signature and rubber stamp on it.

“That makes it complete,” he said.  He went straight to the college and submitted the form. He came to know that the list would be out in seven days.

A week had passed; the list would be out any day. One day, the telephone rang. He picked it up; his uncle had called. “The list is out, go check it out.” His heart pounded like a piston of a railway engine.  He went to the college and inquired about the list. It was on the main notice board.  He ran the entire flight of stairs. The sound of the stairs merged with his heartbeat. He stood for a while in the hall and looked for the notice board. He saw a flock of students gathered around it.  He gasped for air to catch a breath. He moved closer to the notice board. As he scanned through the list, his name did not appear in the list. “Oh, God! I have not made it, what shall I do?”

Then a student standing beside him told him of another list for the Morning Section on the notice board at the far end of the administrative office. He rushed towards it. This time, his name appeared on the list. He read it repeatedly to reconfirm. He noted his name in serial number 17 in a list of 65 students. He was very excited. He wanted to dance with joy. He swayed his hands and buttocks on the either side like an African dancer on that spot and threw his fist in the air. “Wow! I have made it.”

He went home with a packet of sweets to distribute to his grandma and family members who were eagerly waiting for the good news. He called his uncle at his office and informed him of the news. “Congratulations! I am so happy for you. You are the third generation to carry forth the family tradition of being a student of Hooghly Mohsin College. Call your father to inform him now.”

Those were the days when a few homes had subscriber trunk dialing facility, and having a phone itself was a privilege. Krishna rushed to the nearest post office to make a call.

“Trunk call to Belpahar, 06645 please.”

“Here is the phone, make your call” handing over the telephone set to Krishna. Krishna called his father at his office.

“May I speak to Mr. Mitra please?”

“Sir, a call from your son,” said the speaker.  His father came on the line.

“Dad, Krishna here. Dad, I secured a seat in the Morning Section of Hooghly Mohsin College.”

“Congratulations son, I am proud of you. When are you coming home?”

“Home! Why dad?”

His father replied, “We have to celebrate. You also have to take your belongings from here to start living there.”

“Dad, I will leave tomorrow. I have to be back within a week; the classes will start in 10 days’ time.” He put back the receiver.

The following day, he went to the college and completed the admission procedure. That night, he took a train journey to Belpahar.

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