Dr Dhrubajyoti Bora
(The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
On a balmy afternoon, before alighting from the city bus I was travelling in from Hatigaon, I thought deeply about the safest bus stop so that I could avoid my marauding seniors on my way back to the hostel. I was just a first-year MBBS student. A week ago, a brawl had erupted between the medical and university students because of the unfortunate death of a university student at the hospital ICU. Since that incident, the whole atmosphere around the hospital had been reeling under unseen suffocation of fear. The hostellers feared being attacked by the university students at night, and so they'd decided to remain vigilant from the terrace and to raise alarm if any suspicious vehicles approach the hostel, either from the front street or from the backside of the hill. Needless to say, the first year boarders were made the frontline warriors. In that hullabaloo, some of the faint-hearted first-year boys fled from the hostel and even absented themselves from the college classes fearing of getting caught by the seniors in the college and then dragged to the hostels like dogs. The seniors had vehemently warned the remaining boys not to flee the hostel at this time of the disaster and told anyone found flouting the norms would face the cruellest punishment that anybody could imagine. Initially, I made up my mind to endure it till the end. But one night, I'd to give in and fled the hostel in slippers with one of my friends to his uncle's house. There I'd stayed five days, had enjoyed nice homemade delicacies, had roamed the streets in the evenings, forgetting everything. But on the fifth day, something from inside told me it was the time to go back; otherwise, the consequences would be worst. But my friend decided to stay a few days more and requested to tell the seniors of his being under the weather if asked about him. So today, on the fifth day, I'd to decide where to get off the city bus. I knew the Bhangagarh area was possibly crowded by the hostel seniors at this time of the day, and calculating all pros and cons, I decided to get off two stops ahead, at the Post office bus stop.
I hanged about idly till dusk at the bus stop area thinking the darkness would help me evade the seniors. I bought a mithpati paan from a roadside paan stall and started chewing it to calm my mind. As the faintest glow of the crimson red disappeared from the western sky and the streetlights glittered to life, I took my steps hostel ward, casting my gaze down on the broken street.
The street to the hostel at that time was existential with occasional bikes, bicycles, rickshaws, and a few people. I, like a blessed soul, happily, lazily, continued walking, spitting onto the drain running along the street, though I faked a serious demeanour outside.
Suddenly, as I neared the dental hostel, my heart thumped vigorously when I saw the brightly lit Carpe Diem restaurant in the distance and two bikes on the stand before it. At the last moment before disembarking from the city bus the thought of passing by the Carpe Diem had eluded my mind, and now I repented for wasting my valuable time loitering around the bus stop after getting off the bus because afternoons were the scarcely visited times by the hostellers at this restaurant. I paused for a moment and gazed in that direction like a spy. Seeing nobody outside, I resumed my walk with brisk steps like a thief. As the last part of the restaurant was about to slip from my visual field, I heard someone calling from my back, "Hey, the first year!''
I had to stop, for I knew the punishments of ignoring a senior. I looked back and saw a senior waving at me from the veranda. I faked an innocent look of ignorance.
"Hey- yeah you- come here!''
Now I'd no way to escape. With a beating heart, I approached him and in the meantime, he too came out of the veranda to meet me on the street.
"Where are you coming from?''
"From my uncle's house, dada.''
His fleeting glance licked me from head to toe. Then he said,
"Huh- going to uncle's house in slippers!''
I remained silent. He narrowed his gaze as if he'd been examining a micro-organism under the microscope. He said, "Huh- coming from uncle's house chewing paan? When did you go there?''
"Two days back."
"But I've not seen you for the last one week!"
"No dada, I swear,'- I pinched at my neck.
He once poked at his spectacles to lift them over the bridge of his nose. I remembered his name, Dr Sanjoy Dasgupta. Had he asked me his name I would've been spared, but he didn't.
"That means you fled the hostel in a time of emergency! Why you people are so selfish and mean?''
I stood dumb. Understood I'd just landed over a volcano.
"We all seniors are guarding the hostel day and night, sacrificing our hunger and sleep, and you, being the first year, have enjoyed a tension-free life at your uncle's residence. What will happen if the university students come at night and get at us? What will happen if they beat us to death, or take us to some unknown places as hostages? You people don't have any empathy for the seniors!''
I continued my silence.
"How many of your first-year boys are there in the hostel?''
"Around twelve, dada.''
"Around twelve? You're not sure? You're lucky you know. If I happened to meet you just inside the hostel gate you could've wondered how your spectacles left your face!''
I felt my face going red.
"Inform all your friends to reach the hostel by tomorrow. Otherwise, I'll throw all their belongings from the hostel. Why are you the first-year boys are so stupid? Huh!''
I was lucky that till then there were no other hostel seniors around the scene. Otherwise, the plight I would've to face was no better than an animal kept in a zoo.
"Go, and don't forget to tell your friends what I've told you.''
I felt relieved and quick-stepped towards the hostel. I don't want any further encounter, enough is enough, I thought. But today I was scolded on behalf of all my friends. I looked back as just.
"Hey you, the first year- don't dare stare back at me like this! Wait, I'll teach you a lesson once I'm in the hostel.''
Hardly had I imagined that Sanjoy da was still watching me. But he didn't summon me to his room that night, not on the following nights. Never. Now when I call up that incident, my heart fills with an unknown amusement.