Chronicles of Doda!
( Translated from the original Hindi by the author)
23rd March 1961
My dear Mummy,
I have finally arrived in my new school! The train journey was very nice specially the Puris we ate at Barog and the tunnels on the way. I have to live with about fifty other boys in a long dormitory. I have been allotted one iron spring bed and one wooden locker. It was so cold in the night that I had to rub my feet for such a long time to keep warm. Since Naresh is a senior he sleeps with senior boys in a cubicle. Before going to sleep he told me I will have to get up at five and do P.T. and then he will tell me everything. All around me as usual there were gangs of boys sitting on beds talking very excitedly in git-bit English. I was feeling very lonely. Soon one very tall and dark Sikh boy came and said, all right, lights out, no more gassing. Every one go to sleep. I was wondering what is gassing? Will they be lighting gas lamps or what? But soon I was snoring.
Early in the morning there was a big rush and I heard a bugle blowing. Every one started running around. Naresh suddenly came and gave me some soft white paper and told me to go to the toilet. He said that I have to use it in place of water. I looked around me and saw that every one was charging to the bogs. Bogs here means the toilet. Mummy, this is the first toilet I have seen where there is no water. I was feeling very sleepy and tired. Naresh said, hurry up, brush your teeth and get ready. I cannot talk to any one here but for Naresh. Because he is the only boy here who knows Punjabi. I am really very surprised why no one here talks in Hindi or Punjabi! So I looked around and did what the other boys were doing and copied them. This is the first time I have used paper. I asked Naresh why they use this toilet paper here instead of water. He said, we are a English Public School and only lingoes use water. I asked him, where is your smart friend Vijay Khurana. He said, he is in Lefroy house, meaning the long dormitory next to ours and I will see him in the break. So I got dressed in white shorts and dark blue jersey and we went below to the dining room. It appears that I am the only new boy in this house. This inland letter form is coming to an end. Oh! Yes, let me tell you one more funny thing which happened on the first day. Early in the morning Mukesh who is in the lower house came running up the hill and shouted under our dorm: Naresh, can you please give me some toothpaste! Every one was so shocked and they all smiled and said, Oh, he is Sethi’s bra! I am feeling completely lost here.
How are Kukoo and Pappi? Don’t forget to keep on buying my Chandamama every month
Your loving and obedient son
Letters from Doda!
(Translated from the original Hindi by the author)
15th March 1961
My dear Mummy,
Every Saturday is a letter writing day for us. I am sitting in my class of upper two and writing this letter to you. Mummy this is my first letter to you from school. Mummy, we had to first assemble at Kalka where Mr Advani who every one calls as Adoo was waiting for us to put us in the train to Shimla. The whole platform was filled with hundreds of boys and mummy, they were all dressed in suits and ties talking git-bit, git-bit in English and I could not make out head or tail of what they were talking about. No one was talking in Hindi or Punjabi. I stuck with Naresh who joined his gang of friends. They were all Punjabis but they were also talking git-bit, git-bit in English. Naresh said to them, this is my younger brother who will be joining school from this year. One boy was Vijay Khurana from Bombay and he was telling every one how a gang of robbers held up a bank in Bombay and walked away with ten thousand bucks! Mummy I was just wondering why should robbers steal cardboard boxes. The other two boys JPS Knigger and Jwanda became very excited and they also started telling what they would have done with so many bucks. Jwanda was saying, if I had ten thousand bucks I will enjoy with ten thousand dames. Vijay Khurana is a very smart boy and because he is from Bombay every one was listening to him with great interest. Naresh was asking him all sorts of questions about dames in Bombay and bars and all that type of stuff which any village rustic from Ferozepore can ask. Mummy it was so cold you just cannot imagine with snow lying on the way. The trains was going very slowly and some boys would jump off the train and bring some snow in their hands. It reminded me of our ice factory in Ferozepore. I did not say anything because I couldn’t understand anything. But every one else was talking and shouting and laughing. In Barog the train stopped for some time and I also got down. Suddenly some Chinese looking small boys got down from the next compartment and they were talking in Chinese. As I went up to pick up some snow, one of them made a grab at my snow. So I caught him by the neck and shouted at him in Punjabi. Suddenly he took out a knife. I was daring him in Punjabi to fight with me. It was very funny mummy. He was shouting in Chinese and I was shouting in Punjabi. Suddenly he stopped and said, no English. I smiled and said, no English. Meantime Naresh and his gang came running because some boy and told Naresh that your bra is having a fight. The Chinese boy put back his knife but in the process cut his finger and blood started coming out. He started sucking it. Naresh made us shake hands. Later on Naresh told me these boys were from Thailand and all Thai guys go to Rivaz house just like all boys from Africa join our house which is the Ibbetson house. I keep on forgetting the name of my house. So we got back into the train once again and Vijay Khurana once again started telling his tales of Bombay. Mummy Jwanda and Knigger are Punjabi villagers but Vijay Khurana is a Sahib.
Mummy it is so cold here you cannot imagine. It is just like going into our cold storage in Ferozepore. I will write again next Saturday
Your loving and obedient son
Written by, Suresh Sethi