Up until a few years back, the title question was a regular feature in all “get to know you” sessions I had. Whether it was a girl that I was courting or sitting opposite to a board of interviewers, I have always answered it in the most peculiar of ways every time. I had my reasons, after all… I had been to 10!
Yes, yes… you surely have read it right. The person who maintains this blog, he who has all the weirdest of views on life and thinks of himself as a IQ:140 genius has indeed been to 10 schools. The number excludes the college years (grade 11 and 12), since school is strictly till SSC or GCSE O Level in Bangladesh. The mystery of attending 10 schools for supposedly 10 classes gets even more delusional since I attended three of them for a good three years.
Anyways I am from that southern district of Bangladesh where all rich and famous are born, courtesy of which I can never get things started right away :p Blame it on the people of Noakhali or blame it my pure blooded Noakhailla nature, I just can’t help it! So without further ado here goes my story…
The year was 1988, a year remembered by most for the worst flood in Bangladesh history. I was five. Thanks to my dad’s jumping jack army life, I had already seen two cantonments by that time. I was born in Comilla and celebrated the birth of my younger brother in Jessore four years later. Both in CMHs (Combined Military Hospital aka. Military Field Hospitals) of course. We had just moved into Rajshahi. It was a cold cold place and all I remember form the first few months was contracting asthma and seeing mango trees all around. Soon my parents realized, they were stuck in a dessert town (Varendra area is the driest place) with a son who needed schooling. Many affluent families in the North actually found it better to send their kids off to Darjeeling or Kalimpong instead of seeing them rot in the scorching dry summer. However I wasn’t that lucky. My dad surely wanted the best education for his eldest son but in a place where even locals had zero confidence over the existing schools, he didn’t have much of a choice.
On the banks of mighty Padma, next to a carefully maintained mango plantation was the site of my first school, River View High School1. The picturesque location was perfect for a resort or even a residence perhaps, but definitely not a school. I barely remember a few snapshots of those days, the most obvious being a rather embarrassing one (my dad won’t let me forget). The plush green playing field, the sight of Padma in walking distance and the scores of mango tress around the school were perhaps the only highlights of River View. I don’t recall how long I attended the school since I was shifted from this part-government school to a private one soon.
Mother Box Kindergarten2 was a private English-heavy school in one old shabby building in the city. It was named after the founder of Rajshahi University, the fame educationist Mother Box. The classes were really cramped and again I don’t remember jack. Perhaps the only recollection I have is of an Indian Magician visiting my school He had a few super common tricks (that even I mastered a few years later) and was selling a small handbook of tricks. I remember crying my heart out to get a piece of that for my collection, just as a collectible (I still buy dozens of such stuff for the same absurd reason)!!!
Life in Rajshahi was actually getting better. I started my first proper hobby, not so surprisingly stamp collecting. Looking back I am not sure whether I wanted to collect it or not. I guess my dad just influenced me to start collecting something that required and developed your knowledge of the world. My heartfelt gratitude to him for that (I dunno what I would be otherwise)!!! I also bought my first wristwatch from Rajshahi. I had a digital (Asahi or Akashi) followed by a analog Q&Q (I think). Tintin was another high point of my stay in Rajshahi. As soon as I read my first, I was a fan in no time. Till date I haven’t come across a good enough alternative of it.
We were starting our third year in Rajshahi as my parents thought it was time for me to change schools, AGAIN!!! This was by far the closest to my home, had the ugliest of all names and was housed in a residential building. Upashahar K.G. School3 was however the pinnacle of my schooling years (in terms of academic results :p). Starting out in a High School and landing up in a K.G. School, I dunno what were my parents thinking (like duh!!!). Nonetheless, I topped the class throughout the year only to fall terribly sick right before the finals, settling for a respectable second. Whether it was the empty goal post or my sheer academic genius, I left Rajshahi with a heavy heart for not being able to secure the first position!!!
My dad had probably hit a glass wall of some sort in his career, cause we couldn’t believe moving into a new city in the North Bengal. But there it was – a new town, a quieter place with a colder winter, Rangpur. Walking down the memory lane, I actually have some wonderful memories of my stay in Rangpur. The school I enrolled into, Rangpur Cantonment Public School & College4 was and still remains one of the best in that region. I attended classes 1 to 3 here. Made some friends. Had an intimidating encounter with the bad boy in class (who also happened to be my first know-it-all ichre paka friend). And most importantly had my first crush (a boy of 2 falls for a girl of 1). Unfortunately before the love could blossom any further, her dad got posted out and the next time I met her (ten years later) she was almost engaged to be married. I saw one of my all time favorites Terminator 2: Judgement Day in Rangpur (I remember seeing it every weekend for a good few months in fact). Learnt cycling, cricket, badminton and playing Captain Commando. I also did my first and last stage show in a Club Night, singing in a chorus goofing up the finishing tune. It was surely one of the best times in my life.
As if North Bengal weren’t bad enough, Dad got posted in the troublesome Chittagong Hill Tracts. The Shanti Bahini (PCJSS) was still at large and he was posted in the worst possible zone, Babuchara in Khagrachari. While I was enrolled in Chittagong Cantonment Public School & College5, my dad was busy being a real-life Rambo (fighting and killing the separatists). I think his coolest picture in service years from that time. It was a rather stressful time for my family with my dad out there, and the school lacked life in general. While I was quite old by then, the only memories I have are of collecting Chacha Chaudhary Comics and sitting next to a retard boy in class who drew amazing comic heroes. The foundation of my friendship with him was simple – draw me what I wish for everyday. I know I am mean. And someone who can blatantly tell his stories of being selfish and mean, is to be kept at a safe distance 😉
The Curse of God Knows What followed. Dad got transferred again. From the killing fields of Hill Tracts to running after smugglers in Netrokona. It just could not get any worse. I was to be proven wrong… SOON!
Anjuman Adarsha Government High School6 was the school I attended. If the name didn’t say it all, too bad! It was a horrendous experience. I was the boy who had a pencil box that had drawers coming out with a click, I was the boy who carried a tiffin box that had a spoon attached, I was the boy who went to school in a SUV (at times a bike) and I was the boy who had been to Dhaka. Now put a few ONLY before all those BOY in the previous sentence, and there you have it. Beyond the school, Netrokona was pretty fun. I learnt fishing, visited some really beautiful places (Sushong Durgapur, Bijoypur, Haluaghat to name a few), killed a snake and almost got bitten by one. I even attended after-class tuition at some school teacher’s place. Lets not even get started on that.
Finally the lady luck had smiled, we were (me aged 12) in Dhaka. The year was 1995. My dad quickly got me admitted in Rifles Public School & College7. We lived in Peelkhana. It was arguably the most serene place to live in the city of chaos. I managed to have my second crush (the first on a classmate), which obviously resulted in nothing at all. After a handful years I was again topping the class. Made really good friends and was enjoying my time in the capital. For a period of time, we had three family member going to the same school – me, my younger brother and a first cousin. While studying in Rifles Public, dad got transferred to the remotest place to-date, Chapai Nawabganj. Thankfully, he somehow managed to keep me enrolled in the school as we packed our bags and shipped out again.
I felt like a Royalty being in Chapai Nawabganj. Not because my dad was the man in town or anything, but for the sheer of pleasure of being home schooled. Since I was admitted into a school in Dhaka, I was home schooled by my parents and a wonderful guy called Mr. Taher (learnt a lot from him, specially about trucks and pens). Sadly my non-conformist education was a short-lived fling. Some wise ass gave my parents the idea of sending me to a local school, just for the sake of proper schooling (as if I wasn’t enough already). I was still enrolled in the Dhakaiya cool co-ed Rifles Public and this was a 100% natural cock fested Boy’s School. Harimohan Government High School8 even put Anjuman to shame. It was so bad, even recalling those days makes me puke. Students went to school wearing sandals (that was the style), attending prayers in the middle of class hours was mandatory, tiffin was served from school (a choice between daalpuri or biscuits) and the classes started at 11 (in suburban areas day shift or 11am-4pm classes are the way to go). I was so bored during the tiffin breaks (which was for nearly an hour to let the kids play their hearts out), I started growing a sense of frustration. I was only in class 6!
Thankfully my parents realized. I was put back on home schooling and started preparing for the first prove your worth test. It was time for Cadet College. I was given the choice to pick one but not whether I had any interest to attend. With my impoverished, unprepared, village-educated knowledge I somehow managed to get myself admitted into Sylhet Cadet College, another picturesque location that somehow caught my attention. By this time we were back in Dhaka (this time in Dhaka Cantonment) and my dad had got back his senses. He decided to keep his heir to throne close by and scrapped the idea of cadet colleges once and for all. But there was a binding clause, I had to get admitted to a new school.
Following the family heritage (of my cousins and dad), Adamjee Cantonment Public School & College9 was the obvious choice. However after first week of classes, I realized it was to be a rough ride. Adamjee was a classic boys school where all hopes and aspirations of finding a friend (who is a girl) was the school next door, Shahid Anwar Girls’ School & College. I think if we dig deep, there would be an alarming number of Adamjee-Shahid Anwar tie-ups in history of love in Dhaka Cantonment. Unfortunately I wasn’t to feature in that list. God had other plans for me!!!
I had sat for two admission tests simultaneously. The first being the obvious Adamjee, and the other was its subtly niche cousin Shaheen. Since Adamjee results were out early, I started my classes there. But no sooner had the Shaheen results been published the alarm bell rang again, I was to be a Falcon (i.e. student of Shaheen). B.A.F Shaheen College10 was my address since then till I finished schooling. Joining in class 8, I was an alien that soon made its place in the crowd. Still I always felt a lil’ left out, looked down upon and mocked at during those years. After all, I was the boy from villages trying to make it large in town! Shaheen was another classic, but a co-ed lovie-dovie one. Love stories, breakups, fights over girls were rampant and so was inter-house sports and fierce section vs. section rivalry. It was in many ways, the first proper school experience I had.
So there you have it. Almost three years each in three schools…
classes 1, 2 & 3 in Rangpur Cantonment Public4, Rangpur
classes 5, 6 & 7 in Rifles Public (including home schooling)7, Dhaka
classes 8, 9 & 10 in Shaheen10, Dhaka
And then seven different schools across five different cities for the rest…
class Nursery in River View1, Rajshahi
class KG I in Mother Box2, Rajshahi
class KG II in Upashahar3, Rajshahi
classes 3 & 4 in Chittagong Cantonment Public5, Chittagong
classes 4 & 5 in Anjuman Adarsha6, Netrokona
class 6 in Harimohan8, Chapai Nawabganj
class 8 in Adamjee9, Dhaka
The question still remains unanswered: where did I actually do my schooling?