27 October 2016

Class XI and XII


I got admitted to Class XI in St. Xavier's College in the year 2000. I did my Class X from The Future Foundation School. It was affiliated to the ICSE Board. After our Class X exams there was a holiday for around three months. During that holiday I used to watch TV for almost the whole day. I used to watch mainly English movies and TV serials. In those days Xena - Warrior Princess was my most favourite show. I loved how the makers of Xena weaved elements of Greek, Roman, Norse and other mythologies and historical events into their story lines. My second most favourite show was The Simpsons. It is the greatest intellectual TV show ever created by mankind. My third favourite show was Friends. My fourth favourite show was Ally Mcbeal. And my fifth favourite show was X-Files. Loved the title songs of Ally Mcbeal and Friends.

The year 2000 belonged to Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai. It was a huge phenomenal hit. In our cable channel it used to be shown almost every day. I instantly became a fan of Hrithik Roshan. Still today I am his fan and I prefer him over all the other actors of Bollywood. The film did such enormous business that even Rakesh Roshan was shot by hitmen because he didn't want to handover the foreign rights of the film to the Bombay underworld.

The year 2000 also belonged to the mother of all quiz shows - Kaun Banega Crorepati? It was Amitabh Bachchan's debut on the small screen. Big B was going through a very rough patch throughout the nineties and through KBC he again rose like a phoenix from the ashes. KBC was aired on Star Plus. The show became so popular that the streets would run empty. Cinema halls reported almost zero attendance for the night shows. The last time such a thing had happened in India was during the telecast of Mahabharat on Sunday mornings. The first Crorepati on KBC was a man named Harshvardhan Navathe. The charisma of Big B in the show was stupendous. This show was not only about money. It was about ordinary citizens encountering extraordinary situations and sitting in front of the one and only Amitabh Bachchan.

After my Class X exams were over, I saw the film Hey Ram thrice at Priya Cinema. I was madly in love with the film and used to listen to its soundtrack day in and day out. I even got hold of the tamil versions of the songs and used to listen to them religiously. This film is indeed one of Kamal Hasan's all time masterpieces. And the music by the maestro Ilaiyaraaja was simply divine.

After Class X, I did not try for admission in any other school. I only tried at St. Xavier's. I convinced myself that if I did not get admission in Xavier's then I would leave studies forever. My parents were very unhappy with my decision but I was an adamant and stubborn child. Nobody could influence me to change my decision. All my close relatives tried their best to convince me to play it safe and also apply in other schools but I refused them flatly.

I still remember the first day I went to St. Xavier's. I took the Metro train from our Rabindra Sarobar station and got down at Park Street. In those days the fare was most probably six rupees. The fare till Maidan was four rupees. Anyways I got down at Park Street and asked a kind looking man for directions to Xavier's. He kindly showed me the way. I walked from the Metro station to Xavier's. Once I entered Xavier's, I was amazed to see the huge building and the huge playground. The place was full with cool dudes and hot babes. I saw a guy who had a green coloured streak in his hair. I went inside the Office and started talking to the friendly man who was sitting in the Enquiry Counter. He told me that admission forms would be given out on such and such dates. His name was Ratan and I started calling him Ratan da. Today sixteen years have passed since that day and I am still in touch and friends with Ratan da. 

Anyways once the admission forms were out, I went there again and collected it and filled it out and submitted it back. Then came the day when the first list of selected candidates was to be declared. From morning I was very nervous though I did not reveal that in my face in front of my parents. I acted as if everything was cool and calm. The list was to come out at 3 p.m. I went to Xavier's around noon and made a couple of friends there who were all candidates. We all went inside the canteen and had tea and adda. We saw boys and girls were smoking inside the canteen. We also felt like smoking but we didn't.

Suddenly I met an old friend of mine there who was from my school. I told him that if I see my name on the first list then I would take him for lunch at Peter Cat to celebrate. At exactly 3 p.m. the list came out. Luckily my name was there. I was so happy. I was on top of the world. Ratan da congratulated me. After spending some more time inside Xavier's, I went to Peter Cat with that friend. Fortunately I had enough money in my pocket. We ordered chicken sizzlers there and indulged in a lovely adda. After coming out of Peter Cat we decided to have a couple of beers at Olypub. Therefore we went to Olypub and ordered Kalyani Black Label beers. This was my first visit to Olypub. After boozing we took the Metro trains and came back home. My parents were very happy to hear the news about my admission to St. Xavier's.

Class XI started. We were under the H.S. Board. Ours was an only boys section. My subjects were English (first language), Bengali (second language), Political Science, Economics, Accountancy and my sixth subject was Computers. St. Xavier's had an old world charm. I loved the huge classrooms and the long corridors. I loved spending time at the fourth floor balcony from where we had a lovely view. In school we had to wear an uniform but here we could wear casual clothes. I mainly used to wear jeans and a full sleeved shirt. Initially I had very good attendance but after a few months we all started bunking classes. It became a fashionable and cool thing to bunk classes. Attending all classes meant that you were a nerd and therefore a loser. Bunking classes meant that you were a cool dude.

In those days smoking was allowed inside the college canteen. I started smoking there daily. Smoking inside the College canteen was a cool thing to do. We used to have grand adda sessions there and check out the senior college girls over cups of hot tea and cigarettes. The canteen was the best place inside the College campus. The canteen was managed by the grand old man of Xavier's named Arun da. He was a kind hearted man and his stern affection was legendary. Sadly he passed away on 17th January 2015. He managed our canteen for more than four decades. There was a canteen staff-member named Srikanto da and he was my most favourite person. Here is a photo of Arun da:

Smoking in St. Xavier's College was banned around 2002. Sadly today my Xaverian brothers and sisters are greeted with the following sign inside the College canteen:

There was a place near the College back gate known as the Green Benches which was like an adda zone for Xaverians. The place had a lot of green coloured benches and a few tables. I used to spend more time inside the canteen or at Green Benches than inside classrooms. Our favourite past-time was to sit at Green Benches and rate anyone who entered from the back-gate in terms of hotness on a scale of zero to ten.

Our English, Bengali and Political Science classes were good and bearable. The Professors were really good and I liked them. Economics and Accountancy classes were horrible and unbearable. We had two Professors who used to teach us Economics and I really hated one of them very much. He was a horrible Professor. The Computers class was total fun-riot. It always used to be the last class of the day. By then we were all tired to attend that class. We were taught pre-historic languages like BASIC and PASCAL. I used to sit near the door and after giving the attendance I used to quietly slip out of the classroom. A lot of other boys also used to do the same. Sometimes I used to tell a trusted friend to give my proxy.

Here is a list of my Professors. English was taught by Mrs. C. Biswas. Bengali was taught by Mrs. M. Bhattacharya Roy and Mr. R. Choudhury. Economics was taught by Mr. B. Das and Mr. P.P. Ghosh. Political Science was taught by Mrs. S. Mozumdar and Mr. S. Ghosh. Accountancy was taught by Mr. S. Gomes. Computer Science was taught by Mr. S. Das.

In Class XI luckily I fell in love and got my first girlfriend. She was a very sweet, beautiful and a nice hearted girl. She was like the Amelie Poulain of Calcutta. She used to find joy and happiness in the simple things of life. I was madly in love with her. In those days landline phones were very much in use. I didn't have a mobile phone back then. I got her landline number from a mutual friend and called her up and asked her for friendship. Initially she played a bit hard to get but later on we became phone-friends. We used to talk to each other daily over our landline phones. Over time this friendship blossomed into love.

After coming out of the Xaverian campus I always used to go to Music World. In those days Music World was the hippest place in Park Street. I used to go there almost everyday and I knew each and every staff member there by name. The concept of listening to 'free-music' was new to Calcutta and me and my friends made the most out of it, as in those days words like limewire, bittorrent, piratebay and Youtube were alien to us. We used to listen to all the cds in those free listening-posts. Inside Music World everything was arranged properly in a systematic manner. The place was beautiful, elegant and majestic. Yet there was warmth in the atmosphere. We could browse through those endless cassettes and cds at our own comfortable pace, which many times was even slower than a snail's. On so many days we spent like more than an hour inside and left without buying anything. Also Music World always provided us with a cool ambience, free of cost, during those hot summer afternoons.

Then back in those days Music World had these 'lucky-drop-boxes' where names were picked randomly and gifts were announced every hour. Keeping in mind Probability Theorem and remembering the quote, "If you want to be successful then double your failure-rate", I was lucky enough to win the various items at Music World : a t-shirt, a mouse-pad, a friendship-band, discount coupons as high as 50%, free cds/cassettes etc. Once even I received a call from Music World on my home landline phone informing me that I had won a gift. The next day I went there and collected my gift.

Back then cassettes were still very much in use. In the 90's I used to buy my audio cassettes from Rashbehari's 'Melody' and Esplanade's 'Symphony'. But since 2000 I only bought cassettes from Music World and no where else. Even today I still have the 2002 A.R. Rahman album "Bombay Dreams", which my first girlfriend had bought for me from Music World. When we were dating, we went to Music World quite a few times together. Once I was busy listening to Nachiketa Chakraborty's new song "Ekla Choltey Hoi" in one of those free listening-boxes in the bengali section, and she wanted to leave but I wanted to stay back for some more time and listen to that song again and again. She got a bit pissed off. It took me some time to comfort her again. On another day there was this gorgeous woman inside Music World who looked somewhat like Amisha Patel, and I was involuntarily staring at her, and then my girlfriend noticed it and got very very very angry.

Inside Music World, in those days, we also got Baazee.com coupons which allowed free internet surfing for one full hour at Junction Cybercafes. In those days I didn't have a computer at home so these coupons were prized items. Junction Cybercafes were spread in many parts of the city but my favourite one was at Ballyunge-phari. Mind you, in those ancient times there were no Orkut, Facebook or Twitter. To meet new people (read girls), what we had were Yahoo Messenger Chatrooms and a pre-historic chat-site strangely named MIRC32.

Usually on Saturdays, after classes got over, me and my friends used to go to Olypub. On Saturdays our classes used to get over around 2:50 p.m. It became like a regular ritual. Sometimes I even used to go alone and booze at Olypub. Beer and beef steaks were our favourite combos there. I loved the decor of Olypub. The waiters were friendly. The place had a home-like feel to it. It was neither too fancy nor too expensive. Still today whenever I feel like boozing at Park Street, my first choice is always Olypub. I have an emotional bond to that place. Nowadays whenever I go there I feel so nostalgic and I really start missing those golden days.

Sometimes in the evenings we used to go and sit at Allen Park and check out the women who used to come there for evening-walks and jogging. If we were hungry then we used to go and eat chicken/mutton rolls at Kusum's and later on drink Thums Up. I only went to Kusum's and never went to Hot Kati Roll or other roll shops at Park Street. Kusum's was my favourite roll shop. On Valentine's Day and other occasions we used to buy cards from Giggles.

I used to spend a lot of time at Oxford Bookstore too though I seldom bought books from there. It felt very nice to spend hot summer afternoons inside the air conditioned environment of Oxford and browse through innumerable books and magazines. The staff never forced anyone directly or indirectly to buy anything. We could go upstairs and sit and read books for hours.


Outside Xavier's back-gate was the food-shop called Delights. I used to go there to eat masala dhosa and drink soft drinks. In winters we used to have coffee there. We used to hang out in front of this shop. Even today whenever I go to Delights the people there recognise me and it feels so nice to have soft-drinks or coffee there after so many years.

Just ten seconds walk from Delights there used to be a cigarette shop named Classic. We all used to buy our cigarettes from there. In those days I used to smoke Gold Flake. Nowadays that shop no longer exists there. But back in those days that shop used to do great business by selling cigarettes and other things to us Xaverians. 

Near Park Street, there is the Dreamland Restaurant, at the mouth of Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road. I have been going to this restaurant since 2000. I always sit on the balcony. The prices are reasonable and the food is good. I have always preferred sitting at the corner spot on their Balcony for the last sixteen years. So many years have passed but the charm of this corner chair is still the same. And whenever I go there most of the time I order mixed gravy noodles.

On Middleton Row, near Sikkim House, there was a cyber cafe and the place also had a few pool tables. Sadly the place no longer exists today. My friends used to go there to play pool. I also played pool there a few times but I didn't like playing pool that much. I used to go there mainly to surf the net. Surfing in those days meant checking your email and chatting with strangers in Yahoo Messenger Chat Rooms and MIRC32. My favourite website for sending e-cards was lakecards.com. I loved their java-enabled moving water images. Back then 123india.com was very popular but later it became a paid site and thus lost its popularity. Another site called indya.com became popular for a while but then lost its popularity after some months.

I first created my email address at Rediff in the year 2000. I had no idea how to create an email id. So a friend of mine helped me to do so. One afternoon after our classes got over, we went to the cyber cafe at Middleton Row. In those days the Rediff website layout was damn good. I really liked their yellow and orange colour combination. These days the Rediff page is pathetic where there is too much information cramped into too little space. Anyways there my friend helped me to create my first email. I still use my first email address just for the sake of nostalgia. And I will keep using it till the day I die, or till the day Rediff dies. Then after some months I created my second email id at Yahoo on my own. In those days I used to play a lot of online Chess at Yahoo Games. But the best thing about Yahoo was its Messenger and especially the Chat Room named Calcutta Global Chat Room Number One.

From Xavier's if I came out from the front gate then I used to take the Park Street Metro to come back home and if I came out from the back gate then I used to take the Maidan Metro. While going to the Maidan Metro we had to cross Vardan Market and there used to be a lot of chana-wallahs there. Most of the time I used to buy chana-chips worth Rs. 5 from them on my way to Maidan Metro.

In those days there used to be a Cyber Cafe on Park Street, where today the M3 Music Shop stands. It consisted of two floors. One afternoon, around 2001, I went upstairs to surf the net and found that no one was there. Everyone was surfing below on the ground floor. Since no one was around, it gave me the confidence to open desibaba.com for the first time in my life. I had heard a lot about this site from my friends but had never visited it before. It consisted of some naked pictures of women. I don't remember whether any porn video was uploaded in that site. Anyways fearing that someone might come upstairs any moment, I closed it.

In those days I used to tell my girlfriend everything and I was always very honest with her. Later that evening I told her about the desibaba site over landline phone in an apologetic tone of voice. I confessed to her that I had opened a porn site. She got offended a bit but later on forgave me. I promised her that I would never again open porn sites in my life. I obviously did not stick to my promise!

The annual exams came in due time. I never used to study throughout the year. I only started studying just three days before the exams. The strategy was to commit to memory and then vomit on the answer sheets. I somehow managed to pass with good marks. I got promoted to Class XII. I continued with my carefree and happy-go-lucky lifestyle.

I used to walk up and down the entire length and breadth of Park Street, sometimes with friends or sometimes even alone. Park Street has changed so much over the years. New shops have come up in place of old shops. The street constantly keeps changing. I really miss some of the old shops. More than a decade back there was a nice cosy coffee joint named Nescafe, where today the VIP shop stands. It was divided into two floors. Mostly couples used to go there and sit on the upper floor. If I remember correctly, the price of the coffee was just sixteen rupees per cup. They used to pour the coffee from a vending machine into a paper cup. It was not expensive like the Baristas or the CCDs. When Nescafe closed down in Park Street, I really felt very sad.

In the year 2000 I saw the following hindi films in cinema halls : Fiza, Hey Ram, Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai, Mohabbatein and Tera Jadoo Chal Gaya.

In the year 2001 I saw the following hindi films in cinema halls : Aks, Asoka, Dil Chahta Hai, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, Lagaan and One 2 Ka 4.

In the year 2002 I saw the following hindi films in cinema halls : Company, Devdas and Road. I saw Devdas twice, once with my cousins and the second time with my girlfriend at Priya Cinema. In those days I had huge posters of Aishwarya Rai pasted on my bedroom walls. Most of the posters were from the film Devdas. My girlfriend used to come to my room and get very jealous. A few times she also tried to tear down the posters. With much difficulty I succeeded in stopping her. I used to buy the posters from Esplanade. In those days one poster was around twenty rupees.  

In those days we used to go to a lot of school fests. School fests were very popular back then and was full of fun and joy. School fests were a nice place to meet new people (read girls). I had gone to the fests of La Martiniere for Girls, Ashoka Hall, Carmel, Loreto, Modern High etc. Loved seeing the western dance competitions there. Some of the student dancers were really awesome. And also the quiz contests. In those days quizzing was my hobby and I was massively interested in quiz contests of all kinds. Our very own Xavotsav was a hugely popular event. I first attended Xavotsav in 2000. Sadly in 2001 because of some unwanted reasons Xavotsav was cancelled for that year. Again it was held the next year. In 2002, me and my girlfriend went to Xavotsav together and had a lovely time there. Clicked some pictures of us together. For clicking pictures at Xavotsav I had bought a Kodak KB-10 camera from a shop in Park Street. As far as I remember the price was most probably Rs. 999. Here are three photos from the 2002 Xavotsav:

In January 2003 we went to the fest of Jadavpur University. It was called Sanskriti. Krosswindz performed that evening at O.A.T. inside J.U. There also we clicked some photos in my Kodak KB-10 camera. Here are two of those photos:

Back in those days my girlfriend used to come over to my place and we used to make out in my bedroom. I still remember the first day I kissed her on her left cheek inside a taxi. She was sitting on my right side. We had gone to the school fest of Ballygunge Shiksha Sadan and while returning from there I kissed her for the first time. The first time I kissed her on her lips was inside my bedroom. It was my first lip kiss too. That was a magical moment. Once in 2002 on my birthday she was supposed to come to my place in the afternoon but it started raining not cats and dogs but rhinoceroses and hippopotamuses from the morning. Inspite of all the rainfall and all the water-logging all over Calcutta, she still came over to my place in the afternoon to wish me Happy Birthday. She used to love me tremendously back in those days. That day she had also prepared a special birthday card for me. I loved walking with her hand in hand in Rabindra Sarobar and also in Park Street. In those days there was a coffee shop near Golpark called Caffeine and we used to go there a lot. That coffee shop no longer exists today. We used to speak to each other everyday over the landline phone. In those days we both didn't have mobile phones. We both used to give each other greetings cards on birthdays and Valentine's Days and on other occasions. I still have all her greetings cards. Even today whenever I miss her, I go through her old cards and emails. And I guess I still love her the same way. My love for her has not diminished in the last sixteen years.

In 2002 our H.S. exams came. I got very good marks in the exam. Infact I was the topper in my class. A few Professors had predicted that I would not do well in the exams and when I showed them my results then they had to eat their own words. I really miss my life from 2000 to 2002. If today I have a Time Machine then I would definitely want to go back to the year 2000 and start Class XI all over again. Those were the best days of my life...


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