MY SCHOOL LIFE – A SUMMARY
The journey begins at Lower Kindergarten (LKG) 1982
I joined TNA on January 28, 1982. I can vividly remember the singing of the nursery rhymes, the big poster of Humpty Dumpty sitting on the wall, the hours of playing with putty. The mornings began with the assembly before the Junior block with Mrs Gurung & Mrs T Joshi being the major in-charges. The school prayer, followed by the school song and the National Anthem , which I started singing then, rings clearly unto my ears right to this day.
Having been double promoted from LKG to Class I, I didn’t get to study UKG, though I greatly longed to study in Miss Subba’s class, for UKG seemed so much of fun to me, especially with all the singing, dancing and games.
Junior Years (Class I – IV) 1983 – 1986
Class I had many small incidents to offer. That was the time when I used to get confused between eating and beating. Not knowing the difference between son and sun, I used to wonder why the man in my English textbook called that boy son (with an ‘o’). There were times when we would feel a trickle of yellowish water on our heads from the gaps in between the wooden ceiling. The kindergarten classes were located right above our class and some child would have pissed in his/her pants.
Class II was much dreaded with Mrs Joshi as our class teacher. Sangay Dathup used to sit next to me. At times, the class would get to see smoke coming up from within a desk. Sangay and I would be burning incense sticks before pictures of Buddha and Hindu gods placed inside our desks. Sanjay Bansal used to get expensive stamps and stationery to class and try to attract everyone. Animikh had that special childhood crush on Simi Singh that he never quite admitted.
Class III was special in the sense that it gave me my first proper lessons in English i.e. lessons that called for my own initiative. Mrs Beena Pradhan once said in class that we didn’t need to speak proper English. We could just begin by using phrases like khais thing (eating), napis thing (measuring) etc, and soon we would be speaking excellent English. Animikh, Amrit and I caught on the idea and decided to speak in English always, even when the teacher wasn’t looking. It wasn’t before Class V that we ever spoke in Nepali (spoken widely in Sikkim). The Teachers’ Day saw the class monitors dancing in the middle of the class to the tune of Brown girl in the ring — Bonney Dadul and I danced while the class sang.
Mrs Das taught us in Class IV. I had given her a beautiful bouquet of maroon dahlia for Teachers’ Day, that Anita didi prepared for me.
Middle Years (Class V- VIII) 1987 – 1990
Mr Lefevre, a new teacher joined TNA in 1987. Apart from being our class teacher and Biology teacher, he used to perform magical tricks for us — of course it was different when a student (Sonam Palden) or two would catch his trick once in a while. In the middle of the year, our class teacher was changed to Mrs Kesang Yanzom. As in the previous years and in the years to come, I was actively involved in organising the Teachers’ Day. After buying foodstuff and paper for decoration, we just had around 15 rupees left. Mr Lefevre that year got a shaving razor and Mrs Yanzom a Boroline cream for their gift. For the first time, we invited the principal, Mr F J Fanthome to our Teachers’ Day celebrations in the class. It was also in Class V when I first participated in an Elocution/Debate. Having recited 24 paragraphs of the Hindi poem Jhansi Ki Raani with all enthusiasm and patriotic spirit, I bagged the first prize (despite Animikh sitting in one of the front rows and trying to make me laugh by moving both his hands above his head).
Class VI: collected a lot of specimens (flowers/insects) for our Biology project. Chewang Rinzing (Babala) even managed to get a huge lizard in a bottle. Mr. Fanthome himself taught us General Knowledge. This was one period we couldn’t afford to be late. Hondala and Chewangmit used to sit behind me. Spent a good deal of time talking with them and teasing the former with Karma Samten.
Class VII: Mr SD Bhutia taught us Maths and was the class teacher. We had one of the best Teachers’ Days ever. Reza joined TNA and soon became a good friend.
Class VIII: Mr Lefevre was back again as our teacher. We performed a Dandia dance for the Teachers’ Day celebrations — tried to make do for the Gujarati dresses with Mrs Roslyn Namgyal’s kurtas. Siddhartha joined TNA. During the pre-jubilee celebrations, many Bollywood stars (Rakesh Bedi, Sudha Chandran, Kumar Sanu, Anupama Deshpande, Raju, Farha, Vindoo) performed in our school. Entry to the show was free for few that included us, as we sang The Magic Mountain before the show concluded. The song was to go a long way in reminding us of our TNA years:
All the mem’ries that surround us
Come to life embracing warmth in ev’ry room.
Ev’ry stone, ev’ry step, draws us nearer to the truth
That Tenacius lives on in me and you.
These are the best years of our lives
All the fun we had, all the joy we shared
Happy faces, happy smiles
Do you remember? Yes we remember.
How can we forget the best years of our life.
Senior Years (Class IX- XII) 1991 – 1994
It was the Silver Jubilee Year for the School and a very happening year for Class IX of TNA that year. We organised an exhibition on Rajput culture in the library, went for a Trek to West Sikkim (Khacheopelri lake) and above all, a few IX ‘ers ended up beating up the then school captain over a small issue. That was the first year we’d seen when TNA functioned without a Prefects’ Body. Towards the better side of things, we staged the Sound of Music, a major production directed by Mrs Roslyn Namgyal. Yishey and Prashant were the lead actors. I was Franz, the butler.
The Class X picnic was something which really brought all of us very close. I still remember Reza having nearly met with a bike accident and how the whole class had etched out money to pay for damages. Worked for more than two months on a replica of the Eiffel Tower made using more than 3,000 match-sticks. Rajeev Chettri broke the school ICSE record with around 89%. I was greatly inspired and pledged to do break the record again, and that too with above 90% aggregate.
June 3, 1993: ICSE results out — one of the greatest days in my life. My first major wish had come true. I had topped the school with 91.8% aggregate and had broken all previous records. In a matter of days, I got to see my photos in the local newspapers. Mr VN Langer, TNA ‘s first principal, instituted an award for the best result in ISCE, named after his late wife, Mrs Rani Langer. I was its first recipient. The school also awarded me a scholarship of 12, 000 rupees.
Joined Class XI in the Pure Science stream, though Mrs Tenzing would equally have liked me to take Humanities. Worked on a major oil painting, along with other Fine Arts enthusiasts inspired by Mr. Sanjay Purohit.
Class XII: My final year, and the year in which I got to contribute the most for the school. On April 8, I was named the School Captain of TNA, it was an impossible dream come true. I was the first Day Scholar ever to get the position. With full vigour, we set about doing our best. The Prefects’ Body had:
Naresh Kumar Agarwal
Tenzing Bhutia (Captain), Sonam Diki Wangdi, Rebina Rai, Tashi Hoeser
Karma Dorjee Shangdorpa (Captain), Kunga Samdup, Chewangmit Saring, Yishey Choden Ngokhang
Karma Lendup (Captain), Karma Dolkar, Sulakshna Sarda, Reza Abdullah Khan
Tempo Tsewang (Captain), Hondala Gyaltsen, Goma Sharma, Tashi Pintso Kazi
Apart from organising the regular activities like Inter-hall Basketball and Volleyball matches, Inter-house Football matches (Junior/Middle/Senior level), Inter-house Badminton and Table Tennis, we did manage to do well in other areas. The attendance for the matches was excellent due to the checks on all exits-out-of-school before school ended. We managed to negotiate a new, better canteen for the students, after a long meeting with the Principal and the staff. The IPSC Badminton tournament was organised in TNA We had the annual mini-olympics. I had a tough time shouting my lungs off while giving the commands.
I started announcing and wishing the birthdays of students in the assembly, which caught on pretty well. Chairing and organising English/ Hindi/ Nepali/ Tibetan Elocutions and Debates was a lot of fun too. Apart from this, the year saw the Teachers’ Day celebrations, the Day Scholars’ Day and the Hostel Nite. The Day Scholars’ Day saw many unexpected people coming forth, including the audience having to bear me singing. Karma Dorjee sang on Hostel Nite.
During the Puja vacations, we went for a weeklong trek to Dzongri, West Sikkim (4,200 ft.). We also organised an Art Exhibition. I had painted an oil portrait of my late sister and had worked for about a month on it.
Good bye TNA – 1995
The month of March had us all sitting for the ISC exams, the last exams we were to give in TNA. Straight after the exams, we headed off for the Prefects’ Tour to Rajasthan – Jaipur, Chittorgarh, Pushkar, Ajmer, Udaipur and Delhi. It was a lovely tour and we had a great time. Siddhartha joined us in Delhi.
The last day I ever wore the TNA uniform, I wore it without my batch-mates. As the outgoing School Captain, I was required to hand over the Green and Yellow TNA School Flag to the new School Captain, Leona Sonam Lepcha.
Delhi, May 24 ’95: ISC results out. It was another momentous day of my life. I had topped ISC with a new TNA record of 91.75%.
Even as I was leaving, TNA gave me yet another honour, the highest it could give. I won the Founder’s Medal for the Best All-round student. Yishey got the Sabitri Gajmer trophy for the best girl, Tempo won the Governor’s medal for the Best Boy and Siddhartha won a special prize for his contribution to music in TNA.
An important chapter (having lasted thirteen years) of my life was over, another one was soon to begin….in a place I hadn’t imagined, far away from Sikkim, away from India.