Sunday, 15 September 2013

You ignited the fire: RIP Anurakta

A page from my school diary

I was a complete loner. I had curly hair which made me look different from other kids. On my first day at school, as we were lined up for the assembly, I could see two boys from the adjacent line teasing me. They were making fun of my hair. I was admitted in the kindergarten and they belonged to grade one. Being a new kid on the block I kept mum.

It happened again and we had a small scuffle. Seeing us fighting, my class-teacher grabbed our ears and took us to our head-mistress. Her office was on the first floor. It was a small wooden room protruding out from the main school building. The boy with whom I had fought was a well-known litterateur's son. At that time I did not have the slightest inkling what literature was.

The head-mistress and class-teacher counselled us and asked us to shake hands. The counselling made us forget our grudges; we shook hands firmly and became firm friends. The gregarious, spontaneous and bubbly boy Anurakta with his kid brother Anubandha took me in. I was introduced to his circle of friends and never remained a loner.    

From left to right: Standing - Raj Kumar, Anurakta, Bidur,
Nirupama, Sharada, Neer Kumar, Ramesh, Yalamber, Sanjib;
Sitting - Neera, Muna K, Jyotsna, Ms Sushila Khatiwada, Jayanti,
Muna P, Sushma, Maya. (c) Udaya days.
I have some faint memories – an old house with a big compound and a pine tree at the gate – that was my first school "Udaya". Udaya Pre-primary School was the first boarding school in the whole of Baneshwor (Baneshwor is now a crowded segment of Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal). The house belonged to the late movie director Prakash Thapa. It was ascertained when the famous actor Bhuwan KC dropped in one day along with the beautiful Karishma KC in his red jeep.

On one side of our school was the trolley bus office. The trolley buses were a must-see vehicle for people who visited Kathmandu for the first time. Donated by the People's Republic of China, the buses ran from Tripureshwor (near the national stadium) to Surya Binayak (in Bhaktapur) with their butterfly feelers connected to the electric wires along the 17 kilometres stretch.

On the other side was the office of an Australian forestry project and next to it was the office of cooperatives. It had a huge compound and was a place of envy for us while coming to school and going back to home. Its walls had big holes (designed for aesthetic purpose) which were perfect points of intrusion for us. We never missed a chance to get inside the compound and play on the fluffy green grass.

Nearby was a small place of worship under a khari tree (Celtis australis). The adjacent building housed Deurali Club. The most fascinating thing inside the club was a blue table tennis board. I always wished to get inside and play table tennis, but most of the times the door was locked and we were just kids at that time. Not to offend anybody, the one-storeyed long house in the east of the tree was a government-run school of unruly kids.

Those were the frequently visited places before school, after school and during the tiffin-time (though we were not allowed to sneak out of the school compound). On Saturdays I liked to visit the Sarki Gaun (what it was called earlier) to the east of the government-run school. There, next to a big khari tree was Anurakta's house. Nearby at walking distances were houses of Yalamber, Bidur and Ramesh.

Then the school closed abruptly. When I returned from the min pachas (we used to have 50 days of winter vacation after our final exams), the school had been closed and my friends had moved to other schools. For a year, I had to study in a small school in Old Baneshwor with a completely new set of friends. I longed for the good times with my friends in Udaya, however, I got used to new environs, new teachers and started enjoying. 

After a year, I was admitted to English Preparatory School (EPS) which had opened nearby the old Udaya. I was again back with the gang. I was glad to see most of my friends from Udaya in EPS. It was reunion time. The similar hobbies of philately, sketching and reading comics brought Anurakta and me closer.

Once he invited me to his home. I knew his father was a litterateur, a poet in particular. Entering his house for the first time, I was happy to see a big collection of poetries, short stories and novels written by Russian and Indian writers. I borrowed the Nepali translation of Anton Chekhov's short stories from him and devoured it in no time. I also read Premchand. "First impression is the last impression" – though this doesn't hold true all the time, I became a die-hard fan of Chekhov and Premchand. The man behind it was Anurakta.

Anurakta not only enthused the literary bug inside me, but he also strummed the chords of music resting in deep slumber (inside me). My grandfather (RIP) was a well-known classical singer of his time. He earned his Diploma from the famous Gwalior Gharana (traditional house of music led by well-known gurus, musicians). His regular singing schedule starting from 4 a.m. in the morning everyday had not been able to arouse interest in me. However, listening to "Sacrifice" (Elton John) and "I will be there for you" (Bon Jovi) sung by Anurakta and his band URANS inspired me to learn strumming the guitar. But being a bookworm, I could not take it further. And later gymming erased the ABCs of guitar I had learned.

After our School Leaving Certificate (SLC), we landed up in different colleges – I was in Amrit Science College (ASCOL), a government run college while he joined National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST), a private college. However, our paths crossed as both the colleges were in the same locality.  

Then he left for the United States and I went to Jaipur, India. We were completely out of touch for next six years. While I was pursuing my MBA in New Delhi (India), we got connected again through emails. It was a coincidence – he worked out and ran regularly, and I too had turned into a regular gymmer and a long distance runner. It was satisfying to compare our timings and stamina.

Like all, the entrepreneurship bug bit us and we chatted many a times to establish a joint business. But our busy schedules didn't allow us to partner on a joint venture. We hadn't seen each other for ages but still the faith was standing tall between us. We met once when he was in Nepal on a holiday trip. But the meeting was short – Anurakta, Yalamber and I had a nice time though, to remember and talk about our Udaya days.

From the last one year I have shifted to Surkhet in the Mid-Western Development Region. I am not much into chatting though I check my Facebook and Twitter accounts twice a day. I had completely lost track of Anurakta. There were no more run and status updates from him. I thought he must be a kind of busy. Then suddenly Yalamber rang me up one Saturday. He summarised the sad end of Anurakta to me over phone.  I was speechless. I had no idea what to do. I kept mum.

The guy who turned a loner into a gregarious man was silent. For ever. RIP, Anurakta.       

(Anurakta left this world on 8 June 2013. He was living in Fort Collins, Colorado. He was the eldest son of  acclaimed Nepali poet Mr Shailendra Shakar.)

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