By Nurul Islam Laskar
TV cameramen flock to the houses of those who perform well in their board exams these days. It was not the same in our times, 50 years ago.
It takes me back to 1971 when I had topped the list of all graduates passing out from Gauhati University winning a gold medal for my performance. All colleges of Assam, NEFA (present Arunachal Pradesh), Khasi-Jaintia-Garo Hills (present Meghalaya), Naga Hills (present Nagaland), Lushai Hills (present Mizoram), and Manipur were under the jurisdiction of Gauhati University at that time. So also my college, St Anthony’s College of Shillong.
The news of my topping the graduates’ list came in the radio and a few newspapers. Since there was no TV or social media in those days, it was more or less a captive affair.
Going back a few months before my results came out, I had about six months’ time in hand doing nothing except for waiting for the results. So, when someone told me that State Bank of India was recruiting people for some clerical jobs, I felt why not apply and try my luck. If I qualify, I can earn some money and if I don’t, it would be a good practice for me for the series of written tests and interviews that I would have to face in the coming days. God was on my side and I got selected.
I was posted at SBI Nagaon Branch, which in those days was located in Haiborgaon, almost on the outskirts of Nagaon town.
Over there, I was staying in a one-room house that was part of Chinapatty Masjid of Nagaon. The day my results were out, I heard people talking about it. Newspapers in those days reached Nagaon one day late. Those who were in a hurry, could go to the telephone exchange and see the results that were usually hung up on the wall like any other notice. I was in no hurry. So, I ate my food and reached the office. At the office, I was mobbed by colleagues the moment I reached there. The news of my topping the university list had already come over the phone from Shillong. I could not believe my ears for I had never expected to be the topper of the university in my wildest of dreams! Anyway, I had to give a treat to the entire office staff and I did it unhesitatingly!
On the following Saturday, I took the afternoon Assam State Transport Corporation (ASTC) bus to Shillong and reached home. My biggest joy was seeing my parents in ecstasy, I had never seen them so happy. My mother told me that she was sweeping the floor when my name was read out by the news reader of Anchalik Batori that came at 8:45 am every day from the All India Radio. My mother told me that she didn’t know how to react, the broom fell from her hands and she ran to share the good news with my father.
A lot of relatives, friends, and well-wishers, however, came to visit our house with flowers, sweets, and gifts to greet me. But what remains etched in my memory is that Altaf Hussain Mazumdar, the then PWD Minister of Assam, invited us for lunch at his house and after lunch gave me Rs 2,000 and asked me to get a three-piece suit stitched for myself. I rushed to Mohni Store in Police Bazar, Shillong the same evening and got my suit delivered to me in about a week’s time. That indeed was the most memorable gift of my life and it was also the first suit of my life!
The author was a former columnist and current contributor at The Shillong Times