was born in 1942 at a non-descript village under Bhagalpur (now
Banka) district. My father Bodhnarayan Singh was a wrestler working
for a dharamsala owner at Bhagalpur.
Being the youngest
among four brothers, I took the most liberty, roamed around at Ganga
ghats and played parnks with anyone I wanted. My elder brother Mrityunjay
and I would sing Nagin film's song, mera man dole
without thinking that passers-by would drop 5 and 10-paise coins
at our tiny palms.
Though we did
not intend to beg, we started liking people giving us coins. We
took that as an encouragement for budding singers.
father got to know about my fanciful and unwarranted begging and
sent his lieutenant Batesar to catch us and present before our doughty
One twirl of
moustache by father was enough to terrify us. No dressing down was
given to us. But the message was conveyed.
We became good
boys ever since. But I was not yet good at study. I still kept running
behind tongas blaring cinema advertisements.
One day, a tongawala
whipped me and that was the end of my pranks with tonga .
Days went by
and I directly had to seek admission in class seventh at Bhagalpur
Collegiate school. The formal study came out of the blue for me.
I could not escape it and was serious about myself for the first
My elder brother
Mrityunjay, who later went on to become a teacher in English at
a high school in West Bengal subsequently in Bihar schools, had
given me my first and perhaps best lessons in English.
I loved this
impressive foreign language to boot and started speaking English
sentences off-on-on to terrify others. In early 60s, people held
English language in awe and dreaded those who spoke it with aplomb.
and I were soon regular speakers at wedding parties. Village elders
looked for us to create a good impression of our Ramchua village.
Though very few villagers would understand what we spoke, the topic
and meaning were not at all important for them.
Even if we brandished
our hands in air to prove a point to opposing party, the illiterate
village lot would follow our body language and clap in frenzied
admiration. A pair each of dhoti and kurta and Rs 101 in cash were
all that we would get from the side we represented.
But before I
had got to this level, life was not all that kind to me.
My parents could
barely provide for us. Without electricity in villages a far-off
imagination, We had either a tripod kerosene-oil dhibri (a lamp),
which even a small movement of air blew off.
to stay away from my home at nights and stay at house of my well-off
His wife, whom
I fondly called kaki, knew I literally had to burn midnight oil
for ensuing high school examinations.
me some ounce of kerosene oil everyday to burn my dhibri. But she
had her limitations. At times, she openly did not give me undeserved
But Kaki did
allow me to pilfer some oil at nights from her cane. When there
was some attention-drawing sound, she would say "oh! that is
cat". The other night, se would say "on cat, do not drink
all my milk" suggesting that I must not exhaust all her oil
soon too fast.
It went on for
months till exams were over. The midnight oil bore good results.
I passed my matriculations with second division.
The result was
good enough to attract marriage proposals. After all, I had turned
I was told to
be "well-dressed" one day to be present before one bartuhar,
bride-seeker or match-fixer. But I had no kurta. Shirt or T-shirt
was worn only by urban influentials those days.
I promptly looked
for Pradumka for his kurta. He gave me his one worn-out kurta, which
otherwise was better than my present clothes.
cramped kurta was a manna from heaven for me. Wild with excitement,
I felt out of the world in the kurta, without little knowing that
I made myself a joker in the over-sized borrowed dress.
party had wanted to see me at an orchard, some one km from my village.
I walked along with a village elder framing my answers to marriage
But rather than
asking about my family background and education, a gentleman directly
wanted me translate some Hindi sentences into English.
I knew all the
answers. But I could not take that format to get married. I could
not control my anger and shot back "Am I in an examination
hall? Are you an examiner?"
It was certainly
not the kind of start the either party wanted. The negotiation collapsed
before it could start.
But kurta episode
did not seem to end for me. One day, I was in a tattered kurta with
most of its left sleeve tattered.
A marriage negotiation
party was on a random check in my village. Someone suggested my
candidature. Unfortunately, I was caught unawares. The bartuhar
saw my battered kurta. I tried to cover torn part of my sleeve with
my palms. But it was too late.
The kurta had
undone my party yet again. But I had not yet crossed 17.
was good news for me. I was told in advance about arrival of marriage
negotiators from a neighbouring Chatma village.
I took adequate
caution in wearing a good dress. It was surely a borrowed one but
not from Pradyumnka.
had stayed at my neighbour's house. There was a 8-feet wide open
nullah between my house and the house where I had to see the men
I was called
for. Excited as I was, I took an unusual long jump and crossed the
nullah in a whiff.
jump was simply out of excitement but it caught attention of the
main negotiator. He told his men "this boy has drive and energy.
Let us finalise this relation".
The matter was
finalized. I got married to Premlata on 25 February 1960. She was
14 and I was still 17.
kurta continued to dog me. Once I went to my elder sister's sasural
to attend a marriage. I was again in outlandish kurta, given by
Just as I entered
the village, an elderly man took me for a member of a band-party
they had been long waiting for.
aa gaya (band party has arrived)", he said hurling village
four-letter and multi-letter mouthfuls, without giving me time to
I was embarrassed
for life. So were my sister and brother-in-law who just came out
of their house to see helplessness and pain write large on my face.
took me to Jamui next morning and gave me a pair of nice pant and
Cut to 2006,
I have retired two years ago as a high school teacher. Of my four
sons, three are well-placed, two being bank managers and another
a journalist with a reputed national daily. The fourth son expects
Life gave me
chance to wear all kinds of kurta over past years. I did not reserve
my finest and costliest of kurtas for occasions. I have slept in
most of them, just to get the feel of comfort, gratification and
Just the other
day, my second son, Bucho, gave me a kurta saying "Papa, it
is worth Rs 2,700". I told him "Don't bother son, I will
sleep in it as well". I was right. Its crease and sheen is
I have no complain
against my life. It is all because of Pradyumnka's kurta.
is a retired high school teacher)