Something happened inside me, I involuntarily pushed my foot on the brake pedal, stopped in front of the main gate of my alma mater with a screeching sound disturbing the passers-by. I don’t know if it was the crumbling building, once buzzing science block of my school with its shattered windows that got on my nerves- stopped my car. Or the crescent-shaped signboard, reading in bright letters Islamia Higher Secondary School that made me nostalgic and invited me to visit the school, after as many as five decades.
I thought of clicking some pictures — everything around, the E-shaped building, a grand architecture of the yore, the half-done high school building a piece of Islamic architecture, made after the 1958 fire that had gutted the school waiting for completion for more than five decades seemed so familiar a sight, as if I had never left the portals of the institute. The half-done building constructed by Prime Minister Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad is reminiscent of the days when after the fire huge royal tents pitched on the playground of the school, once used by the Maharaja of Kashmir on his hunting tours, were our classrooms. On entering into the school compound, seeing girls and boys on a sunless day, with a nip in the air playing volleyball in a ground, many others giggling and shouting was like watching a movie in a theatre- everything of the bygone days came to life for me. In the field, where girls were playing volleyball during my days at school there used to be a three-storied house of small bricks and garden roof, with tulips and irises in full bloom. From my classroom class-8 section C, I proudly looked at the house- an alumnus of school Dr Ali Jan one of greatest physician state has produced was born in it. Our class teacher, Ghulam Mohammad Shah (Shah Sahib) often reminded us that doctor whom he out of admiration called, ‘our bukarat, Hippocrates of Kashmir’ should be role model of all boys of the school. After him, the school has produced thousands of prominent physicians and surgeons, some of whom immensely contributed to the medical science but his name still resounds in the passageways of the institution. From the founding fathers of the Kashmir Freedom Struggle to great social activists who fought battle royal against denying the right to higher education and admission in colleges to the Muslim students the school has produced many big names, had the school maintained a roll of great achievers, it would have run into hundreds.
Frame after frame scenes of the morning assembly, with all boys draped in Khaki Pantaloons and sky blue shirts profusely oiled hair, combed in myna bird fashion nicknamed Haae’ri Kaa’ngaan and the noontime mass drill with my friend Majid Khan in the lead started moving before my eyes like scenes on big curved screens of the IMAX theatre ‘with images filling every field of vision.’ The musical sounds of flutes, cymbals, triangles, side drums and big drums coming out of the band room on the ground floor of the science block now in ruins filled my heart. Moving into the huge long corridor of the school for clicking a picture outside once my classroom, headmaster Khadim Sahib’s whisper ‘go to your class’ heardover my shoulder and drillmaster Nara Band’s screams trembling my legs were more than a nostalgic experience. As I peeped into the classrooms, I have once studied in, the images of my teachers in turbans of different colours and shades, maths teacher Arjan Nath in pink, history teacher Dina Nath in off-white, drawing master Jagannath in deep yellow, Urdu teacher Shah Sahib in light green, theology teacher Noor Sahib in white started moving before my eyes. There were lots of other teachers of all faiths who wore no turbans but have left an indelible imprint on minds of generations pass outs from the school. In those days of purity of mind, we hardly knew, that different colours of turbans used by our teachers exhibited their religious faith.
The pillbox on the gate with its new incumbent Mohammad Abraham reminded me of Mohammad Subhan-and I have many stories to tell about him.
Z.G.Muhammad is a noted writer and columnist