Remembering life at the Peak of Learning
It was 1:30 AM in the morning and I suddenly woke up to the noise of the howling dogs outside my rented cottage. I tried to snuggle up tight and tug in deeper inside my quilt but to no avail. I lost my sleep for the night. Then I called up a close friend of mine who’s studying at the Royal Thimphu College and we started discussing about college life then and now.
I was literally carried back to my old college days when I was narrating the story of my glorious days at Sherubtse. It was such a transcendental moment when I actually reflect back on those days. I was telling her how we as a fresher in the college used to be ragged and bullied by our seniors. Ragging was a terror in all the colleges and institutions around the globe and so it was in Kanglung. Senior colleagues would come knocking at your door in the middle of the night and take away your pocket money saying it would go to charity or something when it actually contributed to their loot for buying some additional bottles of arra or Rock Bee.
The moment we arrived at the college entrance, a grand giant gate welcoming the likes of us, we would be welcomed by the Councilors of our respective dormitories. As we get out of buses or the cabs, some notorious boys would come and warn us if we are wearing something other than our national dress. Believe me, some of my friends were asked to take out their gho’s from their luggage and made to wear it in the middle of the town.
For about two to three months, any fresher can be easily identifiable wherever you go. We are not allowed to loaf around wearing stylish denim jeans and T-shirts like our senior brothers and sisters. And yes, no matter how old you are, a senior is a senior. You must address anyone you bump across in the campus as ‘acho’ or ‘ashim’. All the fresher friends can be found walking with their heads hung low all over the place, the black-topped way and the paved footpaths are never our prerogative because it’s their way, I wondered why there wasn’t any signs or symbols like, ‘Seniors Only’ or something equivalent written there. All the first year students would be found walking so uneasily beside the roads.
I was also so eager to share with her, our experiences with the so-called Introductory Night and the Blind Date experience. As I was saying, that Introductory Night was a terror, it gave us thrills, it made us develop goose-bumps all over our body. I must tell you, as a fresher yourself, it would scare the hell out of you but once you get the chance to be the audience watching the show, it is fun. The auditorium would be packed with the second year and third year students sitting on the comfy chairs fixed there, we the freshers would be sitting on our knees, all lined up according to our course, in between the roaring crowds. One by one, we would be called upon the stage by the FINA President and the Councilors. We will then be made to introduce ourselves to the maddening crowd who would simply jeer at us and not listen to us. Beautiful girls and rowdy guys shall bear the consequences of the crowd. The moment, a good looking girl appears on stage, the audience would maintain a pin-drop silence trying to listen to her name and her field of study, her hobbies and everything. She would then be asked for a date by the few rowdy guys at the other end of the hall. A guy with an scruffy long hair and gho let loose below his knee appears and the crowd would pass filthy comments while he proudly introduces himself. Without his knowledge, he would have received so many warnings from the crowd. The senior girls also would join their counter parts in jeering at the new members. And yes, senior girls would be watching out for hot guys, the ideal ‘tall, dark and handsome’ kind of guy.
The other terror is the Blind Date experience like I’ve already mentioned. All the third year guys will go on a blind date with the first year girls and the interested third year girls also will go on a blind date with the first year guys. The program will be set near the girls dormitory on a fine day. Guys would come with an umbrella, an act of decency I guess. The Councilors will call each one of us and fix us with our partners from the doorstep of the ladies dormitory. Trust me, some girls would melt there, some would cry and blush like apples.
The parade of other students lined up and teasing the couple is nothing out of the ordinary there in Sherubtse. Some of them will tuck in packets of condoms inside our gho and yell, “use it properly mey, don’t blow them away”. Once we cross the long line of teasers and jeerers, we finally get the confidence and courage to talk to each other. We then introduce ourselves, talk about our likes and dislikes, our family and anything that is worth talking about. Some walk down towards Trashigang until Rongthung, some uphill towards Yonphula until Khangma and then there’s this trend of offering a grand dinner to the girl if she is willing to but she can also simply deny the offer. So, this is how many fall in love and bloom into a beautiful family later on, some they literally ‘fall’ in love and can never wake up.
Life in the college was wonderful, you finish your high school and reach the so-called Peak of Learning, and one would feel like you are on the top of the world. We had no tight schedules like we use to have in the school days; we don’t have to attend the morning assembly every day, we don’t have classes from 9:00 am in the morning till 4 or 5:00 pm in the evening. We carry a note pad or a diary to jot down the useful stuffs that the lecturers throw at us during the course of his/her lecture.
And yes I was a day-scholar for the 1st one and half year. I never went out to the town after my classes are over for the fear of meeting the drunkards on my way back who would then unnecessarily pick up scuffles with anyone who they meet on their way from the cheap bars at Khangma. Sometimes when I go out to purchase some stuffs from the market, I would meet these same group of people but before they get so close to me, I hide myself in the bushes and let those idiots pass by. Happily I would go home and narrate the funny incident to my mates.
Another interesting thing about Kanglung is the names of the houses located at several different locations. In the upper market, a house is named Pregnant House simply because it was not impregnated by any of Sherubtse’s wild planters but because it had a bulging projection on the front part and it looked like a pregnant women. Further down, we have the Potato House located in the middle of the huge potato fields. Another such house is the Trongsa Dzong, a house similarly built on a landscape like the actual Trongsa Dzong. Haunted House lies on the outskirts of the college and if what people say is true, it’s actually haunted. Rocket House resembles a rocket about to whizz off into the space. Up in the jungle is the Hidden Tower, a house emerging like a tower amongst the trees. I lived in the ‘Small House’ located just behind the college for the rest of my days until I graduated from there in 2007. There are also few interesting names for different places, for instance, there’s this place called View Point on the way to Trashigang, from there we can have a pleasant view of the magnificent hamlets of Rongthung and Pam villages. Just below the View Point is the Suicide Point where a couple is believed to have committed suicide long ago. Further down the road, where the road takes a sharp turn is the Kissing Point, a place where many couples are believed to been seen kissing each other taking advantage of the sharp bend where nobody can hardly see them indulging in this wonderful act of caressing one another all out of love.
There are so many things to remember from my three years stay out there and the most memorable of all are those that I’ve mentioned. Classes are always fun. We are literature students and we always read and wrote, we’ve studied numerous novels, short stories, poems, ballads, etc. We were hard-core critics as our subjects demanded. We would try to find faults in every single possible ways and it would sometimes end up pissing off our tutors.
One event that gave us thrills was the endless football tournaments. The seniors would always have the advantage over the freshers, all it takes is a little bit of warning and scary looks from them and the ball is all theirs. 1st year students would never dare to take away the ball from them and if the 1st year guys are taking the ball, they would just kick you from behind and not say anything. Whereas if we hit a senior guys accidentally, we’ve to rush and apologize before they come in group and charge us. My classmates are pretty good footballers, my Class Representative Mr. Sonam Rinzin is an ardent football fan, my buddy Sonam Dhendup and Yeshey Dorji (Bumlay) are also swift wingers. Over the years, we won so many tournaments and the donations we received from the shopkeepers and the lecturers went to the bar owners again. All my classmates would come together and hire two or three vehicles, buy plenty of alcohol and other stuffs and we would then head towards Yonphula. Once we’re there, we would prepare the famous ‘punch’ drinks, and start dancing to the rhythm of the music until the wee hours.
Life was fun then. We never had to worry about anything in life. The only worry we had was of flunking in our exams. That was some eight years ago and now life has changed an awful lot. I am not sure if the students of Sherubtse enjoy the same thrill even today but I’ve had my share what Sherubtse had to offer.
Thus, the long story cut short with my friend over the phone came to an end at around 3:00 am in the morning when she said she wanted to sleep because she has classes to attend tomorrow.