Writer-educationist Sukrita Paul Kumar on finding her groove in an Aurangabad college straight after schooling in Nairobi
I remember my graduation days as a period of struggle, a struggle to settle in a completely new social and cultural set up! I had lived in a totally different milieu earlier. Being born and brought up in Nairobi (Kenya), I had done my schooling there. Kenya was then a British colony…perhaps more British than Britain! British teachers in the highlands of Nairobi, with English and Latin as languages taught in school and practically no Hindi. We had moved to India and settled in Aurangabad in Maharashtra. I did my BA (with English elective) from Saraswati Bhawan College in Aurangabad. In Nairobi, my parents constantly told me that India was my home, but during my college days my notion of home clashed with what I experienced in Aurangabad. With no knowledge of Marathi and no local friends, I felt quite alienated while in college. Somehow, despite all odds, I never wanted to leave and go abroad or elsewhere for my studies. There was something about the simplicity of people there that pulled me to the place and I pursued my graduation from Aurangabad itself. With a healthy presence of Urdu, Marathi and Hindi, I feel fortunate that I was exposed to a rich composite culture.
During my college days, the constant tension between wanting to belong and a deep sense of alienation, I believe, is what fed my urge to write and delve into myself. If only to “belong”, I opted for Hindi too at college even though I had never studied it. That of course added to my struggle!
Reading books of philosophy, painting and writing, I cherished my freedom immensely. I remember, a couple of those little trips of adventure with a friend or two … to the beaches of Bombay, to Lonavala....
In those days, Aurangabad was the hub of Marathi theatre. Quite often we used to go to go for sangeet nataks…fascinating acting by actors who’d break into beautiful singing while performing! And then there were those baithaks of classical music. I heard Kumar Gandharva, Bhimsen Joshi, Kishori Amonkar and others during my college days and developed a keen interest in Indian classical music. I too went and bought a tanpura and started pursuing classical music with a guruji!
Oh, but how can I forget my favourite escapades to the Ajanta and Ellora caves… From college, whenever I could, I would go to the caves and spend hours amidst statues and pillars, amidst sounds of silence … something I miss the most about my college days!
Amongst my classmates I think I was seen as someone with whom one could not communicate easily perhaps because I myself always felt older than my age. I used to become friends with people much older…the seniors! An incident from my college days that stands out distinctly in my memory is about a very intense looking boy who killed himself when we were in the final year of college. Somehow, I feel, if some of us had attended to his loneliness, he could have been saved! This incident left a deep mark in me, perhaps alerting me forever to the needs of the emotionally distressed.
To sum up, my college days went a long way in shaping the kind of person I am today.