Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Rendez-vous de Bokaro

One fine day I decided not to cross the road until a motor vehicle passes by. This road rests in peace in the town of Bokaro. It was a hot morning and I had free time. I thought if I was lucky, an old rusty scooter with a retired uncle sitting on it would pass by in a minute or two in full leisure as if it had nothing in the world to compete with. I kept waiting under the shade of a tree and fell prey to one of my favorite pastimes here, Nostalgia.
Link for the pic source
Bokaro Steel City is a sleepy town based around a big steel plant. The Steel Authority of India Limited plant is located on the outskirts, its two big chimneys standing tall as a proof of its existence to the residents. Most of the residential buildings of the town belong to SAIL employees apart from the small pockets occupied by bank employees and businessmen. The town is divided into sectors with well-maintained roads and ample space for greenery. With constant supply of electricity and water and availability of shopping complexes in each sector, it has decent facilities for family living. The mall culture hasn’t arrived yet maybe because of economic or administrative constraints.  But one can find recent trending items on sale in the city center shopping complexes. The population is moderate with the demographic composition tilted towards higher age group. There is not much the town can offer its young generation who pass out from its schools. Like it's steel most of its boys and girls are consumed outside.

At present the real attraction are its schools and coaching centers. In the 90’s when the IIT JEE question papers used to be like the actions and vagaries of a woman which meant if you could understand even 10-20% of what they wanted you would be among the few chosen ones, Bokaro produced some top rankers for consecutive years. Credit goes to the students, their schools as well as some employees of SAIL who being engineers could provide the right coaching in PCM (Physics, Chemistry, Maths). The news of its results spread which attracted students from the other parts of Bihar and Jharkhand. In the last 20 years coaching centres have spread like a greedy money plant crisscrossing its length and breadth. Pasted on the walls of colonies or garages are either the posters of movies or some Kumar or Jha inciting the students to join their coaching class.

I remember going to school and coaching classes with my friends on my BSA SLR Photon. Whenever we found an empty road which was not very infrequent, we would strike hard on our pedals to generate speed and then stand on it while the cycle continued moving with the generated momentum. During these moments with the wind hitting hard on my face I would feel like a king.  One could see hordes of cycles parked outside the gate of a building, a sure sign of a batch being taught in some room above. News of an upcoming new batch by some Dr. Kumar or Dr. Singh spread like wildfire and speculations of which batch the toppers would join made rounds in school gossip. I was neither a clear cut topper nor a boy of gossip. I would always subconsciously screen the batch on the first day to check how hard the heart would beat as algebra, mechanics or chemical composition was being taught on the board. They used to sit on the first few benches. I still see groups of students on roads and cycles parked outside some buildings.  It seems not much has changed on this front apart from the dumping down of the content being taught in the coaching classes due to the flirtations of Mr Kapil Sibal with the engineering exams pattern.

The coaching classes were the real charm for us because preparing for JEE meant no play and a disciplined routine at home. Batches after batches went in and came out like slabs of steel coming out of a refractory unit. Most of the infrastructure consisted of a garage converted into a class. If the instructor had a taste for appearance, the walls would be painted otherwise the smell of brick dust would enter our nervous system along with the syllabus prescribed by JEE authorities. Now one can see these classes being conducted in special buildings with library and A/C facilities. We didn’t have these comforts. The instructors themselves were unique though, each teaching in his own style. One of them had developed a four step formula to trace the mechanism of any reaction in organic chemistry, a feat if proven right could be a candidate for the Noble prize in my opinion. It was a home-made recipe  served only to the few who sat in his class. Another used to teach the workings of radio and television even though it was not prescribed in the syllabus along with constant reference to the Russian book of ‘Problems in mechanics’ by I.E. Irodov and its solutions as if he were Irodov’s long lost brother. My favourite was the teacher who rode a bullet and you would know from far off that he was arriving. He was the dabaang sort with good wit. The first line he spoke while starting the chapter on ellipse in a coordinate geometry class was “ Parabola, hyperbola par ellipse kyon nahi bola[1] stretching the kyon. Sounded funny then. There were others but I can see something arriving, very slow and steady. The sound of creaking pedals hits my ear which means I have to wait longer.

I keep sitting under the shade. There is a field on my back called the Shakha field because it was the place where RSS (Rashtriya Svayamsevak Sangh) Bokaro branch used to have its shakhas (daily gathering) in the morning. After they were done, it became the ground for conducting inter colony cricket matches. These were one of the fiercest competitions I have taken part in. The JEE and CAT exams would sometimes seem comparable to the adrenalin rush one gets while representing his colony at a young age (before class 10th) in matches where there are no neutral umpires. Half of the time in the match would go over fighting whether the balls were wide or a no. If the ball stopped somewhere near the invisible boundary both the teams ran to assemble and check whether it had crossed  or was put to stop by the wild grasses. The umpire belonged to the batting team and hence he was put to a stern test of his loyalty especially when the match reached its end. If you win the toss there was no question of bowling first because there was nothing much of a pitch to think about the pace and bounce and also because many matches would not reach their conclusion as the team fielding second had the leisure of calling off the match and return to their homes to have an energizing bath and study. The only price for such an act was that if a match was scheduled the next time with any team of the sector, the team that reneged earlier would necessarily have to bat second.  The joy of winning a match, ohh and the consequent celebrations and abuses thrown at the losing team have still stayed clearly in my memory.

I get a call from home that food is ready. I tell them that I just had food sometime back but that is of no use, I had grown thin like most of my friends have in the eyes of their mothers and hence I had to eat. I can’t tell them how long it will take for me to come back. But by the grace of the steel god, a shining white car, one of the newest brands on sale is coming towards me on the road. It passes by at a zooming speed with a young man on the driver’s seat. I stand up, dust my trousers and cross the road to walk towards home, eat and have a good sleep.




[1] Parabola, hyperbola and ellipse represent three geometrical figures formed by three different functions on the x-y plane. Bola translates in English to spoke/speaks. A literal translation would be “Para spoke, hyper spoke, so why didn’t ellipse speak?” One needs to see the three figures to understand what the statement is referring to.

21 comments:

ghatak said...

Wonderful!Even I got nostalgic reading this. And great comparison between the steel and the students!

JB said...

Jabardast hai ye toh ! Loved it so totally.

Pearl said...

:) simple yet beautiful..I liked reading it, especially the portion about your coaching profs.

Pearl said...

:) simple yet beautiful..I liked reading it, especially the portion about your coaching profs.

NS said...

Awesome!!!!! Loved it :) Too good Sunny Bhaiya!!

Siddhartha said...

Thanks everybody for your good comments :)

Dhiraj Kumar said...

Bahut kuch yaad dila diye aap.
poora scene sab bokaro ka flashback me chalne laga

anshul said...

Really wonderful post.Made me remember my days in bokaro.

kartik said...

Good read... i forgot times man. ! its same everywhere i guess. our coaching days :p

Anshul Singh said...

U made me force a whole chunk of tym ...n so I flunked office today :)

UV said...

Soaked in nostalgia.

Ranjit Sir - the dabang.

Vivek said...

Loved reading it. Do you have recent pics ? We had to leave this city 13 years back. Wish to go back someday.

Siddhartha said...

Thanks again..

@Anshul: will take it as a complement..but flunking office!!!

@Vivek: do not have pics with me..was actually looking for them while writing this post..

@UV: I did not study under Ranjit sir, had his teacher in mind..

Smita M said...

years have passed...but as in your words, bokaro seems to be still the same...loved reading it with happy tears and the adrenaline rush, it was for us too as spectators...after all pride is what matters!!!

ashutosh said...

True n well written..!! Its kind of a craze those days..even i had a BSA SLR photon. Time has separated many of us from the steel city.

Priyanka Chandra said...

Although I cannot relate to the IIT JEE coaching centre and cricket sessions you described, nevertheless a good nostalgic writing about the city I proudly call my home. Those hot , eerily silent afternoons of summer come to my mind. Well written.

Priyanka Chandra said...

Those hot eerily silent afternoons of the town I call my home come to my mind. Well written.

Avi said...

read it again... feels good man...

Siddhartha said...

pride, nostalgia and yes hot and errie afternoons..all wld rightly describe bokaro for those who have spent their time there..nd thanks for ur appreciation..

pranav tiwari said...

its just nostalgic...awesome piece ,,of writtiing.

Dharmendra Kumar said...

What a beauti you had explained. Mind blowing thought for mind blowing city.