When I came back from the School today, my mother asked me over our cup of afternoon tea, ’So, looking back to 2 April 2012, how do you feel now? Only a few days left until the end of the course!’ ‘Is it a two-mark objective question?’ was my immediate response. ‘Or is it a long question, say, 15 to 20 marks? In the case of the former, the answer is, “Good. More confident. Looking forward.” But for category two, I need at least 500 words. Let me travel back in time for the long answer.’
I was informed that I had been selected for the course. Many questions, many possibilities, some doubts, some anxieties. Many people closely connected with my welfare had a common concern: ‘Will they give you a job by the end of the course?’ ‘I have no idea’ was my reply. ‘This is an opening for you,’ some others advised. ‘A big step in your career. Make the most of it.’
1 April 2012. Evening. Excitement. Lack of concentration. Doubts. All the emotions gathered, like clouds across the sky. A great anxiety surrounded the ‘foreign’ participants. What would they be like? How would I communicate with them with my not-so-good spoken English skills? And the ‘accent’? How would I deal with that? How many ‘pardon’s and ‘sorry’s were going to pepper my every conversation?
Finally, the morning came and then the afternoon and then the evening. The day was over. The mind eased a lot. The worries eased up. The burgers, the sandwiches, the coffee and, above all, the ‘greeting’ opened up the narrow alley into a broad, friend-lined avenue.
The only person I was familiar with from my childhood (I had watched him on television) among all the faculty and colleagues was Sri Samik Bandopadhyay. I could not believe that a person of almost my father’s age would be Samik ‘da’ in the blink of an eye. The other faculty members—Naveen Kishore, Anusuya Bhaduri, Sumit Roy and Sunandini Banerjee—appeared like friends too. From the very first day I felt as if the Seagull space was my second home. Spacious. Bright. Lovely. These were the adjectives that sprang to mind. And I was comfortable enough to admit that I could not understand all the pictures on the walls. But they did make the rooms look so very beautiful.
The coffee during our break, our dear Swapan-da and his assistants, made my moments with Seagull a really memorable. As soon as I walk into Seagull, they greet me with a ‘Good Morning’. This makes not only my morning but also my whole day a really good one.
A mathematical calculation results in four months equal to so many weeks or days. But, maths apart, it also equals millions of moments. We were the first batch at the Seagull School of Publishing. We were special.
The questions, though, did not leave me. Sometimes they sat before me, lined up a row, sometimes they rushed at me, helter-skelter. How is it going? Is this going to be useful? Are you enjoying yourself? How do you feel?
‘The tree is invisible, still,’ I would say. ‘I can’t see the fruits. But I am enjoying it to the core of my heart.’ I did not expect to end up making such such good friends. We did have different opinions, different minds, different points of view, but the exchange of all these differences was all part of the learning process. It did not affect our feelings. The new friends from outside India were so friendly that they soon seemed like family.
We were the first batch. So there was no experience. There were some flaws at the organizational level, true, but the faculty asked for feedback at different point of time. In time, I think the inconveniences will be rectified and a better course offered to future batches.
Among the million moments we shared here, I liked, rather loved, the journey to CDC Printers. It was a memorable one. Accompanied by that ‘Jamaica Farewell’ chorus.
And now, when we have only two weeks left in the course, I look back, not in anger but in pleasure. And I want to leave a question for my friends: ‘What will you miss the most?’
For me, without a moment’s hesitation or doubt, I can say, ‘The coffee.’