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Subhan: Prime Minister’ gate keeper of Our School



Subhan: Our  ‘prime minister’ gate keeper


‘The past beats inside me like a second heart’, who so ever has said it, it is true about me- may be for many others. On reading, the signboard of my alma mater, Islamia High School every time, I pass through it, memories cascade like hilltop brooks- no draconian law can put a taboo on them. There is something inherently irresistible in one’s school, which in spite of having left its portals its decades back attracts. More than often on seeing tiny tots waiting for school buses and boys jostling each other on entering into school, I turn nostalgic and start writing stories in my mind about my childhood and boyhood. To quote the best storyteller Charles Dickens, ‘A boy’s story is the best that is ever told’.

The past week on stopping at the main gate, and entering into the school through a small gate, that during our days at the school, was called ‘wicket gate’, a peon sitting on an old broken chair inside a  wooden sentry box asked me the purpose of the visit. I introduced myself as an old boy of the school and told him, I want to click some pictures of the school, and the classrooms I had studied in, he let me in. For the past five decades, since I bade farewell to the school, nothing has changed, except a couple of buildings that in our days at school were full of life, crumbling and looking like a haunted house, and lots of girl students in the compound- it is now co-education institution. Founder of the school Mirwaiz Rasool Shah, a man of great foresight had also started girls in the first decade of the twentieth century, but it had not picked as faster as the boy’s school.

 After taking a quick look, at the historic premises, that for past 113 years has lived up to its motto  min alzalam ‘iilaa alnuwr, I  asked gatekeeper his name, rapt he answered, Abraham- Mohammad Abraham, it sounded to me ‘Subhan’ – Mohammad Subhan, the name etched so thick on my mind that no wind of change  has blown it away.

Since I joined the school in the third primary till  I passed through its gates to enter into the Islamia College, a kilometre from my school, Subhan was operating the wicket gate of the school- like the UN Observers on the dividing line; he was controlling the ingress-egress movement of the school. Like, Subhan there were many other peons in the school, and every one of them in his capacity was important, but he was a larger-than-life person for all boys- some boys had nicknamed him Bakshi Saib then Prime Minister of the state.

 Sometimes, for us, he was more important than white-turbaned, silver-bearded theology teacher, Noor Sahib who stood at the gate dot a ten and caught latecomers and subjected them to cane charge. To escape cane charge on our palms and buttocks, many times we kept away from the school and after the morning assembly was over, pleaded before Subhan to let us in for attending the classes – mostly he allowed us to enter into the school. But, for Subhan allowing us in, one had to jump over the high wall of the school away from the telescopic eyes of theology teacher and drillmaster Narinder Nath and if caught suffer whips of deadly grass, the stinging nettle.

Those days, like two other public schools run by christen missionaries in uptown, there was no tuck shops inside our school. However, there were two kiosks selling refreshments and candies across the road outside the school. Minus recess period, which in our school was called ‘namaz time’, one could not move out of school more than once that too not without permission of the form master, for this one needed a ‘pass’. The pass was a black painted metal piece resembling takhti (tablet), on one onside in white paint it mentioned class and on another side section. Subhan’s duty was to check the pass at the gate, and not to allow any student without to move out of school. Then, two annas, that is eight paisa, one eight of a rupee was the highest pocket money that one would get in the morning, and our burger- a loaf of bread stuffed with boiled red beans or chickpea cooked in turmeric water spruced with chutney cost four paise. And handsfull of roasted peas, maize, soybeans or a pair of candies cost two paise. For spending pocket money in full, we need to move out of school more than once, and Subhan was the authority who could with that metal pass in our hand allow this luxury.

Subhan, hailing from some faraway forest hamlet lived with his wife, in an abandoned old wood at the entrance of burial ground of some Afghan governors of Kashmir, a furlong or half from our home. Sitting under a shanty cloth canopy, his wife sold small groceries, close to the finely chiselled limestone wall on the way to the mausoleum of a native saint, Makdoom Sahib- a place we religiously visited on Monday and Thursday mornings, for getting a good score in examinations.      

Besides, Subhan, there were many other iconic peons, in our school with some of them having a strong past.   


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