Of the many reasons I am happy to be an ex BNKS student (a.k.a. budhanilkantha school), one of them is my roll number.
Now, that is the language understood by one and all sebsers. But, that’s besides the point.
My roll number 403 ‘c’ was and is my life-long identity. This place, despite having its many faults, taught me that surnames were of no importance. Inside here, it didn’t matter what caste or creed you belonged to. We shared the same day rooms, the same bunk beds and the same football grounds. Surnames were strictly forbidden and for years, I couldn’t tell the last names of my classmates. I still don’t know the last names of many classmates.
Our exam papers carried our first names and our roll numbers. You could receive a negative mark if you accidentally put in your last name. Many new students weren’t aware of that, but us, old ones – we were ingrained with the idea.
But Bnks was a bubble and I realized that, soon after I was out of its boundaries. I didn’t know how to interact with other people in the city having lived for 9 years inside the so-called ‘jail’. Prior to that, I was in a boarding school in India. I had never lived at home for a whole year since 8 years old. I didn’t know my neighbors or the price of potatoes. I didn’t know how to bargain. I was even scared of asking the conductor to stop the bus.
I only look back and realize of all this now. There are two intern bahinis from bnks at office and they would hardly speak at the start. It reminded me of myself…of the difficulty to get out of my bubble, to prick it open and take in the rather harsh air of Kathmandu. Nonetheless, with it too, came the smell of freedom. And that’s when I found solace in sitting atop the temples of Basantapur and just watching people pass by. Watching the sun go down, until the evening breeze began to send shivers down your spine. (However, once I dropped my phone from the top of it.)
Out of my bubble, everything was a new experience to me. EVERYTHING! I remember the first time I had momo in a bhatti like place in New Road. Sitting by the roadside and sipping tea. Every small thing seemed like a huge experience. All I had done during my vacations was to take a tempo to AWON library and then come home with books – many of which I would return unfinished. (Sometimes, I went to concerts. Back when Robin N Looza and 1974 AD would play at MPC.)
And so, I cherished the bus ride on Nepal Yatayat to Chappalkarkhana almost every evening (after I got a job). It was crowded but this was a new shared experience for me. Soon, it was my job that helped me to get more and more out of the invisible bubble…I had to talk to people, I had to get out there, I had to take that extra step…and well, as time went by, I realized that it wasn’t hard to take that extra step.
Within the confines of BNKS, I was quite an active student. I was in quiz contests, debates, art stuff, was a prefect, a house captain….. we all were involved in sports….I danced…but it was all in the comfort of the crowd that I already knew. There were no strangers in there. I knew everyone from the kitchen dais to the account madams.
A year after BNKS was indeed a revelation of what Kathmandu was/is. Truly, I had learned much at school but I missed out on being a day schooler, on carrying a bag and riding a bus to school.
And what happened next?
I went to another bubble in the small city of South Hadley in Massachusetts, USA. The bubble was Mt Holyoke. And one that was filled with estrogen. This bubble was different…but it was still a bubble.