I was a boarder of the First Mess, Cotton College during 1975-77.
It was in 1976 , when the usual evening ‘adda’ was abruptly cut short by a telegram which had us crestfallen. It was a crisp line-‘ father serious, rush home’. We didn’t know what to do nor did my close friend who instinctively knew that his father was no more ! We somehow spent the night huddled together in his room.
Early in the morning of the following day, we were at the Paltanbajar ASTC bus station, to see him off to Sibsagar.
As I boarded the bus to find his seat, I saw an old gentleman struggling to move through the narrow passage between the rows of seats. So I helped him to his seat and tucked the hand luggage under it, more in the interest of my own free movement !
As I started to move on, the old man asked me my name and I made a curt reply to avoid a conversation. The next question was where did I come from ! My nonchalant answer was Shillong. The very next moment all hell broke lose ! “You cheeky brat don’t you know how to respect and answer an old mant?,” he thundered ! Meanwhile, I could feel all eyes fixed on me as I waited for the next salvo, as meekly as a lamb ! My answer should have been jhanji, where my father was born and we still have our roots and not Shillong where my father might have worked, he explained in a milder tone. To my utter disbelief, he reeled off my lineage tracing it back from the Ahom King, during whose rule my forefathers had migrated to Assam !
Completely chastised by the old man , I had made a hasty retreat from the bus !
Despite his own state of mind, the friend whom we had come to see off, gave me a smile as if to say ” you deserved as much ” !!
But my ordeal was not to be over yet. The sobermost friend of the group took me aside and told me in a menacing voice that the old man was none other than Pandit Benudhar Sarma and that I should have extended due courtesy to him ! To salvage the situation, fast going out of my control, I hurried back to the bus to touch his feet making a vow in my mind never to be discourteous to any old man in life again. The broad smile and the warm hug he had given me are still fresh in my mind !
That one such chance encounter with a living legend was to become an once in a lifetime experience to treasure, I came to realize much later !!
On a lighter vein, I am fully armed now
to face an eventuality of a similar kind having my legacy data ready in hand, thanks to the NRC updating process !!