My brief experience of teaching at Mt Everest College, Senapati
In September 2004, right after getting married, I joined a very popular college in Senapati, Mt Everest College, as a lecturer. That was the third major educational institution in my life, where I worked for a period of time. Students from different parts of the State—Imphal, Tamenglong, Ukhrul, Senapati, Kangpokpi, etc, were studying there. On the average, sections of classes had about 70 students. However, in one of the classes, there were more than 200 students, so I was assisted by a microphone and a sound system. I was usually jolly in the class and would try to crack some jokes during my lectures to add some spices, but in that particular class, I was cautious and restrained myself from doing anything that might have caused any eruption of noise, which could disrupt the normal functioning of the neighbouring classes. Since it has been about 18 years now, I guess my students of those days must by now be quite mature and old enough. I’m quite sure larger percentage of them must have already got married and they might even be no longer able to recognise me. I always hope and wish that they all contribute something good to the society in their different ways.
Life was still at a new beginning, having just been married, I and my wife were treading onto a new ground. We tried to maintain our little kitchen, away from home. The climate being a little cold and myself, too, quite energetic at that time, appetite was not a problem. I relished whatever simple vegetarian food that was prepared by my wife. One day, at a hotel, an old man was also eating. I said to him cheekily, “Uncle, I don’t know why I feel even more hungry after having eaten a plate of parotha.” The old man kept quiet; perhaps unable to get my joke.
Initially, while waiting for a new quarter to come up, we were provided with a room at a tin-roofed mud house the higher portion of whose outer wall was open. I wondered why that main wall didn’t reach high enough; so, I collected whatever materials were available, such as cartons, planks, bamboo, etc., from my new neighbours and the surrounding area, and fixed it, which would make it difficult even for the wind, of course, not air, to intrude. Two of my neighbours, who were teaching in the high school section, were running shops too, so, some of our immediate needs such as sugar, salt, edible oil, dal, bread, biscuits, etc., were readily available. But, when we wanted fresh vegetables, meat, etc., we would go up to Senapati Bazar. We did not only use LPG for cooking, but also made fire with firewood that we collected from the nearby hills. One day, while we were strolling on the nearby hillside, we saw some dry twigs, which we thought would burn well in our kitchen fireplace, so we collected some. At that very moment, a stranger, a man, came up to us and enquired what we were doing. I told him we were collecting some firewood. Then, he asked us who we were, and I told him I was a lecturer at the college. He seemed to be a bit surprised and doubtful, but we continued collecting the abandoned dried branches. Yes, we could have gone to the bazar and buy firewood if we really wanted to, but we were not fully dependant on firewood; we only thought that the dry twigs shouldn’t be wasted and left to perishout there.
For about a year, my wife and I were together at Mt Everest College campus. During our stay together, we got to attend Lui-Ngai-Ni celebration at the public ground at Senapati Bazar. We used to go to the market and buy vegetables, fruits and meat. We also went to attend a tiny Church near the bazar. When there were long holidays, we would come home down to Imphal, and when the time came to go back to Senapati, we would take about twenty kg of rice, which I had to carry from the highway up to the house where we stayed. The twenty kg rice became quite heavy as the road was steep and, if it was Monday, I had to hurry myself for the class. Later, I thought it would be better for my wife to stay at home with my parents; so, I stayed alone and cooked for myself.
While my wife and I were together, I didn’t mingle much with my fellow lecturers from Imphal, most of who were still single. A senior already-married friend, who left his family at home at Malom, one day, jokingly, said to me that I was a bit reserved and I didn’t mingle at all with other teachers. I found what he said was quite amusing, but I couldn’t just leave my wife and roam around like a bachelor.
When my wife was no longer staying with me and I moved to the new quarter, I was always there with my friends at their quarters. We played table games, cracked funny jokes, watched CD movies on TV, strolled on the highway together, and listened to music. I had two good friends who had music systems that we used to call “Deck.” One used to play loud Manipuri modern songs and the other guy was a Rock music lover; he had an eclectic collection of more than a hundred CDs of rock music, which he would often play. I sometimes would ask if he had this or that album and I was often lucky he had the songs that I wanna listen.
When it comes to their fields of interest, my friends had different interesting bents of mind depending on their disciplinary background. They were from Physics, Chemistry, Botany, Zoology, Mathematics, History, Political Science, Sociology, Literature, and other backgrounds. The biologists displayed much interest in the birds, animals, trees and plants. There was a teacher who let me listen to the singing of a rare bird that he had recorded earlier. And a physicist friend was also there, whom I asked to explain to me a little bit of what quantum theory is. He did, but it wasn’t easy to grasp readily. Some had philosophical bent of mind in relation to anything they encountered. Some were deep into local, national and even international politics. And best of all, they all had different sorts of sense of humour. We had nice memorable time together.
Some were very good in preparing food. One day my LPG cooking gas was exhausted, so, I couldn’t cook anymore. I went up to take help from my friends. There was one friend who was still in the process of preparing dinner. When I told him about my predicament, he offered me to have the dinner with him. While awaiting the grand meal, I saw my friend dexterously slicing the tomatoes, the onions and the other vegetables that immediately made me reflect on my somewhat clumsy performance in the kitchen. The dinner was simple—not meat, fish or chicken—but excellently prepared.
Later, one day, I and another friend planned of having a dinner together by combining the dishes that we had prepared separately. I was flattered when my friend said he liked my preparation of simple boiled pumpkin. He, in fact, asked me to prepare the non-fried simple boiled pumpkin again later. When I boasted about my great achievement to my wife, her reaction was nothing less than disbelief for, if I’m not mistaken, she had never tasted any curry or anything that I prepared when we were together. I, of course, don’t ever dare to claim that I’m a great cook.
After I left the college, my friends and I continued to keep in touch for some more time, but gradually, I have completely lost touch with most of them. For those days, we used only landline phones and I was unable to get their new mobile phone numbers after we had parted our ways. Mobile phones had just begun to trickle into our land but were not yet in common use. I’m sorry that I’ve got not a single photo of my time there as I hadn’t got any smartphone with camera; otherwise, I would definitely have got hundreds of pictures from that time and place.