Visit to nanihal (maternal grandparents’ place), when we are young, is always full of fun and enjoyment – you all will agree with me and why not? You get good food, good treatment and nobody asks you to do any work or rebukes you during the period of your stay thereat. Oh, I forgot to mention. There is no pressure of studies as well. In all, it is eat, drink and merry.
Ours was also no different, as I can remember, till I was 10 years old. But things changed albeit a little bit when I was in Std. VI. I had to study English, more particularly English translation of Bengali sentences / paragraphs everyday morning. Though I used to be upset initially but soon I adjusted it to my advantage. You may wonder why on earth one has to learn English translation in nanihal during vacation. Yes, you may be right in normal circumstances. To be precise, if the grandfather is an officer or a clerk or a lawyer or a doctor or a landowner, he will never go to teach you English. But if he is a teacher in a school and teaches students at his home also (money no consideration), is it possible for him to allow you without study for a month or so. The answer is most likely a ‘No’. It will not be out of place to mention here that my grandfather was a Sanskrit teacher in a High School with a sound knowledge of Sanskrit, English and Hindu Religion.
Initially, my nanihal was located in a sparsely populated village. So, my enjoyment used to revolve around fields, ponds, trees, etc. I used to play and roam around with my 2nd maternal uncle (3 years older than me) and his friends. As the period used to match with the summer holidays, there was practically no end of the loose time. Days used to be fun-filled and adventurous albeit with that particular rider. I trust, you got it. Yes, it was translation from Bengali to English. Though the time for study remained more or less the same (To be precise, maximum one and a half hours), the contents increased over the period. The two most prominent additions were Change of Voice and Change of Narration. There is no hesitation in accepting the fact that by the time I reached Standard – IX, I had learned a lot from my grandfather which was otherwise not possible for me to learn under normal circumstances. Though my grandfather died long ago, I am still indebted to him.
Having said that, I shall now tell you one particular episode which as an eye – opener to me forced me to augment well in learning English – be it spelling, vocabulary, Grammar, or any other field. After completion of Standard – X examination (at that time Higher Secondary Board was after completion of Standard – XI.), we (me and my siblings) went to nanihal along with mother. By that time nanihal got shifted to nearby sub – divisional town. I was extremely happy because that was the first time we were to go to new nanihal. Moreover, I stood second in the class with highest marks in a number of subjects including English 2nd Paper (comprising grammar, essay writing, letter writing, precis, etc.). But my happiness was short lived when my mother told my grandfather with pride the marks obtained by me in English 2nd paper. Hearing the marks, my grandfather apparently did not believe his ears as he wanted a second time confirmation from my mother. I was sitting beside my grandfather and was expecting some appreciation from him. But alas, it was other way round. I was told to bring copy and pencil / pen immediately. It being the very first day in nanihal, I never expected such a treatment. I was thoroughly upset but helpless. Despite my unwillingness, I had to bring copy and pen.
My grandfather was ready with his piece of Bengali passage from the writing of Swami Vivekananda. It is needless to mention that I became scared to see the task ahead. But where was the option – I took the task and left the grandfather’s room in no time. My only target was to complete the task at the earliest and enjoy the first day to the maximum extent. You may not appreciate my predicament as the passage was too tough to me. I pressed the dictionary into service but dictionary available in nanihal was incapable of providing English meaning of a number of words. Despite all odds and irritations, I somehow finished my task to the best of my ability. My level of satisfaction – you can guess – was low. So with lots of anxieties and apprehensions, I dragged myself to grandfather’s room and meekly spread the copy before him. Probably that was enough trigger for him to assess my translation. He saw it for 2/3 minutes and without uttering a single word, threw my copy into the air. My embarrassment increased manifold and humiliation was limitless. I became restless and was totally at a loss as it was the very first day at nanihal and it was about to be spoiled. At that point of time, I was even feeling like going back home.
But God had something different in His mind. My second maternal uncle having sound knowledge in English was at home and was taking afternoon nap as it was vacation time for him as well. He was hardly 3 years older to me and during my entire stay at nanihal, I used to spend most of my time with him. In order to resolve my problem, I reached to him and forced him to wake up. I briefed him about the episode so far and sought his help. Glancing through the Bengali passage, he told, “This is really unfair on the part of father to assign such a tough piece to you for translation. Don’t worry. I shall help you to complete it.”
After some time, I could finish my task with the help and guidance of my maternal uncle and went to my grandfather to show it to him. I was still not very comfortable because of my earlier experience. But from the reaction on his face, my fear of rejection vanished. He asked whether I had taken any help from anyone. I was honest in my response and politely told him that I took some help from maternal uncle as English meaning of a few words was not available in the dictionary. He then smiled and handed over the copy to me saying ‘well done’. I nodded my head, smiled and left the room immediately. I thanked God from the core of my heart as He had saved my day by bringing back smile on my face.
My grandfather died almost 27 years ago but when I remember him that particular day comes to me afresh not because of the humiliation meted to me but because how it changed my attitude towards learning English. I took a vow on that day that I would improve my vocabulary and learn grammar to the core. I am happy even today that I am doing so. I have no hesitation in saying that supported with the strength of knowledge of English, I was selected in 14 competitive examinations I had appeared. My grandfather used to love me very much but never compromised on the issue of learning English. I think I could reach his expectation during his life time and I always cherish it whenever I remember him.