Thursday, 6 August 2015

The Gaupay Days

Located at the slopes overlooked by the historical watch tower (Taa Dzong) as if guarding the school and its occupants by observation and overlooking the Paro town, which could fit in the lens of the eyes at a glance not having to shift the gaze while enjoying the view – used to be Paro High School, Gaupay. The crematorium located just below the school and occasional smell of the burnt flesh taught the impermanent nature of the life, subtly.

The School had a volley ball and basketball court. For football we can play directly without warm up because going to the football field (NIE Ground or meadow near the town - now converted to lethal range umm archery range) in itself is a warm up and I don’t remember injuries caused due to lack of warm up.

It was in early nineties that I was placed in Paro High School (Gaupay). There were countable schools that provided education for class nine and ten viz Punakha High school, Jigme Sherubling High School - Khaling, YHS, Chukha High School and Gaupay High School. The students were required to prepare for two years for the board exam – ICSE (Indian Certificate for Secondary Education). It was a daunting task for the students to read, revise and prepare for the exam that covers not only for the class ten but also those topics that were covered in class nine consisting of two Shakespeare Drama besides English I, two histories (Indian history and the world History), Civics, Geographies, etc. Only Dzongkha paper was set here in Bhutan that too consisted of gaysay laglen, Lekshe Langdor, Sumtak Ningpo etc that that would put even the monks to shame.

Even after having so many books to learn by heart and understand, we had a time to play games, be naughty and watch movies – both authorized and unauthorized – Authorized movies are the ones shown every Saturday in the prayer hall, the cassette was normally selected to the taste of the teachers and unauthorized are the ones which were more interesting and watched in Paro town, in private house paying hiring charges for both the cassettes and the video sets. The more the numbers of audiences the lesser we had to pay. For those who did not have the money to watch the movie would have to listen to the verbal narrations from the friends in the class. All those whisperings and the talks going on in the corners were nothing but the narration of stories of movies which could not be stopped for a break. A few of our friends were not only so expert in verbal narration of the movies but they were also very eager to narrate it, to the pleasure of those who missed it. The realistic sound of the gun fire made by the narrator draws the attention of the teacher, which leads to having to stand on the bench. It takes immense amount of request for the movie to continue after the ‘Gun fire’.

Looking back I can’t think of going through the mental commando again without being equipped with online encyclopedia and google. But then those days we had lesser distraction, there were no mobile phones, TV and internet was unheard of, therefore the urge to see the updates in Facebook, Wechat and other social media were not there. Games and pranks involved physical presence and it cannot be done in the virtual space.

His Majesty Fourth King visited our school  when we were in class ten. The only question His Majesty directed towards the students was – how much pass percentage would we get that year. It was answered by our prayer captain, nick named - Asha Lam, that we would get hundred percent. The students and teachers had an exchange of awed look at each other but what had been submitted had been submitted – on the spot. Some of the friends admonished the prayer captain for such loose submission.

When the result was announced later, it was indeed hundred percent pass from Paro High School from that batch. The prayer captain must have had the last laugh. The bar for the Gaupay High School was set and there after it was in the hands of the successors to keep it at that level. But sadly, it was learned that the school would be shifted to Drugyel. The dismantling of the building just above the dining hall gave us the feeling that there won’t be any trace of school at the present location.

But a primary school is maintained at the very place where we have faced the ICSE in sethra Gho, amongst the Poplar trees and birds and butterflies. The stump of the Poplar trees remains as they were thought to be giving allergies and cut down. We never had allergies though; sitting under its shade and enjoying the view of Pa chu and the Paro town making the mind wander like a free bird disturbed only by the passing cars on the road, just below, and counting the number of cars that passed, involuntarily and wishing secretly that would I be able to own and drive a car once in my life.

As we pass by while visiting the Dzong or the museum, we stop or drive slowly feeling nostalgic looking at the aging acrawalled buildings and the surroundings; sometimes meeting eyes with a child sitting at the exact spot near the stump of the Poplar tree and knowing exactly what is going through his mind. 

So long kid, so long. And keep counting, the numbers of cars may be enormous these days. One day you would definitely own one.