Friday, March 05, 2010


Incorrigible afeemkhor, Amitav Ghosh calls one of his characters in Sea of Poppies. The word brings a smile to Habshi’s face.

The word has been with him for past few days. Hanging by.

Incorrigible: Etymology - Recorded since 1340, from Old French incorrigible (1334), or directly from Latin incorrigibilis "not to be corrected", from in- "not" + corrigere "to correct" + -ibilis '-able'
Adjective - incorrigible (not comparable)
· defective and impossible to materially correct or set aright.
· incurably depraved; not reformable.
· impervious to correction by punishment or pain.
· unmanageable.
· determined, unalterable, hence impossible to improve upon.
· (archaic) incurable.
Noun - incorrigible (plural incorrigibles)
· An incorrigibly bad individual

Incorrigible Shiv Sena. Incorrigbile MN Sena. Actually, incorrigible Thakerays’. Infact, incorrigible politicians. Incorrigible terror. Incorrigble terrorists. Actually, incorrigible terrorism. Infact incorrigible war against terrorism. Incorrigible bombs. Incorrigible planters of bombs. Actually and infact incorrigible makers and sellers of bombs.
Incorrigible incorrigibility around.

But it’s not all these incorrigibilities that have been with Habshi these days. Incorrigible afeemkhor. There is a memory of the word that brought that smile. From a very far, and where he sits now, a distant world.

Information is easily accesible and abundantly available these days. A click on www and you have more answers then you care to read. But this memory is long before the days when he saw and perused a computer and even before he got familiar with www.

It was 1994. Lt. Col. Sham Sunder Dudeja was the principal at Sainik School Kapurthala (SSK). A strict man. And, from Habshi’s memories, a man far removed from the world in which the pupils under his charge lived. Not physically, he lived right there in the middle, but in every other sense of the world, as worldly affairs go. He had a tattoo on his forearm (most likely if Habshi’s memory is anywhere close). It said Sham or Dudeja, maybe Sunder in Punjabi. One of the three words from his name. In one of those rare moments of trying to mix in with the pupils, in the art room of SSK, he had displayed the art that was his tattoo to few young and not very excited or aspiring artists. But that’s that, Habshi thinks.

So it was 1994. Like any other year. As far as the world of SSK was concerned, they sometimes called it as Sat Saal Kaid, so 1994 was another year out of the seven of the Kaid for the seven classes at that time attending the school under the charge of Lt. Col. Sham Sunder Dudeja. And it so happened that Habshi was in class 8th at the time.

In the hostels (or houses as commonly called at SSK) and there were 10 of them if we don’t count Ranjit which did not have much of a say, maybe because his downfall lead to the complete British domination and the other 10 proudly fell in chasing away the British or they survived the British or so the person who named the houses thought so. Personally, Habshi thought Maharajah Ranjit Singh deserved much more recognition than that little three room shamble that the house was. But he wasn’t particularly concerned. His loyalities lying with Chitranjan, Sarojini and Patel, and somewhat with the batch of 1992-99. 1992-1999, yes the seven years of his kaid.

But we are in 1994. He was thinking of 1994. Of the word incorrigible and the smile that was there a while ago and the just about thereness and so very nearness of the memory these past few days. So he had left Chitranjan where he was with his class, class 8th and after the re-allotment of the houses he was now in Sarojini with pupils from 7th, 8th, and 9th all housed together, junior houses. 10th-12th shared houses as well, senior houses. The restructure was to promote more unity and harmony among classes. The seniors fought among themselves on a class basis. So they thought maybe putting them together could solve the issue. Lt Col Sham Sunder Dudeja thought so. And didn’t he know that he was far removed, living in a different world from his pupils. Well he was an army officer and in an army institute seniormost officer is right (at least what they say). So the restruture happened. In 1994. When SSK was under the charge of Lt. Col. Sham Sunder Dudeja. When Habshi was in class 8th.

He was given Sarojini house in the re-allotment. The worst house as far as location goes with respect to the senior houses. Blood sucking hounds. And useless hounds at that. And that’s not a thing to be proud of. Proud to be a Saikapian. Well most of the hounds say that few years after getting out of Kaid. So, Habshi was alloted Sarojini house. Mr J L Jain was the housemaster. Funny fellow he was. Habshi thinks so. JiyaLalJain was funny. Funny fellow. Mr. Sher Singh was the other teacher who was attached to the house. Now they had a term for those two teachers attached to a house (other than the housemaster), but Habshi’s memory fails him. Maybe tutors. Maybe. Sher Singh caught him and few others with the stolen rotis from the mess once. But that’s a story for another day. Sher Singh was a fine fellow. The third teacher with the house. Habshi has a memory of his face. Sukhi or some similar sort of name. He wasn't a very catchy personna so his memory fails to bring out this name. Though he did help Habshi with one of the declamantion contests. Or was that in Chittaranjan. Habshi is getting confused now. So leave that as that.

Still, we are in 1994, the classes of 8th, 9th and 10th are living together in few houses (junior houses they call them) and Sarojini is one of them. J L Jain is the house master. And Lt. Col Sham Sunder Dudeja is the prinicipal of SSK. And, that is that.

Now what did he say. That restructure of the houses was to promote the feeling of harmony. What a bloody Joke!!. Of cousre Habshi knows which book he gets this line from but its apt and that is what came to his mind so that’s that as well.

Habshi’s friends in class 9th thought that they have struck a lottery. How it was in dear SSK, as he thinks now, is that it was a thoroughly horrible place to keep youngsters and have the control of their lives in the hand of mob-rule. Not that Lt Col Sham Sunder Dudeja thought so. But then it was 1994. In 1995 he would think a little differently, though not much. He was very near to the incident that caused that smile. And that prophetic word was just hovering around in his books, in the pages of his dictionaries, the daily raddi of his newspapers, somewhere around the corner, just away from the eye, but there to be discovered. A word that that was as true for him and his institution of mediocracy as he thought it was true for the pupils he asked that question.

In a chain of few very disturbing incidents, to the minds of class 8th, 9th class started taking a few unwarranted liberties with the newly acquired power in their hands. They were not the smartest lot Habshi had seen and from what his memories tell him their lot never improved outstandingly. Not with the coming years in the school and not after leaving school. Not all but most of them. Anyways. So after what seemed like few very unfair and unjustified events class 8th decided it was time for some action. To make a fight for it. Now that was something. Imagine bunch of 14-15 years old trying to bring in what they were thinking some sort of revolution. Again Habshi will have to give in to the temptation. What a bloody joke!! Yet, it was a noble idea. Coming where it was coming from. The minds of class 8th of SSK under the charge of Lt Col Sham Sunder Dudeja in the year 1994, in the third year of their Sat Saal Kaid.

His memory is not with him now. Can’t remember who was the first to suggest and who the first to second. But there it was, said by someone, heard by many, acceptable to most, understood by few, but there it was in the middle of all. The idea of a revolution. And it did happen. It was 1994. The year that preceeded 1995. The year when Lt Col Sham Sunder Dudeja will think differently, though not so differently. But it was the year where he was going to make that statement, say the word that defined so many things in and around him, including his charge, SSK.

It, the revolution, didn’t occur in the grand style they had thought. It was not a 100% success. Not by any means of trickery to the rules of Mathematics can it be approximated as close to 100%. But it did happen. And it was funny to look at if you think about it now. But for the perspective of 14 year olds it was nothing short of a war. And then one night Habshi, along with many of his class, found himself jumping the four feet boundary of SSK. It was the third year of their seven year Kaid. Most of the fellas took the roads to their homes. He went along with few to Jalandhar. His road to Sultanpur had no companion and it was dark and he was still 14, though amid revolutionaries. And so it happened that in 1994, class 8th pupils ran away from SSK in the middle of night to protest against the restructure of hostels and against the liberties taken by the seniors with the newly acquired power of living among juniors.

As everyone knows it was not a very successful revolution. Apart from apology letters signed by parents, few warnings to all students and some serious warnings to those who were considered leaders not much happened. Though it was fun and the lot of 14-15 years old thought that they have made their statement.

And in the aftermath of the revolution, when the last of the parents had signed apologies and taken warning letters home, leaving their charges once again under the charge of Lt Col Sham Sunder Dudeja, in the year of 1994, during the third year of the fellas’ seven year kaid, a meeting was called. Above the sports store, at the first floor terrace, on the right side wing of the palace. All the class 8th students sat there and in walked Lt. Col. Sham Sunder Dudeja.

The silence was audible to all as he took his chair and surveyed the young revolutiories. After what seemed like an eternity in silence he said “Incorrigible”. A pause, a very long pause, the one that Lt Col Sham Sunder Dudeja could have pulled only in front of a gathering of 14-15 years old. “Can anyone tell me what incorrigible means?”.

Who answered him, who was the valedictorian that day? Habshi does not remember. Most likely it must have been Scientist or may be Bawa madam’s son Aditya. They were the closest to understanding the sound of that word in 1994 among all those revolutionaries. How does it matter anyways.

Kutte ki dumb” that’s how everyone understood after Lt Col Sham Sunder Dudeja was done with the revolutionaries. A dogs tail. Of course the rest of the proverb goes along.

He smiles now. Thinking of the day and how it marked the life of many. Most of them were truly incorrigible and are till these days. Indeed the words of Lt Col Sham Sunder Dudeja, in the year of 1994 said as they were in front of young revolutionries of class 8th, in third year of their seven year Kaid, were prophetic. And Habshi thinks for a while about all those incorrigibles. Just for a while before he gets back to Sea of Poppies and the incorrigible afeemkors of Amitav Ghosh.


Unknown said...

I was in the same batch when we ran away from ssk ,scientist was my roommate ,I think his was 3937,mine 3955 ,i was looking for my batchmades,if you have any in your contact pls call me on 7838826273,

Unknown said...

I was in the same batch when we ran away from ssk ,scientist was my roommate ,I think his was 3937,mine 3955 ,i was looking for my batchmades,if you have any in your contact pls call me on 7838826273,


Sukhdev Singh is milking a buffalo when I call him. We are speaking after a long gap. His voice carries the same cheerful energy I remember....