Memories of My Initiation to Education

Part of my childhood I had spent in Balasore, Orissa. In early 1960s, Balasore used to be a small town. We were staying in a big house. Local people called the house “rajbari”, a palace by implication. Some palace it was. We occupied the first floor. Floor had three rooms with wall to wall French windows. There was a large living room which was most likely designed to entertain guests. From the living room one could have a grand view of the play ground and distant highway. There was a terrace that was encircling the standalone palace. One could sit or walk on the terrace and enjoy the transition of afternoon into evening.
Our relatives from Kolkata, those days Calcutta, were not very excited coming to Balasore. My cousins thought it was boondocks. My uncles were concerned about cost of travel. In those days we were not well off. Family travel used to be considered a luxury. So one day, when I heard that my grand mother and my uncle, elder brother of my father, will be visiting us, I was really excited. In addition, my grand mother was also bringing her “guru dev”, I shall refer to him as dadu, from now on. My grand mother and my mother had been initiated in japa yoga by dadu. Dadu was coming to initiate my education, by offering a prayer to mother Saraswati, the goddess of learning. In our mother tongue, it is called “hate khari”, literal translation meaning introduction to pen. Since, not many people visited us, I was counting days before their arrival. My mother was also excited. She left no stone unturned to keep the household tidy and tiptop.
Puri passenger from Kolkata, used to arrive in the evening. By the time they arrived at rajbari, our home, I was fast asleep. I was hardly four that time. Also, rajbari had no electricity. So sleep used to be very inducing. Anyway next morning when I woke up, our home had taken a festive atmosphere. Spacious living room was transformed into a seat for dadu.
I was introduced into the room, after I had taken bath and worn new clothes. There were several people seated at the feet of dadu. There were relatives and neighbors. Everyone was meditating. Room had a divine atmosphere. Aroma of freshly cut flowere was mixing with scent of incense stick. Camphor was burning at the feet of deity.
That day, me and several other kids from neighborhood, were introduced to education under blessing of dadu. My uncle wrote a letter in my native language on a slate. I was asked to repeat it several times by running chalk over the alphabet. The morning ended for me with a sumptuous breakfast and blessing of dadu. It was long time ago, but the atmosphere and aroma still lingers.

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