'La Decima'

Kakai Singsit *

Recently, a friend of mine asked me, “What was the happiest moment of my life”. As I was groping for an answer I was forced to travel down memory lane and dig nuggets from the past.

I was over the moon the day my matric result was announced not because I scored a decent 69+ but for beating those smart Alec’s and the teacher’s pets to the punch. Smart kids are the good kids, is the general presumption and true for almost all the time. Immaculately dressed and with the finest deportment they’ll invariably occupy the front benches only to be mollycoddled by the teachers while the rest of us sneer from the back.

I knew I was gonna do well but to beat them when it mattered most makes the thrill even more special as it gives me the opportunity to gloat over their disappointments and rub it to their noses. But on the hind-sight that smugness paled into insignificance when I compared it to the moment I could unleash small amounts of Mantu Beri plumes gloriously soaring from both my nostrils.

It was a Mission boarding school and I was in the fifth class. Memories of those good old days are still firmly chiselled in my mind.

We were three Don Quixote- Jonny, Seigin and me. We share the same room and our beds are adjacent. Every afternoon we’d sneak out of the boarding and get lost in a nearby hillock amidst the thick vegetation and sylvan trees. Then we would roll out our neatly hidden consignments- Beri, matches, garlic and onions. Stoking the beri we would start smoking.

I was excited because this was my first encounter with the flipside of this nasty world. Both my friends were already well-versed in the art and could smoke at will. I was green with envy. But, for me it was quite the contrary.

With the first puff I was profusely coughing and panting while they chose to mock me. And my head was dizzy. As we gobbled up the stolen garlic and onion to neutralize the stench of the beri, we rushed back. That was day one.

It takes grit and determination to master this obnoxious art. Like a snake we’d slithered out of the campus to our rendezvous and saviour every pinch of leisure time that was allotted to us. Even one puff was not easy for a greenhorn let alone releasing it from the nostrils. My tenacity and stubbornness finally paid off.

I jumped in ecstasy the moment plumes of smoke wafted out from my both nostrils. I will bet that Sir. Isaac Newton won’t be as thrilled as me compared to the day that he discovered the Laws of gravitation. For him it was a matter of fortuity and that apple could have landed on anyone’s head.

My hey days were spent in the hostel, from nursery till my master’s without any lull. Life was regimented and everything was either predetermined or pre-ordained. You are dictated by a set of rules and regulations framed by the authorities that has to be followed to the letter.

Even slight deviation were not tolerated but chastised during the evening beat-show or say the flogging fiesta. Mind you it’s not a musical concert instead of drums they lash our butts but the screaming was identical.

Those RR determines when and how you sleep, wake up, study, play, sing, eat and even how you dress. Every lash is determined by the degree of mistake that you have committed. For instance, minor aberrations like speaking in one’s dialect or not wearing uniform were awarded with one or two lash. But transgressions like smoking, chewing tobacco or fighting were awarded with a minimum of ten canes.

Having romantic affairs with secret trysts, running away from the hostel or drinking wines were treated as the cardinal sins and the number of canes depends on the resilience of the hands that whipped your butt. You’re fortunate if the arm of the teacher who whipped you gave out soon.

Being flogged for not wearing a uniform and for sitting in the last bench was my trademark. There’s always this desire to up the ante and that’s when I thought I should learn how to smoke because one or two lash-categories are meant for the ladies and the frail.

Cane sticks were brought in bundles during the beat-show evenings. Teachers take turns to flog the offenders. One trick is to wear double layer pants or even triple to alleviate the pains but our teachers were smarter with one whip he knows whether the guy is wearing a double-deck pants or not. Then you’re forced to remove the extraneous layers of the pants while the hostellers erupt in glee.

But human beings are rebellious by nature, especially hostellers because we have no qualms in breaking those rules. Iron-clad rules have fallen flat in front of headstrong students.

Hostel is a hotchpotch of people from different hues and orientations. Some are sent here by their parents to be shackled and tame whereas the rest of us were sent with the anticipation of a flamboyant future. In the course of time the good were metamorphosed into the bad and the bad became the sober. Of course, the same yardstick doesn’t apply to all the students.

And when you overhear your seniors talking about their exploits like how they enjoyed drinking with friends or how they sneaked out of the hostel at night to watch cinemas, it fires your imagination. Curiosity kills the cat and the student.

But you’ve got to watch your back because the campus is filled with snitches or better say CIDs who are entrusted by the school authorities to snoop around, find out and report who’s doing what. Till class three I was one of them.

That conquest instilled in me an eccentric sense of confidence as I was under the fallacy that learning how to smoke was the yardstick to manliness. It felt like I have suddenly matured and was beaming with confidence.

“Yeah, that was one happy moment I will cherish”, I told my friend. What! He almost screamed as the answer was a complete surprise.

It was 24th May, 2014 in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal where history was re-written by this phenomenal club, Real Madrid, the richest and the most glittering club ever seen in mankind’s history. A thing we, the fans, have waited long and sought with missionary zeal was accomplished tonight night when REAL MADRID lifted its elusive tenth UEFA Champions Trophy, the La Decima euphemistically linked with the club's obsession for the tenth European Cup. The jinx of twelve years of failure since 2002 was finally buried, clearing the decks for another three in the next four seasons, an impeccable record.

What induced me to be a hard core fan of Real Madrid is still an enigma. Was it the name that caught my fancy? Yeah, the name Real Madrid itself is so catchy. I guess I was born a fan of this behemoth Spanish football club as I adored them since childhood and without any deflection of loyalty, till today.

For all the fans around the world it was a watershed moment and a memory that will linger in our hearts. It was a joy to watch those gladiators making a mince-meat of their opponents with skills and flair as we the fans go bat-crap crazy. They demonstrated the heart of the humdingers and played with a lot of self-confidence and panache. Like a thunderstorm they swept and devastated all their opponents on their way till the most coveted trophy was aloft in the hands of Iker Cassilas, our captain.

About the marquee clash, Athletico Madrid was on the lead till the injury time. The clock was ticking away and the prospect of another heartbreak was looming. I was palpitating furiously but deep down there was this wafer-thin layer of hope that we shall overcome no matter what the writing on the wall dictates.

It was this knight-in-shining armour, Sergio Ramos who rose to the occasion and restored parity with a simply magnificent header in the 92:48 minutes. That goal turned the tide of the match and history was created, as we erupt into jubilations.

During the extra time Athletico players were enervated, clueless and outfoxed by Real Madrid’s players with a deluge of goals. The match ended 4-1 in our favour. With the final whistle blown I jumped out of my seat and was screaming hysterically. This memorable event will always be etched in my mind for a long time.

* Kakai Singsit wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on November 06 2021.

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