Teaching Shakespeare at Gandacherra College

By Saibal Debbarma

November 28, 2023

“No one is born fully-formed: it is through self-experience in the world that we become what we are.”
― Paulo Freire

I

The Journey

Our tin bus cantered over the dusty grey, rutted roads undulating upon the broken teeth of the scraggy hills. Branches, leaves and twigs that spread their hands over the road like the tender fingers of the immense jungle, got caught in the frames of the window and cracked apart. The arduous lumbering journey had dazed me into a bumpy forceful sleep. When I woke up and turned my heavy-lidded eyes upon the view outside the window misted by dust, I saw a hamlet teeming with activity fanned out on a large clearing upon the bosoms of the hills. From my seat in the bus, clambering over the road, the villagers looked like miniature figures building a city with Lego pieces. Toddlers, dust-laden, scantily dressed, run amok behind the bus in glee. I waved at them. A board announced this hamlet as ‘West Kalajhari Bru Settlement Camp’.

            After crossing Kalajhari when we reached the escarpment of Moingtilla, a vast green landscape neath the blue warped bellies of cirrus clouds gently touched by the morning sun opened before my eyes. A silver thread ran through the curving green slopes of the distant hills and met with a large shining pearl – the Dumboor lake. The turning we faced next was the most treacherous I have seen and can easily compete in terms of being risky among the most dangerous road tracks in the region of north-east – infamous for its roads for paving the way to hell for many an innocent traveller. The road u-turned at the edge of the crag veering downwards almost beneath itself. The driver inched the bus towards the turning. When the driver turned the bus, the engine grunted and growled at the driver, for being hesitant to eke out the most of its power. When the driver gyrated the large steering like a potter’s wheel and successfully made the treacherous turn without edging off the escarpment of Moingtilla the bus shunted down the road towards Gandacherra and I opened my clutched hands from the safety handle of the seat.

            An undefinable sea of green lush coagulated over the hills. Huk (jhum) fields ignited with ripe harvests. A lonely gayring towered over the hills, waiting quietly, still.  Reang women, necks bejewelled with orbs of ancient silver coins, walked over the skeletal roads burnt by the ire of the day, carrying heavy langas on their back. A continent of poverty, loveless and untouched, grew out of my heart when I entered Gandachherra. The great peepul tree at Macchkhumbir bazaar stood like a wise old grandfather telling me – “Fare ahead bravely on the chariot of truth and learn from the fire of sacrifice”.

            4th, February,2022 – I reached Govt. Degree College, Gandacherra, at 10:10 am, aboard the bus ‘Gopal Gobinda’, with the purpose of joining as an Assistant Professor of English at the college. The white imposing structure of the college building neither invited nor shunned me away. But when I entered the premises of the building, I was welcomed by a quote painted in blue upon the white wall – “The more I think about it, the more I realize there is nothing more artistic than to love others.” ― Vincent van Gogh. A new journey has begun. A new responsibility. Be strong my heart… I said to myself.

Saibal Debbarma is Assistant Professor, Department of English, Government Degree College, Gondatwisa (Gandacherra), Dhalai District, Tripura.

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