I was born in Sylhet, now in Bangladesh, and started going to school somewhat late. I was admitted directly to Class III. My father was a journalist, dramatist and political leader. He was my role model and I imbibed all that my father stood for idealism, politics, culture and a passion for theatre.
After we arrived in West Bengal, I went to a number of schools in different parts of the country till I was admitted to Town School in Shyambazar, Calcutta. I was in Class IX then. Although I was promoted to Class X, I had to stop going to school as my family could not afford the fees. I was handed a transfer certificate and asked to leave. I had to study at home to take my School Final examination in 1953 as a private candidate.
Though not very studious, I was above average as a student. But I always loved the theatre. I read the plays written by my father as well as those by other playwrights. My elder brother and I used a bookshop near our home as a library, reading quietly for hours in its backroom.
I was an introvert and, perhaps consequently, quite observant. But I was neither meek nor timid. I received training in wielding the lathi (stick) and chhuri (knife) in an akhara (indigenous gymnasium) run by a group of freedom fighters. I once fought a duel with a boy who teased me all the time. I tore his shirt and gifted him with a few cuts and bruises. To my dismay, the boy very unsportingly complained to my mother and she was most angry with me.
I remember the lovely summer days we spent in my maternal uncles home in Shillong every year. I recall the bus journeys from Sylhet to Shillong through meandering roads that filled me with a sense of adventure. I also remember how my father was arrested from our home early one morning in 1942 for his political activities, how we visited him in jail and how his letters (censored, of course) reached us every week.
I wasnt a prankster but I remember how I once stole three 4-anna coins from my mothers trunk, bought some sweets and ate them all. When the theft was discovered, my elder brother declared that whoever confessed would be given a silk handkerchief as a reward for his honesty. My younger brother, who was very innocent, fell into the trap and confessed that he had taken the coins. I shall never forget how much he had to suffer while I, the real culprit, watched in silence!