A ceiling fan’s blade came crashing down on a student writing his life’s first board exam on Monday in a north Calcutta school that counts among its old boys, Rabindranath Tagore.
Shah Mohiuddin had just started reading the questions for Madhyamik’s Urdu Paper I at Oriental Seminary, on Chitpore Road, 15 minutes before students are allowed to start writing, when he heard a cracking sound and got hit on the head by something.
His hand went to his head at once and there was blood on his hands.
The ceiling fan in Room No. 36 had fallen almost between two students, but grazed Mohiuddin’s head on the way.
“Someone switched on the fan and it just came off. I was hit even before I realised what was happening and then there was acute pain,” said the 15-year-old student of Mohammad Jan High School.
“There were two of us on the bench. The fan fell between us. Don’t know what would have happened if the whole thing had landed on our heads. We were lucky,” said the boy who wrote the remaining test with two stitches.
A local doctor dressed his gash and gave him painkillers. The school arranged for a glass of milk. “I was fine after that,” said the braveheart, when he stepped out of the centre an hour after all his friends had left.
Tagore had studied at Oriental for a few months as a seven-year-old in 1868. Its fans are not that old but they are not very young or well-kept either. Decades of neglect was apparent in the ones still hanging from hooks with iron beams running along the high ceiling. The fan’s bolts had apparently come loose.
Teacher-in-charge Dulal Mandal claimed that the fans and lights were thoroughly checked by a local electrician on Saturday. “I was called to repair the switchboard, not the fans,” said electrician Swapan Das.
“After medical treatment, Mohiuddin was asked whether he wanted to go to a hospital or carry on with his Urdu Paper I. He wished to write and was allowed to do so for three hours from 1pm,” said a teacher. Around 4.15pm, Mohiuddin was escorted out of the school by police personnel and guided into a taxi parked right outside the gate.
“Exam achchha raha,” he said on the way out in the glow of flashbulbs, the latest victim of Bengal’s crumbling education infrastructure.
When it started in 1829, from another premises nearby, Oriental was one of the earliest privately run schools for children of Hindu parents in Calcutta. It is now a government-aided school that struggles to make ends meet.
A plaque at the school’s entrance says the school was first located at Nimtollah Ghat, close to the Hooghly. Then it moved to somewhere in Sovabazar and from there to 363 Rabindra Sarani in Jorasanko around 1845.
“Tagore had got into the school because its then headmaster, Ishwar Chandra Nandi, was his private tutor. Many in his family had studied there,” said a Tagore scholar.
Home-taught Tagore’s first school has quite an illustrious alumni list. Girish Chandra Ghosh, Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee, Gooroodas Banerjee, Sambhunath Pandit, Kailash Chandra Bose, Akshay Kumar Datta, Sudhindranath Dutta.... Asutosh Mukherjee was the president of its governing body from 1907 to 1922.
And now there is young Mohiuddin who will never forget his first day at Oriental. He was later taken to the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital to undergo a CT scan.
“Doctors said the scan had not revealed any internal injuries,” said Sheikh Kamaruzzaman, Mohiuddin’s elder brother, who is also a doctor.
Once the news of the incident broke on television, anxious guardians started rushing to the school.
“The school wasn’t revealing who the injured student was and that escalated the tension outside,” said Khokan Das, whose nephew was among the 265 examinees inside.