Calcutta, Sept. 10: Defeating the might of a government determined not to expose the state’s children to the English alphabet before Class V takes a lot of doing.
Sheikh Milan has done that, becoming the other side of the coin Satyarup Banerjee (the Madhyamik 9th-boy who gave up studying in a city school of his dreams) represents.
Milan, also from Bankura like Satyarup, initially looked like going Satyarup’s way. After cracking the Joint Entrance Examination in 1999, he joined Jalpaiguri Government Engineering College. But the problems known to afflict students who start learning English from Class V struck him as well.
Trying to cope with the hitherto-alien English-medium lectures for five months showed he needed something more than a thorough knowledge of maths and physics to become a civil engineer. He went back home to a village called Shashpur, four hours by bus from the district headquarters.
Here, however, the script stopped resembling that of Satyarup who left the Ramakrishna Mission-run institute at Narendrapur for a school in Bankura where classes are held in Bengali.
Giving a dramatic twist to the usual tale of Bengal’s students being tripped by the English barrier, Milan is now studying in the much more reputed Bengal Engineering College after making up the hard way for the state’s two-decade-long foible.
The first thing Milan did on going back home was buy spoken-English guide-books. Those books, however, were not enough to arm him for the world outside his village. So he took some spoken-English classes as well.
Milan would rather not talk about those days now. “I want to forget those five months and the ignominy of the forced silence (by my lack of communication skills) in classrooms.”
Even the struggle that has helped him fight it out in the far more “hostile” environment —BE College, being much closer to the city, also demands more English-language skills in and outside classrooms — is not something he wants to talk about.
“I know I can inspire many others like me but the months I spent at home trying to make up for the rulers’ foibles were not very pleasant,” he explained.
After gaining the confidence necessary to face the world, Milan appeared for the JEE again. This time, he bettered his earlier result and booked himself a place in the civil engineering class of BE College.
Milan is now preparing for his campus interviews; the season started a few days ago. But this round, he knows, demands far greater communication skills than he needs in class. So he and his friends at the BE College hostel facing similar problems have started another round of spoken-English classes.