I joined Lilly Rose English High School for LKG and it is here that my journey with Bismillah Nagar began. From LKG to 6th standard I came to school in a school bus. This bus was entertainment on wheels. It was always filled with enjoyment because all our seniors used to sing songs and make noise. It used to be like a mini market until it entered Bismillah Nagar. Everyone became quiet and there used to be no noise because Sonu Sir’s empire started at the entrance of Bismillah Nagar and he did not like such informal activities. I used to watch this entire drama because I was a small kid. I had no chance to get out of the bus and explore the area.
When I was in 2nd standard, I witnessed a scary situation. At that time our school management received a fake message stating that there was a bomb in school. This information was then sent to all parents. I can never forget this day because it was a normal day for me in school until the watchman came and informed our teacher, who then sent everyone outside in a hurry to their tensed parents who were waiting outside.
In 7th standard due to a financial problem in my family, my brother and I had to quit the school bus and opt for “Namma BMTC”. It was a new experience for my brother and me because we never travelled in public buses. I saw new people in the bus everyday. It was very different from the school bus I used to travel in. We would wake up early in the morning at 7:00am and get ready for school because school started at 8:30am. If we missed that bus, there was another bus which came 15 minutes later. This meant that I had 2 sets of bus friends. We had to be present for our school prayer at 8:30 am. If we were late, the Principal would send us back home. The most interesting part about our school prayer was that Hazrath would read the Quran and explain it to everyone. Though I was a Hindu boy, I learnt to speak Urdu very well. I would reply to my friends in Urdu when we spoke to each other during breaks.
As soon as prayer would finish, our gang- Goutham, Sadiq, Suhail, Abrar and our Mr. Bean Sandeep and I would bring any one of our lunch baskets inside class and start eating. The aroma of the food would spread all over class. Teachers would search all over, but wouldn’t find it because Sandeep would hide the basket very quickly. Sandeep was the most mischievous, but also, at the same time very silent. He would crack jokes in the middle of the class and we would all get caught because of him and the things he did in classes.
Sometimes Hazrath used to take classes for Muslim students and the remaining Hindu students were given permission to go out. We used to go to Ashraf Uncle’s (Mamu) Barkath Hotel. This hotel was famous in Bismillah Nagar for their Beef Biryani and Nalli Soup (bone marrow soup). The hotel would open at 5:00 AM in the morning and for many people who were residing in Bismillah Nagar, this was the place for their body’s power supply—the nalli soup-–to start their day. They would serve biryani from 12:00 PM.
Auto drivers, school and college students, and many people from nearby locations used to come here to taste our Mamu’s Biryani. Before we went, our Mamu would prepare special biryani for us twice a week. It was the best biryani we had. After completing the biryani, we would go around and meet our chacha, mamu and dada. I had a special bond with people in this area because everyone was so friendly.
10th standard was the happiest as well as the saddest year because after this, we would go to college and at the same time, leave the school where we spent almost 12 years of our lives. Bismillah Nagar had a story, it was apparently a big graveyard before it was converted into Bismillah Nagar. It is now a very busy area. In the mornings, it is full of autos, bikes, school buses, filled with noises all around. It was also a quiet place during the afternoon, it became a very silent place without any sounds around. During the night, not even a single person would be seen around. All the roads were empty and silent.
After entering college life, I began to miss my school days and my gang. Everyone was divided and were all in different colleges around Bangalore.
I personally miss Julian Dias Sir and Ameena Miss. He had the ability to teach all the subjects by himself that no other teacher could do in our school. Ma’am would care for me like I was one of her sons. If I got low marks in any subject, she would personally call me, scold me and also advise me at the same time.
My cousin and I had to attend a friend’s birthday party. His name was Sadiq, one of our classmates, and also a best partner during our school days. Before my cousin and I went to meet him, he already had a plan in place. Sadiq contacted all our friends from school. That was the day I met all of my classmates after a 3 year gap. It was very interesting for everyone because in 3 years, we all had changed a lot in our studies and in the way we looked, everything was different and new. We all spent the day sharing the incidents that happened during our school days.
Sadiq, my gang and I would do all mischievous things together. We would have special classes from 7:00am to 6:00pm every evening. We were divided into different groups for self study. Sadiq and I used to hide in another classroom and call our gang members to that class so we could play and at the same time, study. Our teachers would search for us but we were not to be found by anyone. By the time the teacher gave the test we were present in class, would attend the test and complete it quickly.
By 5:30pm, we would go out for a break until 6:00 PM. We would go and eat good food outside like biryani, shawarma, chicken roll and three types of samosas. We would end our day by going to the bakery and with a bottle of juice in hand, leave for our houses. Sometimes, Sadiq and I would bunk classes and go to movies or malls and spend the day there. Once our Sonu sir had caught Sadiq for bunking special classes. Sir started hitting him with the stick then we all as a gang went to sir and showed our palms so that we could also get a share in the punishment for bunking classes.
When I was in 7th standard all my friends and my cousins started going to ASC (Ambedkar Study Centre). Ashok Chakravarthy, Ashok sir, my mother’s cousin, forced me to come to ASC but I would give some or the other reason to not go, because I was not interested in being amongst a group of people.
The Ambedkar Study Centre was started by Mr. Gopinath M. We students called him Gopanna. Gopanna first started taking classes for students who failed in 10th standard and were working in factories or in the BBMP as lorry drivers or auto drivers at the age of 15 and16. Out of 20-30 students only 1 or 2 used to complete their 10th and move on to college. So, Gopanna decided to bring all the students who had failed and make them prepare so that they may complete their exams. After these classes started, all students completed their 10th standard exams and continued to college.
Students from 1st standard to UG, PG would come here. The students who were in UG and PG would take classes for students of 10th and PUC. Sometimes we would observe the birth and death anniversaries of Dalit and Bahujan leaders. On this day some students sang songs about the leaders and paid their respects to them by lighting candles and talking about the work they did for the upliftment of backward communities.
After 7 years, Ashok Chakravarthy and Hari Ram became the pillars of the ASC. Many students came to ASC. The rumour that existed about our area had changed. Before ASC began, the police were certain that our area youngsters indulged in robbery, murder, and so on. But from 2001, everything changed because every house had a graduate and many of them have now become professors, teachers, advocates and are in many other professions. Now, out of 100 youngsters, at least 90 are studying in colleges or working in banks. No one is now involved in any criminal activity.
Now in 2021, we have a library of our own and that too in a place where we the SC/ST community live together without the barriers of language and caste or anything else. All our friends live together as brothers and sisters. We have a building of two floors for ASC. On the ground floor there is the “Maatha Savithri Bai Phule’’ Library. As soon as we enter the library, on top of the wall, we can see the big photo frame of “Titans of Bahujan Samaj’’. In the library 25 members can sit and read newspapers, books, magazines and so on, and on the first floor we have a classroom where easily 40-50 students can be seated.
I went to ASC on my own for the first time on March 7th, when I was in 8th standard. There I met many new people and began to mingle with everyone. I found a new person inside me, who would meet others and maintain a good bond with them. Ashok sir would support me and I began to improve in my studies and also began teaching other students who had doubts in any topic or subject. I was entirely different from the 7th standard Vijay. Then I was just Vijay Kumar, now the people who live in our area identify me as the student of ASC. The way people respect and greet, not only me but also many students’ lives has changed due to ASC.
ASC is a small place with many big dreams.