A teacher recounts her children she taught and the lessons she learnt from them.
It was not long ago, that I was a school teacher. As per my schedule every day I had my story telling classes with the Nursery students. One fine day I was reading a story and the word ice, ‘baraf,’ popped up. I asked the children, “Ok, tell me, baraf kya hai?’ (What is ice?). A little girl, stood in a corner, her front teeth missing, she said, “Miss, paani so gaya” (water went off to sleep). I was so touched by that little girl that I called off that class and declared it to be a ‘games period’, all ran off to play. I sat in that empty class and said to myself, that it’s always fine that ice is water falling off to sleep.
How wonderful is a child’s imaginations! Little Ron always painted fish flying over rainbows; I still have all those paintings, gifted to me by the children. Younchi’s car could be driven both ways (I hope one day, his dream comes true). Anisha’s garden was always outside her fence (I hope one day she finds a place where we guard nothing, not even national boundaries). Uttam’s flag had all the colours his crayon box could carry (I hope one day he finds a flag, where all colours meet).
Every day at sharp 11:20 am, we had our lunch break. The moment the bell rang, all children run to clean their hands. I love the energy, the delight, those footsteps carried. Kids can be so excited over the three or four biscuits Maa packed in their tiny tiffin boxes. In the lunch break, all fights would begin. When a boy and girl would fight, the boy would loosen the girls pony and run. The girl would threaten back, ‘I will tell miss.” Until you do not clear up the matter, the girl would sulk, and the boy sits with the burden of guilt. But once the air is clear, they are again the inseparable, talkative best friends.
I learnt all boundaries are so artificial; you either build it or break it.
Everyday when the class got over, a few children stayed back. The jeep came late for them. In that little group Teras was the youngest, just three and Khushi the only girl who was seven years old. Teras would inevitably cry, and the consoling party would begin. All the good boys got bored. Finally, Khushi would come, take Teras in her arms (she herself was little) give a chappati left in her tiffin box, show him round the school, make him sit and create stories of the doctor his mom is visiting, and the big injection (the same story I am sure her grandmother told her). The story would continue until the jeep came.
In moments of deep reflection I wonder, where do women learn to tell stories, until all things are right, until all tears dried. Which is that moment Khushi knew that she needed to hold Teras? In which moment of evolution did women learnt to be caretakers of emotions? I still do not have an answer.
It’s late at night, I badly need to sleep, yet I wonder what they might be doing now, Anisha, Ron, Khushi, Raju? Of course all must be asleep, I must be fading from their memories, they are growing every day.
But somewhere I want to believe, when they grow, Ron finds his flying fish, Anisha her boundaryless world, Younchi his car, and Pompi Miss is still around to see all her gifted paintings coming to life.
Shaan- When I told you that I loved you, you looked back and said you loved me too. And there was truth and earnestness. I hope Shaan when you grow up, you then too shall mean every word you say, as you did to me. You are the best little boy I have known. I miss our evening classes and your joy over painting.
Jiya- Thank you for all your drawings that you made to please me. But I hope someday you know that you need not need please anyone. Just love yourself, that’s enough.
Raju- You made my classes difficult, spilt water and threw your friends tiffin. I understand Daddy beats you and Maa at home and you are ashamed of your torn bag and dirty uniforms, for which you are made to stand out of the line. I hope son, someday you understand, it’s not worth being like Daddy. You are worth the world. Hugs.
Ambarish- who wrote beautifully formed writings and when I asked you, why you are good, you said, God made me good. I hope you know one day, God lies in all good things we do and say.
Ani- I know you have learning problems. Don’t worry much, I had them too and still have while writing. I just hope you know one day courage can succeed all. All it takes is faith and belief.
Finally Suman- I love the way you ran around and your skirt flew high. I only hope you understand, that it’s always best to run for oneself and enjoying it. When your skirt flew it is not important who laughed. You are important.
Khushi- After you came to school, you missed a lot of lessons and I know I gave you a lot of homework. Your mother said, you put water in your eyes and sat till nine thirty at night and completed it.
Nomi and Ragini- I sometimes got frustrated when you never did your lessons, but then I tried my best.
Ron- I still owe you the Lord Krishna story, someday I shall.
Chaya- I still need to tell you Treasure Island in translation. Someday when you are more than 8 years old, we shall read the original.
In your tiny hands lay, what I was once, what I can be and what I am. Some day when you are playing with joy, and if the winds blow, raise your hands, open your palms, and sunder me to the winds.
I shall reclaim myself.