Thursday, July 27, 2006

In Our Own Shoes.

It’s now become a ritual to meet her daily. Every morning as I get down from the bus and walk the long stretch down Theatre Road, I see the familiar sight of two human figures holding hands and walking towards me. As we approach each other, gazes locked, she makes it a point to smile at me and wish me good morning. I return the greeting as always with a smile, get near, and pat the kid on her head. This has been a routine affair for the last few months now.

Initially I used to feel very uncomfortable at the prospect of having a lady almost 10-15 years senior to me wish me “good morning ma’am”. Now, I have gotten used to it. Every morning, she makes it a point to stop and ask the kid to wish me morning while the kid shrinks into mumma’s shins. Then follows 30 seconds of polite conversation when she asks me about the progress of the elder daughter and while I give a brief account, I try to grab whatever I can of the kid’s cheeks. And then I smile sweetly at her and walk away. After a few steps, I turn to look back at her. And as usual, I see the familiar sight of mother and kid holding hands and walking down the streets.

I have a weird feeling whenever I look into her eyes. If I could trust my gut feeling, I think she wonders what would it be like to be in my shoes. What do I appear to her? A young girl in her mid twenties who is a teacher in the school where her elder daughter studies? A young girl who has a job, a career, a set of friends? A girl who holds the key (according to her) to her daughter’s academic performance? I would have shrugged off the gut feeling had she not asked me for my email id yesterday on the pretext of wanting to be in touch with me even when I am gone from here. Why? I mean, I wouldn’t be the daughter’s class teacher anymore. Then what might she want to have to write to me?

Perhaps she thinks I am lucky to have the life I do. Perhaps she wonders what it is to be in my shoes……

Strangely, I am sure she would be greatly surprised to know that her feelings are mutually reciprocated. Sometimes I wish I could be in her shoes. Everyday when I see the familiar sight of mumma and baby holding hands and walking down the streets, I feel an inexplicable pang. I wonder how it feels to be the mother of two kids. I wonder how it is to wake up every morning, get your kid ready (all the more since most of the time, I have trouble getting myself ready, leave alone attending to someone else), drop her to school, and discuss her academic performance with the teacher. I wonder how it feels like when a lady 10-15 years your junior bends down to pat the kid’s head.

Perhaps she will never know….

Perhaps it’ll be a long time before I get to know……

She wishes she could be like me….

And here I wish I had a life like her. At least the part of her life I get to see every morning….

Suddenly I realized that I was still staring at mother and child while I had already reached the school gate. I shook my head and smiled to myself. Life…. Somehow you always ended up wishing for the things others have, never mind whatever God has given you.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A Chapter Shall End Soon.

For the umpteenth time in the last few hours, I read the letter neatly typed and signed and folded it again. I had known all the time that doing this would be difficult. Yet never had I anticipated that I’d actually end up hating myself for doing this. For reasons unknown and sans basis to me, I had started feeling guilty. Not wanting to prolong the wait further, I moved towards the door carrying the letter with me, and knocked softly. I entered the room with oodles of trepidation, knowing that my life would never be the same again once I came out of it. For this was the very room where I sat nervously almost 8 months back, nodding dutifully when my classes were allotted to me.

And in these 8 months, I have come a long way from what I used to be, so much that it actually seems 8 years’ worth of experience. Every moment I have spent in school has turned out to be a memorable moment for me. For what I joined as a job to keep me busy for a few months before I left home turned out to be much more than a job. It became my life.

And I was so happy with this life. If there weren’t a few factors to be considered, I’d have never even thought of quitting. But then, US has been a different dream altogether, and a much older one.

The tidings spread fast in the staff room, and it was a boon since I was spared the pain of having to announce it personally. But telling the kids turned out to be one hell of an emotional rollercoaster ride for me. I entered the class as usual and spent the next 5 minutes helping them to settle down in their places. I took the class attendance as usual. The kids had kept their diaries on my table for me to sign even before I had asked them to. They too had kind of entered into a routine life with me the last few months. Like everyday, I saw their Math textbooks opened in front of them. They looked at me in anticipation, wondering which chapter would be started today.

I just stood and looked at their faces. Not a word was spoken. It seemed that I had entered into a trance for a few moments. I just looked at their faces, my eyes drifting from one corner of the class to another. Finally, I cleared my throat and found my voice.

Children, I shall be leaving this month. And I want a promise from all of you that you all will behave yourself and will not give anyone the chance to complain once I am gone.

I somehow hurried through the seemingly rote lines, wanting to get over with the torture as soon as I could. What I saw in their faces was a stunned expression. Whatever is in their hearts gets reflected on their faces. In fact if telling them a goodbye wasn’t so traumatic a feeling, I’d have actually laughed at the remarks they had to make about the news.

Oh ma’am, are you getting married?

Who will teach us math now?

Ma’am, you won’t be there this year with us for our class photographs?

Ma’am, you will give us your email id?

And so on………….

Most of them were very curious to know if I am getting married. When they were told the real reason, some of them actually asked me how much more they have to study after leaving school to get a PhD. They were disheartened that I would be leaving before the Teachers’ Day. And so was I.

When I’d entered this school, I’d wondered how I would be able to remember the name of every student of my class. And now, I just have to take a look at their handwriting to know who they are. It was a strange period of adaptation for me when I would be treated as the junior most amongst the teachers and still the senior classes would treat me with all respect. On one hand I was pampered and kind of bullied (though it was great fun) and taken care of by the teachers. On the other hand it was weird to be wished by the kids, ranging from the boys at least half a foot taller than I am to the ones who barely reached my hips. I could probably end up writing a book about my experiences of the first job. And it is this very job that actually made me realize what is it that I really want to do in life.

Yet it is pointless to relive each and every memory and prolong the pain. Goodbye times are indeed painful times, all the more since I know things would never be the same again. If you have ever read Kabuliwallah by Tagore, you would know what I mean. Children learn to adapt fast to the changes in their surroundings. They get to forget people as quickly as they learn to love them. So even if I met them a few years down the line, I know I’d never find the same expression of joy on their faces again.

I am about to embark on a new journey of life, of working for a dream I have envisioned for long. Initially this job had meant to me nothing more than an opportunity to spend the next few months doing something useful instead of whiling away time. Yet now I am strangely engulfed with a strange feeling of sadness. These are the classrooms I’ll never walk into again. These are the corridors I’ll never take again. I’ll soon be expected to return the teachers’ copy of the text books. My personal cupboard would soon be empty. For a few more months, I’ll live in this school as some hundreds of signatures in the students’ copies. And then these copies would be replaced by new ones. And slowly things would get faint and I would be forgotten. Never again would I have to wait to take the 6-15 am bus. Nor would I need to conduct assemblies again. The various noises associated with a school, the kids running around, the bells ringing, would all be silenced soon. Never again would I have to sing the national anthem or say the pledge daily. Never again will I get a chance to sing “Happy birth day to you” in unison with the whole school. Never again would I be asked how old I am. Never again would a 2 and a half footer come running to me and say, “Ma’am, he is pushing”. Never again would I have to stay up at nights correcting answer scripts and laughing my guts out at the funny answers. I’ve already started feeling miserable.

Just give me the strength that I don’t end up crying on the 31st (which would be my last day here). I just don’t know what more to say.


Saturday, July 15, 2006

My Daily Dose Of Laughter.

The 1st term exams are in full swing, and I have been especially busy setting papers, invigilating the examination halls, and not to mention, correcting answer scripts. Sometimes, correcting multiple bundles each consisting of 50 or more scripts becomes one hell of an arduous task. But then, you just have to read a few answers and you'll soon find yourself ROTFLYAO. For this is what happened to me when I was assigned to correct the Std. VI G.K. answers scripts. Here goes an assorted collection of the hilarious (and definitely wrong) answers.

Question: Who is the poet who has written "The Brook"?
Correct Answer: Lord Tennyson.
Answer(s) written: Kalidas, Tenny Lord, W.E.Yeast.

Question: Who is the Prime Minister of India?
Answer(s) written: He should not have murdered anybody, Man Mohan "Sing"

Question: Who had written the song Vande Mataram?Correct Answer: Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay.
Answer(s) written: Bumpkin Chandra Chattopadhyay.

Question: The pink city of India.Correct Answer: Jaipur.
Answer(s) written: Kolkata.

Question: The white continent.Correct Answer: Antarctica.
Answer(s) written: Asia.

Question: ESPN stands for?Correct Answer: Entertainment Sports Programming Network.
Answer(s) written: Entertainment Sports Production Network, Entertainment Sports Peculiar News.

Question: The grandchild of the first PM of India was a PM himself. Who was he?
Answer(s) written: R.N.Tagore, Rahul Mahajan.

Question: This is an extinct bird.Correct Answer: Bald Ibis.
Answer(s) written: Bald idlis.

Question: The full form of LPG.Correct Answer: Liquid Petroleum Gas.
Answer(s) written: Long Petroleum Gas.

Question: www stands for?Correct Answer: world wide web.
Answer(s) written: world wild web (err… how wild?).

Question: The national tree of India.Correct Answer: Banyan tree.
Answer(s) written: Cactus.

Question: The author of the Harry Potter series.Correct Answer: J.K.Rowling.
Answer(s) written: J.K.Roland, J.K.Rolling, J.K.Howling.

Question: IMF stands for--Correct Answer: International Monetary Fund.
Answer(s) written: International Memory Fund, Internal Municipal Fracture.

Question: The author of the novel "Devdas"Correct Answer: Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay.
Answer(s) written: Yash Johar (ahem!!!).

Question: The real name of Munshi Premchand.Correct Answer: Dhanpatrai Srivastav.
Answer(s) written: Munshiram Premchand Gandhi.

Question: This flower is also called the “Lion’s Tooth”.Correct Answer: Dandelion.
Answer(s) written: Daddy Lion.


Saturday, July 08, 2006

Of Suitcases and Love.

Finding a love mate is pretty much like buying a suitcase.

One fine evening you visit a particular shop, look around and suddenly spot a particular suitcase you just can’t take your eyes off. You survey it trying to look intelligent and experienced, as if you have been buying suitcases all your life. You check on the quality, the material, the color, the durability. You tend to assess its reliability. You tend to take your best friend’s opinion. You suddenly imagine making a world tour, proudly showing it off. You check on the company. You check on the warranty period. You check on the price tag and are left in a dilemma. You know that it’s too expensive for you to afford. Yet you simply cannot bear the thought of leaving the shop without it.

You leave the shop, yet you can’t let the thoughts of the suitcase leave your mind. You try in vain to forget all about it, deciding that you could do with a less expensive one. After all, all you need to carry are a few clothes and a few books. You go to sleep deciding that you are better off without that particular one. Yet the very next morning, the thoughts of that particular one keep coming back and haunting you.

You have two options henceforth.

1st option: You spend a month making market surveys to find out reasons why you could do without it, doing everything to take your mind off that one. At the end of a month, you decide that you could not handle the pain anymore. What’s the use of such a life if you cannot afford a suitcase of your choice? Determined, you wear your best clothes, take out some extra cash from the bank, look your most confident self, and enter the shop, only to find the suitcase gone. Some customer had bought it a few days back. And no, there’s no second one of that particular model available, though the shop has been freshly stocked with hundreds of other ones with different colors and materials and designs, many of far superior quality and may be cheaper prices. Yet that one particular model is gone. You ask in vain if there would be fresh stocks arriving soon. Yet at the back of your mind, you know that it’s gone. Forever.

2nd option: You get impulsive, take out money from the bank the very next morning, go to the shop and buy it. You still don’t know if it’s worth the money and if you could strike a better bargain. Yet you are past caring. You have what you wanted, and that’s all that matters to you.

Now substitute the word suitcase with a man. It sometimes (though on very rare occasions) happens that you suddenly like a particular man for some particular reason, even if you people haven’t known each other very well. You know it doesn’t really make sense. Yet you suddenly feel a certain chemistry, a certain force of attraction, and every single man in the room ceases to shrink into being non existent for you. You know that this is crazy and that you are not really equipped to handle a relationship at this point of time. You aren’t sure if you are doing the right thing. So you keep analyzing the situation left and right, up and down. You try to find out umpteen reasons why it could end up in a disaster. You are scared of getting hurt. You have reached the age when you stop believing in love and you know that it is just one of the many routine processes you have to perform in life, culminating into marriage and kids and whatever. I mean a lot many people marry without love and then get used to the situation. You don’t really need to fall for anyone, let alone a person you have hardly known, at this point of time.

1st option: You spend your nights thinking and analyzing and finding ways to overcome the pull. You know this might not be the right thing to do knowing that you might always end up hurt. Your priorities are different. You don’t really need the unwanted hassles of relationships. You wait for him to make the first move since despite your modern thoughts, you don't think its appropriate for the lady to make the first move. You convince yourself of these facts for 29 nights. On the 30th morning, you dress up all prim and proper, ready to convey your feelings. You meet him over lunch. You guys get to talk and he excitedly tells you how he met a girl in the same party he met you a month back and how they got to be friends and how they are thinking seriously about things. Wham!!!! You see your dreams shattering into a million fragments and disappearing. Even the thought of having spent 29 nights pondering over it seems like a waste now.

2nd option: You decide to get impulsive and confront him. You aren’t worried about the outcome. Even if the answer is going to be a no, you would at least not spend further time and waste your energy thinking about the whole issue. And if it turns out to be a yes, then nothing better. You know that he isn’t a many things you want, and he is many a things you don’t want. Yet nothing really matters anymore.

We are always facing this dilemma in life, undecided about things. Most of the time, we don’t state things clearly. If we did, we could have saved ourselves from heartbreak. Yet we decide to keep things to ourselves and take our own sweet time to come up with a conclusion we should have come to months back. The possibility of getting a thing or not getting it always remains. Yet this way, we somehow increase the probability of not getting a particular thing we wish to have. And live to regret our actions (or the lack of it).

Maybe I need to take a lesson out of this post and talk to him soon. After all, I don’t really wish to increase my chances of hearing a no. I know this is crazy, but sometimes you have to get out of that logic-mode and let impulses take over.

I’ll meet him and talk to him on Monday after school. Wish me luck. I’ve just realized that I cannot do without he knowing about it.

I've never felt this impulsive about things. I need his help now. I’ve finally realized that I just cannot do without the deep blue Gior Dano cabin bag I’d seen in that showroom at Esplanade last week. Never mind the fact that it's exorbitantly priced. And the salesman of the showroom should be the first person to know this. Don't you think so?