While summarizing my entire trip to Kolkata, this is one moment that takes the cake. This morning, I visited my old school, my first job ever months after I had finished my masters. Readers who have followed my blogs during 2005-2006 know how much the school meant to me. I would regale tales of interesting (and sometimes not so interesting) episodes of what happened at school, with my colleagues, the kids, and even their parents.
After almost four years, I visited my old school. Even as I got off the metro and started to walk the 10 minutes stretch towards the building, I could feel reliving my old life again, when I used to walk that stretch at 7am everyday. Donning a saree or a traditional salwar suit, dupatta in place and all, I would be ready by 6am every morning, 5 days a week, happily taking the metro. Not a single day had felt monotonous or filled with drudgery. I used to be a mass of high energy, smiling and running about with the attendance register at 7:30 am sharp. At 24, I was the second youngest teacher in my school.
I left that life I so very loved for two reasons. First, it paid me peanuts, and unless I was contemplating marrying a banker or a software engineer minting money in Kolkata, I had no chances of doing well financially. Secondly, I had already set my mind (and heart) on getting a taste of America ever since I had entered the masters program and realized I wouldn’t be doing anything worthwhile if I continued to live in Kolkata. The job was a fortuitous accident.
Back to the present, it was an amazing experience to visit school again. I didn’t really get to meet the students I taught because they are all (thankfully) out of school now. But being a small school, I remember the face of every kid from junior classes I did not teach. My shock came when I saw the same faces on much taller bodies now. The kids I last saw in classes 4 or 5 are now preparing for boards, and have doubled in height. Some of them recognized me and smiled shyly, but I had come at a wrong time when the kids were getting ready to go home. I am surely going to be back in school again to meet them all.
The teachers were as shocked seeing me as I was seeing the kids, this time due to breadth issues and not height issues. Thanks to the way people socially conduct themselves in India, no one made a secret of their shock in seeing me look much “broad” than what I used to be. One of the teachers actually told me what the kids had told them 4 years ago, that they liked me because I was not old and not fat. I could laugh out loud at their innocence, knowing well that probably every teacher they have had was old, stern looking, obese, and taught them in an extremely boring slash soporific way or gave them lots of homework.
I received a grand reception from the teachers and my principal. I sat there for hours in the staff room, chatting about old times. Even the new teachers knew my name, so much they had heard of me. They told me about school, asked me how my life was, and even told me that I had not changed a bit (except for my breadth of course). I was made to sit in the same chair I used to, and it felt like going back in time and living all those moments you had spent teaching, correcting, laughing, arguing, and enjoying. I remember how I used to call G almost every day then, animatedly regaling everything that had happened in school that day. G was in B-school then and am sure barely understood my reason for excitement at how a kid had cleaned his hand using my dupatta or had discovered some weird law of multiplication to get an answer that matched the answer at the back of the math book. Later in life, I have worked as a toxicologist, at a much higher pay scale, attending conferences and preparing scientific reports (though the term sounds more fancy that it actually is). But my teaching job still remains (and shall always remain) my favorite.
So I decided to go back to school to teach, and to volunteer helping the teachers with the exams before the school closed for summer vacation. Of course this would mean waking up early and reaching school by 7:30 am everyday. But I have decided, much to the disappointment of my mother who feels I should relax at home and enjoy my vacations, that I am going to spend my time doing something I really love to do, even if it is just for a few weeks and doesn’t pay me anything. My incentive doesn’t lie in earning a few thousand rupees here. It lies in doing something I really love to do, and to get back to the routine of a regular job.
I’ll always love being a teacher. I know this for sure, given the way I felt living through every happy emotion once again in those few hours I visited school. So this blog will hopefully see a few interesting posts on how the children behave themselves in class and during the exams next. I am all smiles.