One Life Many Lessons. . .
One Life Many Lessons. . .11 mins 423 11 mins 423
It's 9:40 of night and already late for dinner.
Subham left remote of Tata Sky on the centre table and pulled himself off the corner sofa, he was sitting on for last one and half hour and flipping the channels from movies to music, from cricket to 'kon banege crorepati' and from news to Netflix only not to find anything worth sticking to.
Feeling terribly hungry, he motioned to the dining space. There is nobody in the kitchen. He was a bit surprised as he expected Shreya there in. She must be busy doing something in the study.
“Let me look for her. . . “. Subham thought and called her. . . . “Shreya a a . .“. . .
“You idiot . .!! . “Answer came from the study.
“An unusual response by the way. . “. Subham was both surprised and irritated.
He amplified his pitch and volume. “Shreya a a a . . won’t we have dinner tonight. . ??”
“You stupid and illiterate fellow . .!!.” – came out of the study and got dumped inside the ears of Subham.
“What the hell!!. .” Subham was angry by now. Already they are late for dinner; empty stomach makes him restless and impatient. Moreover, Shreya is uttering nonsense. He struggled to control his rage.
And then there was T – 0. Followed by the lovely and caressing words coming out of the Study!!!
“You deserve a tight slap on your face; you moron of a first order!!“
Subham breached the last level of his patience and yelled at Shreya from dinning to the fullest by putting every single muscle of his vocal cord in all out action -
“WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?. . I AM SIMPLY CALLING YOU FOR DINNER and WHY THE HELL ARE YOU ABUSING ME FOR NOTHING??. . . WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO YOU ??. . . . “Subham stopped. His face was red. His dry throat needed some water and lungs needed some oxygen.
Then door of the Study opened. . Curtain raised. . . lights of the study went off . . . . and . . . . came Shreya out of the room; with a bunch of full scale papers in her hand and mix of disgust and disappointment, agony and anxiety, pain and vulnerability in her face. She was about cry out loud.
“Oh Gosh . . .!!”. Now Subham could understood why Shreya was behaving abnormally. His anger disappeared in no time. She was checking the answer sheets of the final exams of her school and the reason she was uttering such chosen words was because of the gems and jewellery scattered by her students all over the answer sheets.
Subham started laughing. Shreya finally gave away. She rested her head on the barrel chest of Subham and collapsed inside the secured shelter of his athletic structure.
This silent hug of few seconds communicated many things. Their love for each other, their mutual respect for each other and most importantly their commitment for each other.
Shreya and Subham are a double income no kid gen X urban family with a specious apartment inside a South Kolkata society and with a heart inside the apartment. They spent their adulation in 90’s and now that are at their early forties. They have access to the modern amenities, but, feet strongly at ground. They have money but they know what money can’t buy. In short, they are kind of affluent in today’s terms with strong middle class values inherited, preserved, practiced and cherished with pride.
Shreya spoke slowly while dinning. Frustration is clearly audible in her voice. “Why these kids don’t study at home and why their parents don’t even care?. . I put so much of hard work and effort in every class!!”. .
Subham kept quiet for few more seconds and spoke softly. “Why don’t you quit the job? You can’t change anything in Govt schools with so much of students stuck together and with such limited and inadequate infrastructure. Why to take so much of unnecessary stress. I am earning much more than required.“
Shreya did not reply. May be, she is trying to come to terms with the idea of quitting her job.
They finished off their dinner quietly and came out of their apartment for an evening (night!!) walk. They exercise this practice nightly. Their society is adequately secured by six ft walls running across all four sides and security arrangement at entrance. Also, there is enough open space for walking and running with plenty of greens grown and maintained neatly. A fancy swimming pool adds to the ambience.
“Yes. You are right”. Shreya broke her silence while walking. There is really no point in taking so much of grind and putting myself into unnecessary torture”. Subham touched the shoulder of Shreya, but, did not insist anything.
“I would travel two hour daily in crowded local train. I would take six sessions a day with hundred plus students in every class. I would prepare question papers of three class for four exams a year and check the papers. I would check hundreds of papers of 10th and 12th board exams for a paltry sum. I would teach in class rooms even without a ceiling fan in scorching heat of May. Sometimes, there is not even proper arrangement for drinking water in the school.” Shreya goes on and on in counting the reasons for not continuing with her job.
These are utterance out of frustration. Subham knows how much she loves her school.
“She needs time and I have all of that”. He thought. “Such decisions should not be taken at emotionally unstable condition.”
It is 1: 00 am. Shreya is still awake. Subham is in deep sleep. He is an early riser and a fitness freak.
She came out of the bedroom slowly without making any noise and reached the study. She put on the lights and opened answer sheet that made her go crazy few hours back. The name of the boy is Arka; She could recollect his face.
A last bencher of class XI. Very poor in English; in fact very poor in every subject. Master in creating ruckus in class. This boy is infamous amongst the teachers and a matter of discussion in the staff room for his disobedience and unruly behaviour.
But, he is very strong and stout with a height nearing six feet. May be, this is the reason, he used to be favourite punching bag of Ashok Sir, maths teacher of XI and XII. There would not be a single session, where Ashok Sir has not beaten him up left right and centre with his stick for not being able to solve simplest of the equations, which any ways, was quite usual for Arka, considering his love for studies!! Especially that for maths.
Surprisingly, Arka would be the first person to come to staff room at every Teacher’s Day and seek blessings from Ashok Sir.
Shreya refreshes her memory. Ashok Sir was in the verge of retirement. Few month back, he had a cardiac arrest in the school itself. Since, the school was located a bit away l from locality, Head Sir and others struggled to arrange for a vehicle and Ashok Sir was shivering with excruciating pain in his chest in the staff room. Everybody was trying to comfort him with water etc, but nothing worked and pain kept on increasing. He was struggling terrifyingly to get his breathing and was sweating like anything.
Then Arka came in rescue. He along with two more back benchers of 11th, stopped a car on the road forcibly and rushed Ashok Sir to the nearby hospital. Arka saved the day.
Shreya recalled the chain of events of that fateful day and thought. . . "What is more important!! saving the life of a person or scoring high in exams!!. There is five hundred odd students in 11th and 12th in the school. None of them came for help other than Arka; not even the favourites of Ashok Sir, who are good at maths.
Arka might have got the equations of maths book wrong but he has got the equation of heart absolutely right.
“Can’t I teach this equation of humanity to other students as well!!” Shreya thought.
She took out the answer paper of another boy, which, she has already checked. His name is Ravi and he has managed to get almost fifty percent of the spellings wrong in his paper.
“What a Genius!!!”. Shreya thought. She takes one session every week in the class of this boy scheduled immediately after the tiffin break.
And invariably Ravi would be late by fifteen to twenty min at every session. Shreya scolded and warned him for two consecutive sessions and then stopped allowing him in class from the third week; since, scolding did not change his habit of late coming.
Shreya could remember every bit of the encounter she had with Ravi at station one day.
On that day, she left early from the school as her parents were scheduled to come to their place.
While waiting for the train in the station, she could locate Ravi in platform of the other side. He was selling tea in a tea stall. Ravi too saw her and tried hard not to get noticed by Ma’am . But, Shreya has already spotted him, waved at him and called him loudly. Ravi crossed the foot over bridge to come and meet her Ma’am with a lot of hesitation and reluctance.
“So, this is why you always get let in class after tiffin breaks. Why have not you told this to me?”. Ravi struggled to answer; he was looking at his own feet trying hard to avoid an eye contact with Ma’am. He told “ Ma’am, I thought you or Head Sir will stop my work in tea stall if you come to know about this.
Shreya kept quiet for a while and asked him further “but, why you are bunking classes for selling tea.”
By then, Ravi was a bit comfortable and revealed his heart out. “Ma’am, my parents had died of accident years back and I and my brother are staying at our uncle’s house since then. I have to do odd jobs in my uncle’s house in return of that favour.
But, two moth back, he told me that, he can afford education of only one - either me or my brother. Since, my brother is good in studies, I have requested my uncle to take care of his studies and I have decided to manage mine by myself, before I finally quit it after 12th and focus on my brother’s studies”.
Shreya struggled to say Ravi anything else other than “GOD bless you” at that point of time. The train is approaching. She would feel the vibration and shrill sound of horn inside her heart.
Now, while sitting in the study, with the answer sheet of Ravi in her hand, Shreya kept on thinking, who is to be blamed, if Ravi can’t continue his study and more importantly, what she could do in her capacity to ensure that, he continues.
“Yes. . There is no fan in the class room. . . yes. . . there is hectic local train ride. . . . yes. . . there is herd of indisciplined and unruly students. .. Yes. . there is so many valid reason for me to quit my job. . . But. . . but. . . There is a few valued reasons for me to continue as well.” Shreya thought.
While sharing her night out at study with Subham and her realisation thereafter, in morning, Shreya found her hubby smiling meaningfully and told her – “Whatever your decision is, I am with you”. Shreya needed just as much.
She would rush for the school with renewed energy and enthusiasm.
Like other days, she found - that old woman standing near the left side of the exit of railway station and smiling at her.
But, she does not have the steel bowl in her hand today.
She is a beggar; may be, deserted by children and family. She is beggar, but, with a difference.
Her saree is torn in places but clean; she has got a smile in her face and always blissful with whatever she gets. This could be the reason, she always gets more than others.
Shreya always gives her a ten or twenty rupee note whenever she asks for. She has heard that, this woman procures rice with the alms she gets daily and feeds around half a dozen of homeless children one time a day. This is why Shreya always tries to help her some time even with a fifty rupee note.
Since, she was very happy today, took out a hundred rupee note and tried to hand it to the woman. But, she refused and told that, “I have not come for money today.
“Then what!!!” Shreya caught by surprise.
“I have come to invite you to my place on Vijaya Dashami”. She continued.
“You keep on giving me money which helps me immensely in feeding the children. Now, I want them to see you and meet with once. .. and . . . . and. . .
“. . and what . . . ?”. I asked.
Old woman kept on fumbling. Then she folded her hands and finally could gather strength to utter
“ . . . and . . . and. . . I want you to have a plate of rice and dal with the children on the eve of Vijaya Dashami”.
Shreya did not even try to control her tears. A lump seems to have choked her throat. She was not in a position to utter a single word. Only shook her head in affirmation, holding the hands of the elderly woman.
Finally she could calm down and compose herself.
This is her India. . . they are her people. . Who is she to refuse this invitation . . . This is not an invitation for a plate of rice. . This is invitation for getting elevated from ‘me’ to ‘us’. . . from ‘self’ to ‘selfless’. . . . from ‘wait for a change’ to ‘be a change’. . .
She took out her smart phone and dialled Subham. .
“Hello. . What happened? Calling in odd time?” He asked.
Shreya was in full mood. She told “I called you to tell you what I have told myself today”
Subham: “What is that?”
Shreya: “Madam!!! There is a lot to teach . . . and. more importantly. . . there is a lot to learn. . . “.