The day promised to be long. Heck, her class to start the day. He missed last year’s class. No one claimed his attention. No one insisted he bring his book. He could conveniently and silently slumber, mentally. Play games, lose himself in a whole game, playing at multiple terminals. He had even wondered if he should simply not put in any effort his mother pushed him to, in order to pass. But there were limits to how much his imagination could rule. Reality had to intrude.
And, so, a new class. A new person, the same though, each day, to begin. He knew her. He knew how tenacious she could be. And that she’d allow nothing to escape her eagle eye. He gave himself up to the certain knowledge that she’d zero in on him, and make life difficult. He’d have to live, real-time.But he was pleasantly surprised. She smiled at him, and left him alone, to do as he wished, in the second last bench, then the last one, and then, as his turn at the front benches rotated, the first, second, third, and yet again, to the second last. Not a peep out of her, as a week and yet another half passed. He heaved a sigh of relief, and moved on, day-dream-wards.
Till that day, a month ago. Suddenly, out of the blue, she summoned him to the first bench, away from his comfort zone. She spoke often, directly, to him. She kept his mind zinging, ensuring that he needed to concentrate, directing sudden questions at him, to gauge his understanding. He had to participate. No matter that he could not relate, or could not give that satisfactory response, she’s put words into his mouth.
Still he resisted. He’d come unprepared. She let him prepare. She’d give him space to make his assignments complete, she’d give him leeway, and not call his parents when he knew she had to, in order to keep her sanity at least. Unwelcome and grudging though it was, he was beginning to respect the way in which she persevered, badgered and coerced without him knowing, it seemed.
Till last week, Thursday, when a perverse streak in him surfaced, yet again, and he came with studied nonchalance, his work incomplete. It had to be her bad hair day. He never knew when the swift rapier sharp words hit, but he found himself in detention. A phone call was made, to his father, who gladly agreed to have his son stay back. She had assured his father she’d drop him home. No escape.
Sullenly he waited after school, watching his friends leave. Friends? Ha! How could they just leave? She called him, and asked him to wait in class, leaving a small package for him. Eat, she said, and I’ll join you in five minutes. He opened the packet. A vegetable puff and a cutlet. Wow. And boy! Was he hungry! He made short work of it, and wondered how he could continue to stay mad at her. He had to try though. It did very little for his self-respect to suddenly be pliant and willing. But what could he do other than just wait it out?
She came in, suddenly, briskly, asked him to sit. Opening his book to show her what he’d done, he quavered, wondering how he was going to word his half hearted apology. He felt he owed it to her, for her concern about the state of his stomach at least. She knew fourteen-year-old boys, that he realized.
Out of the blue, she asked him about his daily routine, his tuition classes, the subjects he liked, and did not, and the general methodology of his learning pattern; what he’d liked to do, if he didn’t have time to come school, or the desire to. They spoke in his mother tongue, and did not study a word, or write, or read. They simply talked. Again, grudgingly he acknowledged her ability to do just what he never thought she would. She was a wily one. He’d have to up his guard some more. However, in the course of simply sharing simple things, he managed to let slip a lot of closely held secrets. How self-conscious he was. How he hated to be laughed at, and how the others in class would, knowing this. How he could not get along with most of the boys. How he hated to ask for help.
How an hour fled, he did not realize. Then, in a couple of minutes, his father was there, to pick him up, having arranged it with his teacher. She spoke to him, suggested a few things, patted him on his back, and did not ask anything else of him, other than he commit himself to being better, because no one else could, for him. Hearing it from her, it made that difference. He’d almost decided to forgive her.
Till yesterday. When he got summarily thrown out. He’d pushed the limits of the Devil’s patience. He smirked at that memory. How apt! The analogy too. Though guilt tinged, and tingled where it should not, really. Nothing was complete for that day’s work, despite reminders.
So, there he was, reluctant to face her that day. More so as his work was complete and she’d know. In an about face, she did not ask him, or anyone. Instead, she got the whole class to do a written task, in class. Identifying about fifteen students, she asked for their work. He, of course, had to be one. Every now and then, she’d glance his way, and nudge, with her expression, in a manner that only he could make out. He gave her full marks for discretion. He did not want to, but then, he sighed, and did. They had to write about rains. He loved the rains, but he did not know what to write.
Half an hour passed. The bell rang. She collected the books and left. The books were returned an hour later. He didn’t open his book; he knew it would be bleeding. Her strokes were vicious, to him, each time she’d taken a look at his work. So what was new?
The last period came by, and he was in a hurry to go. Arranging his books to take home, he spied the note book. What the heck! he thought. I might as well get it over with, before Amma does. Cautiously he turned to the page. There! Red. Red. Red. But wait… seriously? Oh God! Really?
A fine attempt, she wrote. Try to write in paragraphs, and organize your points better.
Damn. For the first time, he understood that girly shampoo ad, that he laughed at all the time!
11 July 2013
Based, loosely, on a real time incident. Fictionalized appropriately. But of course 😛