A young man goes back to school and remembers his favourite English teacher…
The warm summer morning is buzzing with energy. The school’s morning assembly is over and children have just gathered in the classroom. Two boys exchange slaps and punches as the rest of the class cheers them on. Except this one boy (our well-read hero, hereon referred to as A), who lifts his head from a textbook, gives the fighting boys a disgusted look, glances at the wall clock and goes back to his book. It is three minutes to eight. He doesn’t have much time. The reading quickens, almost in sync with his pulse. She could be here any minute now.
“What on earth is going on here?”
His ears twitch the moment he hears that voice. His eyes follow suit, shooting up toward his forehead, eagerly searching for that face. His head moves slowly – almost deliberately – to the object of his attention. There she is, standing right at the door – arms balled into fists, both resting bossily on her hips. The class is suddenly very quiet. The two budding wrestlers now stand with their eyes firmly locked on their shoes. Our hero, meanwhile, has eyes just for her.
“Early morning brawl, huh? Perhaps you two could use some more space.”
She advances on the two troublemakers. He keeps his eyes firmly on her. In a lime green sari, she is a sight to behold. Angular face, sharp features and large almond eyes – framed by short hair that curls inward just above her shoulders. Peering through the wayfarer spectacles perched on her nose. Oh, and that matching bindi. If Audrey Hepburn had an Indian sister, this is what she would look like. She turns into the row and walks straight towards him. He’s hoping she’ll catch him looking at her. But she just shuffles past, leaving behind a scent trail of Johnson’s Baby Powder.
“Off you go! First bench!”
The miscreants have been packed off to new locations in the class. The loose end of her sari has been tucked around her waist in the process. He can’t help but marvel at the perfection in her walk as she struts back to the front of the class.
“All right, we’ve wasted enough time. Turn to Chapter Three – Damon and Pythias. Who wants to read it out to us today?”
Hands shoot up like arrows being released at a General’s command. Students from the first bench to the last scramble up and down, pleading loudly to be chosen. She ignores the chaos and calmly scans the crowd. The boys refuse to be discouraged by the stiff competition. Everyone wants to be the one to read in her class. Our hero folds his left arm across his chest and calmly raises the right as her scanning eyes approach. He sits up straight and looks right at her. Her gaze reaches him and moves on. Then suddenly, she stops. Her gaze comes back to him.
“A… why don’t you read for us?”
He picks up the book, stands up promptly, and nods at her. “Sure, Miss!” Still brimming with happiness at being chosen, he clears his throat, and starts reading. “A young man, whose name was Pythias had done something which the tyrant Dionysius did not approve of. For this offence…” He finished reading the first paragraph and looked at her. It was customary that the next paragraph would be read by another student, and the next one by yet another, until the story ended. She looks at him – a quizzical, almost amused expression on her face.
“You’re reading the entire chapter today”, she says with a smile.
His tongue almost melted in his mouth. He couldn’t believe his luck. Here he was, chosen among 60 others to read an entire story to the class. He starts reading again, “Pythias said, “Couldn’t I just go home to tell my family what happened, and get ready before I am execute’6d?” But the king…” With every word he read aloud, he loved the story a little more. By the time he was done with it, he knew he wouldn’t like any other story in the book as much as this one.
“Well done, A! That was a mighty good reading! Alright, kids, that’s all for today.”
Next day in school, he’s waiting for her to enter the classroom. There’s a flash of white and he looks up just in time to catch the school principal walking in. No one says a word. Everyone’s wondering what they did wrong. He tries to remember if he had made any mistakes the previous day. Nope, none that he could think of.
“Miss D won’t be teaching you English anymore.”, says the Principal with a stern face. Moments after, he’s smiling broadly. “You see, Miss D is getting married and moving to Bombay. Let’s have a round of applause for her!”
She walked in as the class burst into applause. The only one not clapping was A. He couldn’t believe what was happening. With a broad smile on her face, she started speaking. He couldn’t hear a thing. She stopped speaking, and the silence was greeted by another round of applause. He still couldn’t register a thing. There was a flash of fiery orange as she turned. Suddenly, he shouted, “Goodbye, Miss D!” Amidst the loud claps, he went unheard. She stopped at the door, turned once, and blew a kiss at the class. For a brief moment, she caught his eye. The applause was growing louder. He raised a hand to wave goodbye, but she was gone already.
Happy Teacher’s Day, Miss D.