“Wherever you go and whatever ends you pursue, you must always fulfil the trust reposed in you by your nation, your parents and your alma mater.”Samar Mubarakmand
I read these lines and sauntered into a once familiar territory for the day’s call of duty. With each step I took to close the gap between the main entrance and the central precinct, my past and my present played hide and seek with me. “Life, indeed, has come full circle for you, Mr. Reyansh Acharya,” I thought to myself, and chuckled with a sense of fulfilment and pride.
As I crossed the huge playground, I noticed the small yet significant changes; there was now a football net at one end of the ground. Suddenly, I felt jealous of the kids being able to have access to it, but soon this envy was replaced by pity as I recalled how a group of ingenious friends and I had come up with ideas for a makeshift net in order to satiate our football obsession and our stubbornness on wanting to play the game, despite the lack of proper resources. Those were the times when we had bonded and really got around to knowing each other, rather than during those hours and hours within the four walls of our classroom.
Sighing, I turned towards the building and was about to start climbing its stairs, when a graceful lady, dressed in a grey saree which she had paired with a plain white blouse, walked up to me from an office room inside the building and asked curiously, “Are you Reyansh Acharya, the school inspector?”
I nodded, and immediately her body language became stiffer and more controlled, like those of children around their teachers. Yes, I was aware of what my presence demanded, but I did not enjoy this guarded behaviour; it immediately made me doubt the other person’s genuineness. She extended her hand for a greeting and I shook it firmly as she introduced herself and said, “I am Kavita. I’ll be your guide today as you inspect the students, classrooms and the school.”
Only half listening to her gushing remarks about how their school was privileged to have me and what their plan was for my visit, I observed the building from inside and followed behind her as she led me on to what I assumed was our first classroom visit.
Oh! They still had the small idol in the middle; it looked upgraded though, with a bigger garland and also a lot more décor than required! ‘You’re not here to inspect the interiors,’ I reminded myself as Kavita said, “We have a class activity going on in grade 4. That’s where we’re going first.”
Wondering what kind of activity children of such a small age would be doing during their class hours, I entered the first classroom for the day, closely following Kavita. The entire classroom looked like a movie set, or rather a kid’s birthday celebration setup. They surely didn’t do such things when we had been students. Ignoring the inappropriateness I felt regarding such a teaching setup, I asked the teacher to continue with her class after the round of introductions with the teacher and the students had been done. Kavita told me kids were learning about fictional characters from a recent book they had all read. That perked up my interest! I observed how each of them talked enthusiastically about the books and the characters, answering questions from other students and even asking their own to their classmates and even the teacher.
I was intrigued by the activity, so I asked one of the students who seemed to be dressed like Winnie-the-Pooh, “Hello, is Pooh your favourite character?” His eyes went all twinkly as he replied enthusiastically, “Yes, sir. Winnie loves honey and so do I. His friends Eeyore, Tigger, Piglet, Rabbit, Owl, Gopher, Kanga, and Roo, remind me of my friends and how we always do everything together.” I smiled at his innocence and ruffled his hair lovingly.
Hearing his reasoning, I couldn’t help recalling my own favourite characters like Feluda and Sherlock, whose wit and observant nature had actually been the inspiration behind my career choice. Kavita soon told me it was time for us to move on to the next class. I waved a goodbye and got an unanimously synchronized and enthusiastic wave from the students of grade 4 as I walked out. Ah! The innocence of childhood. What wouldn’t we give to get it all back!?
I was brought out of my reverie as Kavita said, “Reyansh sir. We’ll now be going to grade 7. They’re having a Maths class right now in our Math lab. I hope you like numbers and calculations.” She chuckled and led the way as I dreaded what was to come.
As we entered the next classroom, the first thing I noticed were the huge geometrical shapes hung up on the walls. Well, that’s surely declaring what this room is! The teacher was saying, “Okay, so now are we clear on whether this is an obtuse angle or an acute one?” The class nodded a visibly excited yes and I wondered (for the umpteenth time during my lifetime so far) why this subject was a panic-causer for me.
After I was introduced, I went to the back of class, prepared to be bored. As Kavita took the seat next to me, she asked, “Do you not like this subject?” which led me to pour out some vented feelings. I said, “‘Not like’ would be an understatement. This subject gave me nightmares of the kind I still haven’t recovered from.” She laughed and caused a few students to turn towards us with inquiring looks. I coughed as a way to apologize and focused on my work.
It seemed like all students felt the complete opposite of what I had felt as a student. They were enjoying the class. They were not only answering questions, but were also asking a lot of questions. When the teacher took a little pause, I asked one of the students, “Do all of you love this subject? May I know why you all look so engrossed?” Looking a little surprised at such a question, a teenager replied, “It’s the way she teaches. And also, all the boys secretly have a crush on her.”
I chuckled as I recalled my own ‘teacher crush’ and how during her classes even I had pretended to like the subject, and had in fact strived to score the highest marks in the subject. It had been a competition among us boys to become her favourite student. Oh! To be a teenager in love with a teacher, I thought fondly as we walked out of the Maths lab.
Kavita immediately said we would be taking a break now. They had a small meal plus an interactive session of sorts planned for all the teachers and admin staff to get to know me and vice-versa. As I followed Kavita, I noticed a few students coming out of their class, probably taking a loo break. One of them seemed to be overtly happy as he said, “Did you see his face when I asked that question? He obviously didn’t expect us to know more than him.”
Smiling to myself, I made my way, lost again in childhood and school-time memories that circled only around this campus, its classrooms, playground and the teachers.
I missed the gaiety, innocence and simple pleasures drawn out of reading, learning, playing, hating and loving some subjects, crushing on some teachers, or even pulling some of them down. But I was also grateful for it all, as it had made me the person I am today.