Suya madam was the favorite of the entire school. She had done B Ed, and was preparing for NET. And of course, her name was Anusuya, which children of this primary school had shortened to Suya Madam. Girls wanted to look like her and often wondered what cosmetic did she use! She was tall and fair. Boys waited to run errands for her – bringing chalk or cleaning the board for her. Above all, she had a sunny temperament. Even little Parag looked at Suya madam with deep admiration – like a sun flower looking at sun steadily.
Parag, just about 9 and in class three, found it easier to talk in Suya madam’s class. She never crinkled her face and encouraged him to speak against all difficulties. She had no clue as to what these difficulties could be- all she understood was that if Parag was not interrupted and was given enough time, he used to complete his words. Fair enough. That is what she wanted, at the end of the day: whatever she taught, every child should be able to repeat it back to her, word for word.
But one day, things got out of hand. A little. Even though Suya madam knew every child by name – not only their name but the names of their fathers too, she asked the class to give their name in English. My name is so and so… For many students, it was tough: some gave their school’s name, some village and some said: My name is Suya madam!
When it was Parag’s turn, God knows what happened. He opened his mouth, looked up- then looked down and grabbed his pencil. Then dropped it- and looked up again. She followed his gaze. There was nothing on the roof! His face broke into a tectonic clash. Oh, Suya madam thought to herself, this was one of the Parag moments. She braced herself with a deep breath, a nice smile and said: Take your time, I am in no hurry. Then, she turned to the class and said loudly: SILENT, no one will laugh or else…
The class was silent. Minutes ticked by. Parag dealt with tectonic forces, upheaval of continents, crumpling of the earth crust… Geologic ages passed by. His face turned red- then almost blue. Finally, after ten minutes, he erupted: Paaaaaaaaaa Raaaaaa———-GH.
Suya madam congratulated him: Yes, you are Parag! And you are brave. Well done!
Then she turned to the next boy, and the next, and the next…
Parag was touched by the patience of the madam. He took another brave decision: I must say thank you to the madam after the class. When the class got over, Suya madam went off to staff room for lunch. Parag wondered if he should really thank her? – that too, in the staff room? But thanking is the right thing to do- isn’t it? This is what everyone- from his parents to teachers and even strangers- had told him. So, Parag rehearsed “Thank you” quietly in his mind- then, mimed it silently and then whispered it. It came out OK. He got up to go, full of his new-found confidence.
He stopped in the gallery and again repeated “Thank you, ma’am!” a few times. Finally, he edged closer to the staff room nervously and heard the teachers chatting away as they had their noisy meal hurriedly – interrupted by laughter. He pushed the door a little; he saw Suya madam standing in the middle of room, arms akimbo, and in the act of imitating – Oh no!
Yes, she was imitating him! Teachers were having a good laugh.
Parag heard someone calling his name but he turned and ran – as if he had seen a ghost. He kept running out of the school, till he came to the big Banyan. He wanted to get lost in the dark shadows of its gnarled branches and aerial roots. He crawled into the darkest patch. He was crying and no more frightened of the haunted tree. He had seen something more frightening and mysterious. Something which will haunt him for the rest of his life.
Ed: This is a creative re-creation of a true incident, as related by an adult pws to the author during a counseling session. Our purpose is not to demonize any profession. We just want to document the many ways in which we inflict enduring pain on each other out of ignorance. So that we become sensitive and educated. Thanks.