Team Name: Maximus Dramaticus
Read the 5th part Old Deeds come alive here
Today is Teachers Day
It has become fashionable on days like today to write status messages, forward what’s app notes and other stuff exalting the teaching profession. This is not necessarily bad. Even if it is for a day at least there is some buzz given to the teaching profession once a year. At least there is some acknowledgement to the role they play in forming a society.
Teaching is a profession that is not very sought after in our country (by and large). You won’t see too many upper middle class men saying that they wish to teach. For young women though it is considered an ideal profession as it is ‘convenient’ for the family.
As part of a recent research assignment that involved talking to teachers and students in government schools and colleges about status of teachers. I was disillusioned to find the following:
Teaching is not just a profession but a ‘calling’. It is in no way ‘lesser’ than a doctor or an engineer from IIT. It requires hard work and inexhaustible patience. It requires a loving heart and a desire to help, everyone!
Our ancient texts give ‘guru’ the highest position, putting a guru even before god. Sadly, but in the harsh modern world apart from a few elite institutions this is no longer the case. The profession has been mired – on the inside by teachers who do not really do justice to their work and on the outside by materialistic culture that puts money and power above everything else, even a ‘guru’.
There is an urgent need to correct this situation. A teacher who does not find dignity and take pride in his or her work is not going to be able to produce a generation that builds India into a superpower. Let us save our teachers, lets return them their respect, dignity and pride. Lets treat them with the reverence they truly deserve because in their hands lies our future.
PS: I also feel a bit piqued by messages and forwards that seem to suggest that all of us as mothers etc are teachers and thus the day is for all of us. I feel (maybe unjustifiably) that this attempt to widen the definition of a teacher somehow undermines what they do. All of us look after our children when they are ill do we send each other messages on Doctors day? A teacher is someone who has taken on the burden to b a guide to children who are complete strangers to him/ her. That is the beauty of it. To do this tiring, often ‘thankless’ job day in and day out for little people who are demanding/ often selfish/ and in no way related to you. Who will not in all probability bring you any extra reward or laurels, who will not take care of you when you are old and infirm , who will not take forward your family name. in short it is a labour of love. ‘Selfless’ love. Lets leave Teachers Day for them and not attempt to partake of their glory. We have our ‘Mothers days’ and ‘Fathers days’ and all the days in between
This is in continuation to the story written last week. The story began in response to a WOW prompt “And then I missed my train”. … The first part of the story was published on this blog. For those of you who missed it. Here is the link
But not all the teasing, the name calling, being branded a ‘coward’ or worse a ‘girl’ could get me to take the twelve-foot plunge. I have never accepted a challenge of drinking a bottle of beer in one breath or going up to a girl in the girls college next door and saying something flirty! Or even of throwing a chalk at Chaturvedi sir who used to teach us Hindi in class 11 and 12 when his back was turned towards us. I had never bunked a class and gone to the cinema or stolen money from the little tin box my mom keeps near the pooja area to buy some cigarettes.
In short I had never done anything out of the ordinary/ unexpected. And yet here I was recklessly taking off my apron and following this girl out of the door. I followed her onto the pavement. We walked silently together, me subtly leading the way. When we reached “Nathu’s dhaba” I stepped inside the shop. We walked past the shop front. One man sat on a stone platform in the corner, sweating over a large kadhai, from which emerged hot pooris. Two young boys sat cross-legged nearby rolling out the dough into perfect circles. Another young boy put the pooris into a woven bamboo basket and took them to the pot-bellied Nathu ji who sat lordlike behind the steel and glass counter kept on the other side of the shop front. From here he ladled his signature aloo subji into steel katoris and kept a sharp eye on the young boy as he carefully counted and kept six pooris in each plate. The waiters picked the ready ‘thalis’ and served them to the waiting customers. Ever so often Nathuji would put his hand into the electronically cooled glass counter and take out some milk cake. He weighed this carefully on the weighing scale kept on a table behind him and hand that over too to be served to a customer. He took a break from this only to count out the money that the waiter brought as customers finished their meal, paid up and returned burping and satisfied to their lives.
Unlike my cafe, the dhaba was almost full. We sat at the back on iron benches facing each other. A plastic table lay between us. A wall fan whirred near our heads but still could not drown out the noise of chatter and clinking of the utensils around us. I looked around and felt a bit ashamed. This was not the sort of place to bring a girl I thought. But then I used to bring Sonu here all the time. She loved the food. We always ate from the same plate. The first time I was conscious of the waiters shocked gaze and the sniggers as he pointed us out to his fellow waiters. But then I got used to it. It was intimate and pleasant and much cheaper. Extra pooris did not cost as much as an added plate! But then this was not my Sonu! Infact there was no ‘My Sonu’ anymore. Sonu had gotten married last month.
“Why did you let her get married to someone else?” Her question broke my reverie. I was ashamed. And a little bit angry. Why should she read my personal thoughts like this? It was not fair. “Sorry!” she said apologetically. Just then the waiter came asking for our order. Before I could say anything she said “One plate Aloo puri” to me she said “We will share!” I hadn’t expected this. She looked too sophisticated to be associating with the likes of me. Moreover I didn’t even know her name yet. “Gauri” She said. “That’s my name. Though now I am just called G. And I have no issues sharing a plate with you. If you don’t mind that is.” I kept quiet. I got the feeling that there was nothing to say. She seemed to know everything.
The food arrived. G dug in. I watched hesitantly. I felt shy to put my fingers in the katori she used. In answer to my thought she pushed the plate towards me. I took a tentative bite. But my mind was not on the food. “Who are you and how can you read my thoughts?” I asked silently. “ Let’s finish this and go somewhere quiet. I have a lot to tell you.” Replied G, aloud.
After a helping of extra pooris, G wanted some milkcake. I just wanted her to finish eating so I could know more about this mysterious woman. “Don’t be impatient she said with a laugh. One doesn’t get food like this every day! You eat some too” When we finished eating, I paid quickly and we made our way to an unkempt municipal garden located a small distance away.
G said, “Till two years back I lived in this world just like you. My father was an alcoholic and used to beat my mother every day. Tired of the unending beating one day my mother gave up. She ended her life. My brother too took to drinking and fell in bad company. He stopped coming home for days. That left only my father and me at home. It was hell. He lay in a drunken stupor all day. Whenever the effect of alcohol wore off he would start hurling abuses at me, throwing stuff and creating a ruckus. We were from a well off family and my mother had taught as a government teacher all her life. So there was enough saving for him to get his drinks. It was actually a relief when he would drink his quota again and pass off. I was a loner. Even though I went to college, I kept to myself and spoke to no one. “
“Then one day I met Uma in the library. Library was my favorite spot in the world. The silence of the books appealed to me. That day Uma approached me. “How are you Gauri?” She seemed to know everything about me. My drunk dad, my dead mom and my wayward brother. She could read my thoughts. It was unnerving at first. When she made me the offer, I thought about it. At first I was unsure even suspicious if it was some sort of a trick. But then I took it. “
“Offer? What offer?” By now I had become accustomed to not having the voice my thoughts. It was quite pleasant actually. To have someone who could read your mind. No need to say anything, explain oneself or play any games of social proprieties.
“The offer that I am going to make to you. But first the rules. You have to reply within twenty-four hours. You can not speak about this to anyone ever. Anyway if you do, no one will believe you. In fact they will think that you are crazy and lock you up in an asylum. Remember this chance comes to only a selected few and that too just once in their life time. If you do not accept the offer you will never get another chance ever. “
I had become nervous. My forehead was sweating profusely and I was sure my heart beats could be heard a kilometer away. I sensed that my life was going to change forever. Just how I wasn’t sure but I had no doubt that something significant was happening to me. I wanted to run away and never set eyes on this woman again. I wanted to stay and listen to every word she said. The fear and curiosity were tearing me apart.
“There is no point running away now. The offer has chosen you “
“But why me? “ I asked
“None of us know why we were chosen?”
“There are more? How many?”
“I am not sure. I have met about a hundred till now. There could be more, many more. We look ordinary just like any other person on the road. The only difference is that we can communicate with each other through our thoughts. “
“You can read my thoughts! Am I one of you already then?” I answered panicking somewhat.
“No , You are not. Though I can read your mind You can’t read my thoughts yet. You are a live contact. In fact you are my first live contact.”
Part III coming soon
And I missed my train…
I rushed to the railway station. Outside the jumble of auto rickshaws, horse carts, cycle rickshaws, passengers with big canvas bags presented a maze. As though by some magic I wove through them expertly. I sensed an extra sense within me as if the pull of G had filled my senses with an extra power. I sensed that the porter rolling his iron cart ladled with an odd assortment of trunks and suitcases followed by the fat woman with her two children would take a sudden turn and come directly in my course. I also somehow knew in advance that a boy would come running towards them and he would be forced to stop his rolling cart suddenly, throwing off the precariously placed luggage on the platform. With a sense of deja vu I watched the sequence of events unfold in front of my eyes. Could I really have known this would happen? Or was I just feeling this way in my excited state of mind?
I seemed to know exactly where platform eleven was supposed to be. Even though there were no signs to direct me. How could there be a sign the station had only eight platforms. Strange! you say! ya but then what about my meeting with G had not been strange?
I was a waiter in a cafe that sold everything from South Indian idlis to Punjabi Dal Makhani and American Burgers. I wasn’t proud of my job but one had to make a living and to do that this was as good a job as any. Born as the third child in a poor farmer’s family on the outskirts of Rajasthan does not give one too much choice in terms of careers. I had been bright and managed to finish high school. Then I had gone to the government college in the district headquarter. Wanting to study further but having no money I had been forced to come to Alwar. Here I had enrolled myself in MCom. and to make ends meet had taken up work as a waiter in a cafe in the main market area. Life was trudging along. It was not the life I wanted. Like everyone else my age I too craved for a white-collar job, a car, a small house of my own … dreams of a middle class existence, ordinary in every way.
The ordinariness of my existence makes what happened to me that day even more extra ordinary. Like always I was cleaning the cafe in the morning. Business is slow in the morning so there are only a couple of us on duty. Manohar and I are in charge of opening the shutters, dusting the tables, putting everything in order and serving the stray customers. Manohar was on leave so I was alone in the cafe. Nathuji, the assistant cook was there in the kitchen with a few of his cronies, shouting orders and obscenities, FM played on a transistor in the kitchen but only faint shreds of the music could be heard outside in the hall. Just then the bell that tinkles each time a customer pushes open the door, jingled. I looked up to see a young woman walk in. She looked around the hall for a waiter perhaps, on spotting me she smiled. I greeted her as I had been trained to do by the manager and pointed her towards a corner table. Then I hastened off to bring a glass of water and menu for my first customer of the day.
When I gave her the menu, she did not take it. “You tell me what to eat?” Oh! she was that type , I thought . The young and yuppie type that come into the cafe to sample something wonderful! Give me the local specialty types! Must be a tourist! I thought. Must have come to visit the sanctuary located a few kilometers away and wandered off to explore the local town! Something didn’t quite fit though. She didn’t have a camera though or the tell-tale bag behind her shoulders.
I rattled off a list of names of dishes… including almost everything on the menu, as I had been instructed to do. “Never tell a customer what is good. He will assume other things are bad.” was the dictum of the boss! “Keep your preferences out of the cafe.” He had said. If I were to be honest with her I would have told her that if she wanted to eat something really delicious she ought to go to the halwai in the by-street at the next turn. Nathu ji halwai, in the next by-street , served an amazing aloo subji with pooris that were truly awesome and his milkcake was something to die for.
“You want to come” she said, pushing back the chair she was sitting in to get up. “Come… me… where?” I stammered somewhat startled. “To the halwai on the next bystreet! the one who serves amazing subji , poori and milkcake!”
How did she know? Had I spoken aloud my thoughts? I looked around immediately. Just in case the manager had come in and heard the exchange. I would lose my job if he got to know that I had sent a customer somewhere else. “Don’t worry! she said. A slight mirth in her voice. You didn’t say anything. And by the way… I ma not a yuppie tourist and no, I am not here to go to the sanctuary. And though I don’t mind tasting some nice local delicacy that’s not the purpose I am here.”
I was stunned! Can this girl read my thoughts?
“Yes!” She said, smiling at the puzzlement on my face. “Now are you coming or not?” I really want to taste that milkcake!” I have looked back at that moment a million times in the last twenty-four hours. What made me take off the apron that was part of my uniform and rush behind her? I have never done a reckless thing in my life? I have never even jumped into the lake near my village. The one that has a cliff looming over it. Almost all the village boys did it. It was like a rite of passage. ..
To be continued…
Wow prompts always get me thinking so I sat down to write this story, but then life came in the way. I guess weekends are not as free for moms!!! So I am leaving this here. An unfinished story , to be completed soon. If it catches your fancy do come and look me up in a couple of days. It will be ready to serve and piping hot!
I have used a lot of Hindi words in this post. I have to dash off now but will come back to translate them for those who are not familiar with hindi.That’s a promise!! :)
There’s a part in my heart
that sings ding-a-ling-a-ling
it says it misses everything
the joy, laughter & friendly baits
hushed conversations, impatient waits.
There’s a part of my heart
that’s forever an optimist
it draws suns, rainbows and endless bridges
this part goes rap-a-tap-tapa-a-tap-a-tap
how bad can it be?
another chance another dance
this is the only life I have you see
I am holding down this part
stifling it making sure its never free
some black holes swallow
the brightest suns
and unlike what some wise men say
following ones heart doesn’t always pay.
There is my truth
And then there is yours
You believe in yours
Even though I know mine
Is the only one
Which one of us is lying
There is no one truth
Only what we believe
What we wish to believe
In this tussle
Of truth, beliefs and wishes
Wishes always win
Or maybe they always lose
I feel defeated.
There are days when everything seems wrong
There’s no solace in the sweetest songs
These days don’t come often
But when they do
Would you think me selfish god
If I come looking for you
You know me god
You know I am true
It’s just this
That I don’t often come to you
It’s not because I don’t believe
Infact it may be that
I believe too much in you
I believe you exist in everything
See everything I do
I hope today god
I hope my belief is true
Cause today is one of those days gods
One of the days I need you
Age is just a number
just a number is age
when we come into this world
there is nothing in our hand
our bond is with just one person
and that too a bond of dependancy
Growth is beutiful
except in cancer cells maybe
as we grow
our circle expands
to include so many more
liveliness, humility, generosity
friendship, honesty, loyalty
hard-work, ambition, perseverance
we develop relationships
Its a shame that modern man
has begun to look at age
The bent form
the wrinkled skin
the dullness of eyes
speaking of our accomplishments
All I say
is that when its time for me to go
I hope that I have
lived so fully
love so completely
laughed so heartily
cried so inconsolably
that the number I wear when I go
is no less to me
than an Olympic Gold!
This post is written in response to the prompt at the daily post “Age is just a number,” says the well-worn adage. But is it a number you care about, or one you tend (or try) to ignore?
A funny thing happened on my way to work
As I sat in my car rumbling and grumbling about the psycho boss
Who praised seldom and shouted a lot
I saw a neighbor dressed in khaki
Bidding goodbye to his young family
Will he come back one never knows
Where in comparison to him stand my ‘job woes’
A funny thing happened to me today
Just as I finished shouting at my little boy
He forgot his home work and scattered his toys
The news broadcaster spoke of a bus filled with boys
That slammed into a train fatally
I looked at the tear streaked faces of moms on TV
And wondered somewhat guiltily
Did they too shout on their little boys
About unfinished homework and scattered toys?
A funny thing happened when I went to bed
Complaining about how I never get any rest
How my back hurt from house work and my feet ached
The magazine I picked to read opened on a page
A paraplegic’s face stared out at me
My aches then seemed like a blessing to me
They showed what god had bestowed on me
A working body that ‘en’ abled me
A funny thing happened on my way to the mall
On a red light crossing my car came to a halt
A naked baby carried astride the waist
Of a little girl hardly nine years of age
Looked imploringly into my face
I lingered, my car stalled
In my mind’s eye I recalled
The pegs of clothes that hung carelessly on my walls
Suddenly I didn’t need to shop at all
A funny thing happened as I went to eat
in a fancy restaurant on an upmarket street
Dressed in formals I stood waiting in queue
I saw a simple food cart roll through
Its bell tinkling, pleasant smells wafted by
Bringing alive memories not yet old enough to die
When food meant something hot and cheap
To be shared with a gang of friends and purchased by heaps
Suddenly the five starred restaurant lost it’s Appeal
I ran behind the cart for a hearty meal.
‘A funny thing happened on my way to….’
The prompt at The Daily Post today is ” Do you — or did you ever — have a Best Friend? “
If I’d been asked this just a couple of years earlier…
Pat would have come the reply ‘yes’, Yippee!
I have them. Not one not two but maybe even three!
Wasn’t I just very very lucky
But then things happened and life handed me lessons
It seemed there were still some it hadn’t taught me
I had my heart break well after thirty
You know a heart break by a friend is worse than a heartbreak by a lover can ever be
Its not that I don’t have friends now
I am never lonely
There are people in my world
Who really care for me
To laugh and play and even be sad and rant
I always have adequate company
Its just that now Ive learned
To not label them in tags like ‘Besties’
People grow and change and that’s how its meant to be
The one who is there for you right now
Is your only true ‘Bestie’