There was this weird kid who followed her home one day after school. He was very keen to know where her favourite teacher lived and if they were neighbours. He skipped and hopped two flights of stairs to reach her room, stood outside and probably would have asked, “May I come in Madam?”, if she had not been half-asleep and turned over to spot him. Pretty lady, however surprised, fed him a vegetable cutlet and sent him off on his merry way. He must have gloated back at school about his expedition. For me, it was the amateur stage of stalking but for my mother, it was a little boy’s juvenile curiosity.
Then there was the time when we were on our way to catch a bus and a young man walked towards her from nowhere and bowed to touch her feet. We were taken aback. He was a student. He had actually come looking for her after being posted in our ARMY cantonment. I guess, she is one of those teachers whom you remember all your life, the ones with the impact.
She, at times, lovingly wears a particular saree or colour to school because her students like it. She eats in the classroom with the first-grade students at lunch and they share their tiffin. She reprimands a boy when he compares his classmate to ‘Shilpa Shetty’ for dressing up too much. She pays for a child’s uniform under unfortunate circumstances. And she tells me all about them. Over the years, she has talked to me about her students and vice versa. When I visit her at work, I recognise everyone by name – the little boy with sad eyes and the girl with bouncy curls; all are my mother’s children.
This Teachers’ Day, like every year, my mother will arrive home with a load of pens (she has strictly instructed her students to avoid gifts of any other kind), flowers and handmade greeting cards.
She has been teaching kids as long as both of us can remember. Many of them are now all grown-up, getting married and sending their kids to school. All these years she has watched me grow and so have I. I have watched my mother grow. The two things that she has always been doing is teaching and studying. She completed her post graduation after marriage. Despite a full-time job, household chores and two kids, she did it. I am proud of her. She is still very eager to learn and exceptionally good at her job. She’s my favourite example of ‘believing in your dreams’. Recently, she cleared an in-service examination. She held her breath as I searched for her results online. I congratulated her while she tried to maintain composure. It’s wonderful watching her excel at difficult things. She felt she didn’t have it in her anymore, to study and appear for exams. The examination wouldn’t award a salary hike or a promotion but my mother loves a good challenge. She got an A.
I have seen the other side of a teacher. There is a lot of hard work. A lot of work goes into a single classroom study session. She has been very diligent about even the smallest of things. Having studied at a Bengali-medium school and working at an English-medium one, she takes her job very seriously – reevaluates everything so that she does not get it wrong, probably knows the dictionary better than I do and the day is not very far from when my mother is going to correct my grammar. I’ll be waiting.
Till then, she will be the woman who has never been to a beauty parlour, who hardly misses work, is revered by her co-workers and loved by her students. She will also be the one who knows when I am upset and watches my downcast self as I try to eat, she would ask, “Khaiye debo?”