I was asking questions. Little Adi now in second standard had lots to study but would he ever be serious, no. I kept on prodding him and he kept on playing with his toy truck, answering me as and when he pleased.
‘Adi’, I screamed and took the truck, ‘let us read the book’.
We began reading it and he kept dozing off. If I had allowed him to sleep he would have played for another hour before sleeping. So I just glared at him.
When I started asking him questions, he slid off to sit on the floor.
I kept an eye on the textbook and occasionally glanced at Adi. Surprisingly he answered quite well. After about five questions I got suspicious and bent down. There he was sitting with his class book open below the desk.
What happened next was pandemonium. I screamed he ran, I ran behind him and so on till the lady living below our flat, knocked our door and asked if everything was fine. Her two-year old daughter was trying to sleep and the noise was disturbing her.
I went into withdrawal mood and became silent. Adi meanwhile cried himself to sleep.
Old memories came to mind. A ten-year old me who knew her lessons and was yet influenced by those who took the easy way out.
I remembered an exam where I knew the answers and yet when some of my classmates copied from their notebooks, I too was influenced. I took out my class notes, kept it on my lap and copied.
The others were smart. They sensed that our class teacher Mr Shrivastav was coming near us and hid their books. I had not been seasoned yet. I was caught. But he did not say anything, just took the notebook and left. Later he did call me to the staffroom and said, ‘What was the need to copy? Are you finding studies difficult. Am I not able to teach you properly’….and then after some time, “I know it is me, I have not been able to teach properly otherwise why an intelligent girl like you will copy’.
I had tears in my eyes. ‘It is not you but me Sir’, I said. Some others do it and I wanted to do the same’,
He looked at me and then very slowly said, ‘Good habits should be copied not these. Following someone who is worth following is good but not such who have low morals’.
He spoke a lot. And my ten-year old mind could not understand it all but I understood that blind following is not good.
From then on he became my mentor and we stayed in touch till the time I started working. After that we lost touch. I remembered his teachings and how his teachings had molded me.
I had this urge to meet him again. I opened my laptop and began searching for him in different social networks. I couldn’t locate him anywhere and that upset me.
Anshuman, my husband had meanwhile returned from office and was having dinner. ‘What happened?’, he asked.
I told him the events of the evening.
‘My God, Adi is growing fast, from where does he learn these tricks?’, he said. And then looking at my sad face he added, ‘You are going to meet your parents in ten days, so you can search for Shrivastav teacher, can’t you?’
Now that was a good idea and I had happy dreams of meeting Sir.
I spoke excitedly about meeting Shrivastav Sir and of how I had to catch up with him. I failed to see the nervous glances that my parents gave each other.
‘Err’, dad said, ‘Things may not be the same as they were you know’.
‘Huh…meaning’, I said.
They exchanged glances and then mom said, ‘Shyamali sit down, it may be hard to you’.
I sat and then mom started.
Shrivastav Sir had retired about seven years back. His wife had died some years prior to that. But he had no worries, his children cared for him and he was happy’.
He had decided that he would be going to the slums to teach. He wanted to be free of any troubles and so he distribute all his savings to his children keeping a little for himself for his necessities. He wanted to save his energy to teaching the slum folks.
Once the money was in their names. the children started showing their true colors.
‘We don’t like the stench when you come home, why do you have to teach those people’, one said.
‘Can’t you just stay at home and help with the house work. You are always away and expect the others to do your work’, the other said.
Slowly within a year all his kids had disowned him. My dad on his usual social work had discovered him in the very slum where he had wanted to teach in a very sad condition.
He had become frail and whether it was by shock or some chemical process, Sir had Alzheimer’s. The slum people fed him, clothed him but it was clear that he needed medical attention. And so my father had got him admitted in a medical center.
I had tears in my eyes. Shrivastav Sir must have been the role model of so many. He had given such strong values to his students but alas it seems that his children failed to imbibe it in their life.
I went to meet him. He failed to recognize me but he took Adi with him and started telling him stories. It was strange that he did not remember people but he remembered his famed stories. Stories of value, stories with morals.
I wanted to slam a legal notice on Sir’s children. But I did not. They had lost a lot already by disowning their father.
I took Sir with me. Keeping him home would be difficult, he would be lost and disoriented. I would be keeping him in a facility close to my home where I could meet him regularly.
Anshuman smiled at me when we came out of the airport. One hand holding Adi’s hand, other Sir’s.
Some people were to be treasured and Sir was definitely one amongst them.