A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell, where his influence stops. ~ Henry Brooks Adams
Gautam was confused like all other boys in the class.But like all other Boys in the class he never shared his doubts with anyone and pretended to know everything about being a ‘man’.At 16 he was struggling to find his place in the world and everyone around him was denying just that.When he wanted to play as he used to do when he was younger, he was told “till when are going to jump around like a monkey.Grow up,be a man.” And when he wanted to share his thoughts with his father or other elders he was shot down ” Don’t try to act over smart.This is not the age for you meddle in our affairs.Go and play with your Friends”
There was an unstoppable urge to prove himself.He was full of energy and enthusiasm,of new ideas and ways of doing things but no one seemed to notice or even bother to know what he was thinking.Even when he tried hard all that they would do is mutter a cursory “Yes,Yes I think its a great idea” all the while looking busy with something or someone else.
Suddenly he felt he was getting pulled by the opposite sex.The same silly things that girls did and he had made fun of intrigued him now.His idea of beauty which was earlier limited to Flowers,rivers and mountains expanded to include female of the species too.They were special among Gods creations and he wanted to look at them more and more.There was a strange mystery that enveloped everything that the girls did.Did they dress up to cover themselves or to reveal something exotic,Did they hide their smile to avoid other people knowing that they were amused or they wanted other people to entertain them so they can hide their smiles,Was the girl next door interested in him or she just found him ‘interesting’ ……
He had so many questions but no answers.He did not even know whom to ask.Being in a “boys” school had further complicated matters.Boys schools are typical places – everyone wants to know but no one wants to ask.Everyone does it but no one tells.Every one is afraid but no one will say.After all they are all Men !
One morning it was announced by their class teacher that she was leaving as her husband has got transferred to another town and very soon there would be another class teacher who would be taking charge.It makes no difference to me ,Gautam had thought.Few days passed and one day the Principal announced that Miss Grover would be their new Class teacher.She would be joining on the 15th of June which was a week from now.
It was another dull and boring day ahead in school and Gautam was preparing himself for the drag.Just then he felt as if there was a very sweet smell that was filling up the room.He looked up as he was busy arranging his books as per the days schedule.There was a women in her early thirty’s wearing a pink saree standing in front of him.She was beautiful – like the river that comes down from the mountains and nourishes the tree that bears the fruits and flowers.She personified his idea of beauty and answered many of his questions without saying a word.She asked in a casual tone ” Busy??” .
Gautum stood up in a hurry and noticed that all other boys were standing.
With a sorry look on his face he answered “No,No Mam not really.I didn’t notice when you came in.I am very sorry.”
She kept looking at him and asked “There is nothing wrong with that.You did not notice me enter the class as your mind was focused on what you were doing?”
Gautam was dumbfounded.He kept staring at her.
She turned around and addressed the class” When you do something,make sure you give it your complete attention.Focus on it even if it means loosing sight of everything and everyone around you.This is going to be my first lesson for all of you and we must thank Gautum for helping us understand this great idea.”
How did she know my name ?Gautam had wondered and kept his curiosity till the end of the class when he checked with Arindam his neighbor.
“.She kept standing there and you did not notice.Then she asked me your name .What do you think,the Principal told her about the brightest student in the class Mr Gautum ?”sneered Arindam.
Gautum smiled sheepishly and cursed himself for being so absent minded.
School was not such a bad place after all these years.Gautum realized that he
had started looking forward to each day so much that he felt bad if there were holidays.It was a pain for him to pass the a day and a half when the school closed for the weekend on Saturdays.Miss Grover looked even more beautiful with every passing day.She had an impeccable dress sense and she always matched her accessories with her dresses which were mostly Sarees and Salwar suits.She had big brown eyes which she always accentuated with eye liners.Her long dark hair complimented here flawless skin tone perfectly.She was simple but still very attractive.Gautum used to think.He kept looking for a word to describe her and had settled with “beatific” though he felt she was better than that.
English became his favorite subject and Gautum worked very hard on it.He learnt all the poetry in the”Radiant English Reader” by heart and would borrow only poetry books from the school library all the time.Keats was his favorite poet.He liked him so much that sometimes he thought that he must have been Keats in his earlier birth.Keats gave expression to all his emotions attraction,love,longing,desire and failure.
Gautum confessed to himself that he was in love with his teacher.But he did not know with whom to share this forbidden secret.He just studied hard and kept working on his English.It was the only way to get close to his “special friend” as Miss Grover used to call herself when she was talking to Gautam.He would have given anything to be close to her and when she would pat her back or ruffle his hair for getting the highest marks in class he would be in seventh heaven,in a world of his own creation.
Books,Poetry,Studies,Songs and Miss Grover were all part of this voyage of self discovery..His friends who were his closest pals till now were a bunch of fools goofing around doing nothing.He thought of them as insensitive,unintelligent beings who did not have a heart for love or a mind for poetry.They were immature.His friends rebelled and called him names – Bookie,Teacher’s pet even Miss Gautam!! But Arindam was different.He was Gautum’s best friend because he was sensitive,smart and intellectual or may be he was all these because he was Gautum’s best freind.Whatever the case but they got along quite well.They studied together,watched movies together and read books that they recommended to each other.Sometimes during exams they even stayed over at each others place at night for co – study.
During one such stay over Gautum had shared his deep secret with Arindam.He admitted that it was wrong for him to think like this but he just could not help himself.He asked Arindam if he thought that she liked him more than the other boys in the class.Arindam said he wasn’t sure as she was quite friendly with all of them but she did seem to have a special place for Gautum in her mind.They had concluded that teachers do have ‘favorite students’ and it did not mean much if Gautum was one of them.Miss Grover was like a Goddess of beauty and love and Gautum was just like any other slave who could secretly wish for her but would be condemned to death if someone found out.The heart melted with few nights of tears on the pillow and gave in to the reasoning of the mind.The “Secret” was dead and buried.
Both Arindam and Gautum passed out of the Centenary Boy’s school the next year.Gautum had stood first in School closely followed by Arindam.They had remained chums ever since.
40 years later Gautum was a highly respected Journalist and Writer.He had written several books of poetry,short stories and besides being the editor of a national news channel he was working on his first Novel.It had been quite a sensation when a leading publishing house had offered Gautum 1.5 million dollars as signing amount for something he had just begun working on.Life had not been so kind to Arindam and he had chosen to stay back in the city where they spent their childhood.He worked as the editor of a small local newspaper.
Gautum was visiting his home town and had spent the evening at Arindam’s place staying back for dinner.He had some meetings in the morning so he had moved out early morning to get ready at his hotel.Gautum planned to fly out in the evening after the work he had was done.
It was around noon when his cell phone rang.
” Hi Gautum.What time is your flight back to Mumbai?”It was Arindam’s familiar voice on the other side of the phone.
“It’s at 4 PM.Why ?” said Gautum.
” Can you come to my house as soon as possible?It’s kind of urgent.”
“I will be on my way in 5 minutes.What happened??”
” I will tell you when you are here.I need to fix something’s fast.I have no time.I will wait for you”said Arindam and kept the phone down.
Gautum asked the Hotel to arrange for a cab immediately and rushed towards Arindam’s house.All the while he had terrible thoughts running through his mind.He did not wait for the car to pull over and stop completely and jumped out as soon as he reached the house.As he stepped in he saw Arindam talking to someone over the phone.He looked animated and worried but calm.It gave some respite to Gautam.
“What’s the matter ?What happened? shot Gautum as he placed himself next to Arindam.
” You remember Miss Grover?.I just found out that she is in the hospital and there is no one there to look after her.I was speaking to the Doctor and he said that there is very little chance for her survival.”
“Yes I do.” said Gautum conscious of not letting his blood gush to his face and ears.
” She suffered a stroke last night.Her brain is half dead by now and there is a small chance that she might pull through if she gets to see something or someone she really likes or loves.I have asked the Doctor to do his best.The problem is that she has no one in the family.Her husband died a few years back and they never had any children.I do not know anyone else in her family and even if I did who would bother about an old dying women in a hospital.”ended up Arindam with a sigh.
“Lets go and see her.” said Gautum without an expression.He was trying hard to fight the tears which had swelled in his eyes by now.
Arindam had already arranged for shifting the patient from the Goverment Hospital so they rushed to Apollo.Incidentally the head of Neurosurgery was Dr.Gupta or” Gupt Gyan” as he was fondly known in their school due to his mastery of the subject of Sex.Arindam had informed Dr .Gupta already and when they reached he was standing next to the bed on which Miss Grover was.There were all kind of medical entrapments attached to her body monitoring every move.The problem at this point was that there were none.
Dr.Gupta shrunk his shoulders before he held out a hand towards Gautam.He seemed to be pleased to be meeting an acclaimed author more than he was at meeting an old friend.Gautam held out his hand and said “Hi” glancing over to the bed which was placed along one side of the room.
“Is she responding to anything” checked Arindam.
“No.We have tried our best.It is only a matter of time.Let us hope for a miracle”
Gautum had reached the bed by now.He was looking at the tired old body of Miss Grover.Her hair were almost all white,her skin pale and yellow and her face was devoid of any expressions.But there was something in her eyes that was not letting Gautum pull away from her.It was deep ,very deep.He could almost hear a voice “Gautum.I am proud of you.I can bet with anyone that one day you will be the biggest author in the country and all of us will read your books.Don’t worry what everyone says just keep writing.I am there.”
The same mouth was speechless, the same lips were silent,the same body was lifeless.The spirit which had inspired a 100 Gautum’s was going to let go into oblivion.
” We will take you home.”whispered Gautum as he bent down and came close to her ears.He was looking straight into her eyes now.
As he gazed at his dying teacher in a trance like state.He wanted to tell her “Look who is here.It’s Gautum.You always said that I will become a great author and I have become one.Wake up Mam.Wake up and tell me which one of my poems did you like my most,which character of mine you fell in love with,Which story brought tears to your eyes and shook your heart.”
He wanted to relive the past and ask her “Wouldn’t you get up and pat my back and ruffle my hair once more.You just can’t ignore me now.Tell me if I have made a good impression on you.Tell me that I deserve all the fame and success that I have earned.Tell me that I have made you proud .Please ,Please don’t fail me another time.”
Gautum held Miss Grover’s frail hand as these thoughts ran through his mind.He did not realize when he broke down .Arindam and Dr. Gupta looked at him with surprise.They did not understand what was happening although Arindam had some idea.
Arindam walked towards the bed and kept a hand on Gautum’s shoulder.He looked up at Miss Grover’s face.She was looking at Gautum with love in her eyes.For a moment he felt that her face had changed and she looked the same as she used to 40 years ago.
He saw an eyelid flicker as he went closer to headboard and wondered if the instruments were showing any signs of life …..