When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.
- Lao Tzu
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It was the day of the oral test in class 3rd.The oral test was of 20 marks.In the oral test the children were supposed to recite a poem to the class teacher.The class teacher’s name was Kavita Kumar.The children had come back from the school assembly.They were talking among themselves.The children were excited as well as nervous at the same .Soon the oral test began.The teacher started calling students one by one according to the class roll number.
Soon his turn came.His name was Kunal.He was a very shy student. There was a poem of tortoise and elephant which had to be recited.He went in front of the teacher and stood silently.
‘Are you prepared?’,asked the teacher.
‘Then start’,she said.
He just stood silently and said nothing.
‘Do you know the poem?’,the teacher asked again.
He nodded in affirmative.
But nothing came out of his mouth.
‘Do you know the poem or not?’,she asked raising her voice.
He again nodded in affirmative.
She waited in anticipation.But he could not say anything.
Finally she lost her patience.She pulled him by the tie and slapped him three times and told him to go back to his seat.The students were startled and their murmur came to a halt.
Kunal came back to his seat,his cheeks were red and his head was down.He was feeling very ashamed.The other students of the class just watched in silence.
Soon the test was over.Kunal was the only one in the whole class who got slapped in the oral test.His friends had done well.Needless to say he was disappointed.He was just a class 3 student and it was the first time he tasted failure in his life.When his turn came he somehow forgot the very first line of the poem and became silent.He had crammed the poem well in advance but forgot the very first line and the whole effort went for a toss.
When Kunal reached home,his mother obviously asked about the test.He dodged the topic and went to play with his younger brother.His parents were not at all strict.He was not afraid of his parents but he started fearing his teacher after that day.That incident got imprinted on his mind.
It was only when his parents went to a parent-teaching meeting,they got to know about the incident.The teacher had given him zero marks in the oral test.When his parents reached home,his mother smiled and hugged him.
After that incident Kavita Kumar changed Kunal’s seat and made him sit with a girl named Neha.In the 3rd class the class teacher herself used to teach all the subjects.There was not a separate teacher for different subjects.The days passed in the usual manner.Initially Kunal used to keep quiet for most of the time.He was so shy that sometimes in the whole day he used to speak only during attendance.
Slowly Kunal started making friends.He started becoming friendly with other students.He talked mostly to boys.His interaction with girls was very limited.He also started taking interest in sports.
One day an English class was going on.Mrs Kavita Kumar was teaching a literature chapter.Suddenly she caught Kunal and Neha talking and laughing.She became furious.She shouted and threw a piece of chalk at them.They were surprised.The whole class became silent.She told them to get up from their seats.They were made to stand up.
‘What are you discussing?’Mrs Kumar asked.
They kept silent.
‘A class is going on and the two of you are having a discussion among yourselves’,she remarked furiously.
They could not speak anything.
‘What were you two laughing about? Tell us the joke so that we can also laugh.’she told them.
They bowed their head.
‘Are you listening or not?’,she asked ,this time in a loud voice.
Neha and Kunal were struggling hard to find a word to speak.
She excused Neha as she was caught for the first time and told her to sit down.This also proved that she was partial towards girls.
Now Kunal was left standing alone.He was trembling with fear.Mrs Kumar told him to come near.As Kunal was walking towards the blackboard he was expecting a slap.She made him to sit down on his knees.For a moment Kunal felt relieved as just sitting on knees was not much of a problem.But this was not to be.She told him to read aloud the whole chapter from the beginning which she was teaching.
Kunal started reading.He started off well and confidently.But soon his voice started quivering.His knees also started paining.His mouth became dry and he was in a state of discomfort.He was expecting some sort of relief but he got none.He was waiting for the period to get over.Mrs Kumar told him to kept on reading.He was reading and the whole class was listening.Finally after some time Mrs Kumar asked him to stop.
‘Hope you have learnt your lesson?’,she asked.
Kunal just silently nodded.
‘Dont ever repeat the mistake again’,she exclaimed.
‘Go back to your seat,idiot’,she said.
He got up and came back to his seat.This was the second time when he was left embarrassed in front of the whole class.He remained almost quiet for the rest of the day.
When he came back to his home his mother sensed that something was wrong.He was not cheerful that day.He told his mother about the incident and he also told her how his teacher was partial to the girl.
More days passed.Mrs Kumar used to slap even at the slightest provocation.She was very much partial towards the girls and most of the girls of the class shared good rapport with her.She was strict towards the bad performers and underdogs of the class.
The first term exams were over.Kunal secured a rank of 19th in a class of 40 students.There was a girl named Yachna who came 1st in the class.She became Mrs Kumar’s favourite student.
Kunal was very much afraid of Mrs Kumar.She was the teacher whom students feared the most.
One day during the class Mrs Kumar gave a certain task to all the students.She gave a reading comprehension and the students needed to answer a set of questions based on it.As students tried to complete the task,she was walking in the class to keep vigilance.Kunal was also trying his best to answer the questions.He was writing with one hand and with the other hand he was trying to hide his answers so as not to let his partner cheat.When Mrs Kumar came near him,she became angry.
‘What are you trying to do?’,she asked Kunal.
Before he could answer,she spoke again.
‘What are you trying to hide,Is this a test going on?Can’t you help your friend?’,she blurted out.
‘Mam...I was just....’, before he could complete the sentence she landed a hard slap on his head.
Kunal was shocked.His partner started laughing on him.All the students of the class also started laughing.This was the third incident when Kunal was ashamed.He tried to focus on the task but in his mind he was unable to do so.
That day he went home and cried his heart out. He hugged his mother who wiped off his tears.He told his mother about the incident and told her that he won’t go to school ever again.His mother consoled him and told him not to worry and assured him that everything will be fine.
Kunal started hating his teacher.He started hating his school.Every morning he would think twice before going to school.He would come in the class and then only wait for the day to get over.
Kunal could not understand the reason why she despised him.He was certainly not a trouble maker.He used to keep quiet.He was not at all mischievous.He had only few friends and was not talkative.
From her appearance Mrs Kumar looked like a stern lady.She was not that young and had wrinkles on her face.She wore spectacles and had short boyish hair.
There were few months left for the year to get over.Kunal used to comfort himself in the fact that she was quite old and may die soon and therefore he need not worry.It may sound funny now but it was the only consolation for a 3rd standard student.
Time progressed and months passed by and as the saying goes-time heals,soon the 3rd class was over.Students gave the final exams and were promoted to 4th class.Kunal was particularly happy and the reason was obvious.Mrs Kumar was the one teacher whom Kunal thought he would never forget.
Slowly Kunal forgot about Mrs Kumar.The next year passed very fast.Many things had changed. He was now enjoying his time in school.He had more friends now.The students had started writing with pen instead of pencil.In the 5th class there were different teachers for different subjects.To Kunal’s horror Mrs Kavita Kumar was back as his English teacher in class 5th.This Kunal had never imagined would happen.On the first day itself Kunal started sweating in her presence and his heart beat increased.He knew that she would not leave any excuse to scold him.She distributed the class in the groups of five students each.She selected one student as a representative from each group.After that she assigned a certain portion of the chapter of English literature to each group.The students had to read the portion, understand it and comprehend it and discuss it among themselves.After that she would ask questions from each group.She could ask anyone to answer the question and not necessarily the representative.She gave us some time to complete the task and left the class.Kunal knew he was doomed.After some time she came back and started asking questions from each group.Some of Kunal’s friends answered well and she was impressed.Kunal’s confidence was already shattered.Soon their group’s turn came.
‘What did the captain suspected?’,she asked the question from the English literature chapter.
‘Mam,sorry I don’t know’,answered the representative.
Next Kunal’s turn came.Kunal stood up.Before Kunal could answer anything,she remarked,’This boy leaves his tongue at home and come,what can he answer.’
The whole class started laughing.Kunal just stood there silently and waited for the period to get over.When the bell rang he felt relieved.
Somehow days passed and even years and Kunal forgot about Mrs Kumar.Mrs Kumar despised him for being so shy,introvert and sensitive,the same qualities which many teachers afterwards appreciated in him.As the years passed Kunal started gaining more confidence which was reflected in his academic performance.After the 5th class,mostly teachers liked him.In classes 6th,7th,8th and upto 10th he was constantly among the toppers of the class.He had become a favourite student among the teachers.The teachers even used to discuss about him in staff rooms.The graph of his academic performance was contantly going up,day after day and year after year.The teachers also made him the monitor of his class.He improved upon himself.He worked on his communication skills,he worked on his personality and became an all rounder.He emerged as a bright student.Whether Mrs Kumar was aware of his achievements or not,it can’t be surely said.But Mrs Kumar underestimated him.She surely underestimated his abilities and intelligence.Upto 5th class no one knew about him.He was such a dark horse that no one could say that he too can do well.He used to be praised in all the parent-teacher meetings by his teachers.Students used to take his notebooks for completing their homework.His friends used to call him often to seek advice regarding studies.He was in the top three students of the class continuously for five years.
Kunal had not seen Mrs Kumar in years.Mrs Kumar was a primary teacher and primary classes were on the third floor whereas secondary and senior classes were on the ground and first floor.When In the 12th class Kunal along with his friends, after a games period, went to the third floor to drink water,he saw Mrs Kumar coming from the other side of the corridor.Kunal was busy laughing and joking around with his friends.When Mrs Kumar crossed Kunal,their eyes met.Their was a sense of wonder on her face.She smiled a little and it was apparent that she recognized him.
The schooling days got over and everyone moved on with their lives. The school days had given him enough memories to be nostalgic.Years later,even after completing college,when Facebook gave everyone a platform to reconnect with people from the past,Kunal sent Mrs Kumar a friend request.She recognized him,accepted the friend request and messaged him-‘Though I was your teacher in the school but it was you who taught me a lot.’