Tempest in a Teapot!

10 April 2012

This was the last time I met my children. I remember that day distinctly. I’d stayed up all night (because of my own lack of time management) to write a personalized message for each child on a cardboard toffee cut-out (symbolic of our musical). My co-teacher and I had assembled all the gifts and other little things that people dear to us had brought for the kids to wish them luck. We both were always strictly against just giving away stuff, so we saved up everything we’d got in the year (different kinds of stationary, chocolates, stickers) and created 80 little packets for the kids to go with the goodbye notes.

I remember reaching school early that morning carrying huge bags (which had almost become a norm these two years : us carrying these big bags of charts, art material, print outs for a test/home work). I remember thinking every minute that day as I climbed up the steps to my classroom that this is it. It ends here. Two years ago, I entered a battered looking empty classroom and was engulfed with an overwhelming realization that this was where I was going to be every single day of the next two years.  And those years flew by really quickly. But I remember each day distinctly and clearly, because no day ‘passed by’, as there was so much to be done every single day. The last two years (2010-2012) that seemed like a long time to spend in that dusty old classroom, got over way too soon. It was the last day of school and the exams had just gotten over the day before. The kids started trickling in and they were their usual happy selves. They’re kids after all, it was the end of the most defining chapter of my life but for my third graders, it was business as usual. :)

We’d planned a whole ceremony in the last hour. We, as in the both the teachers, kids from Grade 3 (my class) and the kids from Grade 4, planned to meet in shed where we had been practicing every day of the last year. We met, watched the musical video together – the entire thing, opening credits, making of the musical video, end credits and the musical. We probably cannot thank the Symbiosis media grad students enough for the fantastic work they had done to put all this together and that too at no cost. In particular, the wonderful Koustub Vohra– who got a whole army of Symbiosis volunteers for us that included our fantastic photographers Shibhesh, Aparajita and Katyayani. These amazing volunteers organized themselves into multiple committees (decoration, kids management, costumes  make-up, welcome, logistics) and executed every task to perfection amid-st the chaos on the the dress rehearsal and final day. Incidentally, during the time Koustub worked with us , he applied for the fellowship and as I write this Koustub is a Teach For India fellow teaching in Delhi. :)

Anyway, the kids were ecstatic, cheering on as every character came alive on-screen. The danced, clapped, sang and hovered around us for the last time. I was probably looking at each child with the look of a terminally ill patient on my face but as I said, for the kids it was pretty much a happy day. One of the volunteers came to me and said, they won’t realize it now, or next year or probably anytime soon – it’s something they’ll look back on many years later. So be it. But this wasn’t about an emotional goodbye, it was about my acceptance that this was the end. It’s always hard to acknowledge that, isn’t it?

Anyway, I went on to travel for the next 20 days straight and traveled some more to meet family and friends before I finally started my new job. For next 7 months straight, I completely ignored every single call my kids made, I ignored their parents’ calls and I controlled my urge to go see them, talk to them or do anything associated with them. That’s probably why I haven’t been able to brace myself to even write a single post about the Musical that we feverishly prepared for and raised funds from world-over. Maybe writing about it was a closure, acceptance that’s it’s done and over.

Especially on some days, this cold robotic approach was particularly hard to keep up with. Like somewhere in June, I got this mail from the fellow who was teaching my class then,

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Dear Chaitra,

Your kids are amazing!!! Sagar has become an informer to me. Am really inspired with the work you have done. The kids are full of energy and yeah i die hard to match with their energy. :) 

I assigned them new teams and asked them to choose a name for their own team and give me reason why they want it. One team named their team after your name the reason was that they love you and miss you :) for a moment it made me think about my class what is that am going to leave with them after a year.

It’s a lot of learning that am getting. :) 

Thanks,

R

– – – – – – – – – – – – – –

It was hard, incredibly hard but something’s just need to be done. Some chords need to be cut with surgical precision and at the right time. You aren’t doing yourself or the kids any service by letting some strings hang in there connecting you both. There is only one way to keep a nurturing relation alive between any two entities – be there wholly, entirely and give it everything you have. There is no middle ground here, nothing halfway that could work. I could not be there for my children and be my 100% best for them beyond these two years so it’s best to not interfere with the new teacher who’s trying be their best for their kids. They needed to settle in with their new teacher and start getting a hang of the new class systems and processes. For them to connect with the new teacher, it was essential for the old one to be blocked out entirely. Over the months, the frequency of calls from different kids and parents came down quite a bit but some of them were more persistent than the others. Surprisingly, these weren’t even the ones that I thought would hold on so tight.

Anyway, we had raised enough excess money to keep Project ‘To Infinity and Beyond’ going for the next year too. I’m glad that we have been able to do that and find excellent instructors this year too. Our amazing dance instructor, Harsha has thankfully continued on from last year.

12 January 2013

Precisely 10 months after I last saw them, I went to see my kids. I should probably say students now, but somehow it’s always been ‘my kids’ and I wouldn’t want to see it any other way.  I had written to the fellow teaching the kids, their current teacher, asking if I could come see them and she very sweetly arranged for it.

I entered the school gate at 9 AM on a Saturday morning. I hadn’t even wandered around close to this lane in last ten months; mainly because I had no work there. I got up the stairs, met the fellow and she led me to their new class.

That look on their faces – first, a look of total disbelief followed by a stunned silence for about five seconds and then, it came – the mad, wild screaming which went on for almost three whole minutes. :) It was unreal.  I stood there trying to scan that whole room full of ecstatic, screaming, smiling and also some very confused faces (these were the new admissions). There were three new kids and they were shocked out of their minds as to why their classmates were losing their heads screaming like that.

Grade 4...all grown up!

Grade 4…all grown up!

I have missed them so much.

Narrating stories about them, thinking of how they’d be doing in class, what all they’re doing in class, how their parents and siblings would be doing? – almost every day I have either spoken about them or thought about them. How can I not? Their presence is all over my house – in my fridge magnets, on posters and drawings on the wall, in the things they’ve given me and most importantly in my head. This is new for me – I’m a little more efficient when it comes to detaching than I’d like to be. I’m not too proud about this quality but it keeps me sane on most days, so it’s good. As a child, we moved a lot because of my dad’s job so I think over the years I learnt that there was no point getting too attached to one apartment, one teacher, a particular ice-cream shop or even a set of friends. I always thought that none of it can be carried forward to the next city, so what’s the point getting too attached to any of it. And that was my approach for many many years until these kids came along. It was hard for me to come to terms with how much I missed them. It’s not like I wanted to go back and start teaching them. But I guess, as people who’d been the very center of my existence for every single day of the last two years, they were bound to have that impact.

Singing - Jeena Isika Naam Hai

Singing – Jeena Isika Naam Hai

It was fantastic seeing them – just such an amazing feeling meet each one of them (Satu was absent though :(). They had all grown tall, the boys looked lankier and the girls had grown their hair long. They were growing up, weren’t anymore the tiny little fluffy balls I met in Grade 2. Even Abhay, to my utter disappointment had grown thinner and taller. He was his usual shy self  as always but I could tell that he was really happy to see me because he does a thing with his eyes whenever he’s super happy. It would be safe to say that he’s the only boy I’ve showered the most attention and affection on, despite his continued nonchalance.

As usual ....looking away!

As usual ….looking away!

I almost instinctively wanted to ask someone to sit a certain way, raise their hands while asking a question or not stand while talking, form a neat single file line while I was with them. They are kids and they did all of this even while I was their teacher, only that now I wasn’t their teacher. I had to keep reminding myself about that. After school, I had kids pulling me from both sides debating on who would be taking me home this afternoon. They wouldn’t take no for an answer and wouldn’t go home either. Anyway, I spent almost two hours with the kids and met with a lot of parents. Oh and yeah, they sang two songs for me – Jeena Isika Naam Hai and Joy to the World. Their new teacher is a Bengali didi and has been teaching them to sing. :)

It was comforting amongst a lot of other things.  I pray all my boys grow up and become capable men who know how to respect women. I pray all my girls grow up be strong and financially independent and think of marriage only after they are confident about supporting themselves.

Above all, I hope all my children aim high, aspire to reach their potential and never settle for anything less than they deserve.

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One thought on “Tempest in a Teapot!

  1. What a wonderful, moving story, but then being a teacher must be one of the most rewarding jobs in the world. Nothing will ever take the place of their three-minute greeting, or your joy and your former students seeing each other again. And in later years, you may occasionally meet one of them and hear them say how unforgettable you were and what a difference you made to their lives.

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