[From Dear Diary. Year 2010]
Statutory Warning: All characters in this story are real. Any resemblance to any person, living or dead, is absolutely deliberate.
A fine cold evening of December 2010. I was a faculty (Verbal Ability) at Cerebral Heights – a coaching institute for CAT (Common Admission Test). This was their old campus. They had an operations desk. Opposite that desk was a couch.
I am sitting at the couch. Reading. A 20-something boy passes by. Turns around, looks at me. Euphemism for ‘checks me out’. Starts singing a cheesy Hindi Movie number (‘Aakhon mein teri’) as he walks past me.
Remember I am a faculty here in December 2010.
My thoughts: What the hell? Eve teasing at CH campus!!! Outrageous! *&&^%$$#@@.
I resume reading. A few minutes later, he is back. I don’t notice.
The guy: (Looking down at me): Will you become my partner for the quiz competition?
Me: Excuse me? [Euphemism for Have you seen yourself?]
The guy: There’s a quiz competition at CH no! So I was thinking if you would become my partner?
Me (chuckling, amused and trying to think of an interesting way to make it an EPISODE) : What is the criterion to participate?
The guy: Ummm nothing. You just have to be a CH student.
[Just the answer I wanted dude]
Me : Okay. I am not eligible then.
The guy: Why not?
Me: Cuz I am not a student.
The guy: So you are not a student of this institute? How did you get the entry here?
Me: Oh that’s cuz I am a faculty.
The guy: (mouth open) Oh! (Turns his back, runs in full speed towards the exit).
End of EPISODE 1
Two months later, I get a new batch in the middle of the session. The Institute director Akash is overloaded, so he transfers his class to me. I enter Classroom # 3.
The guy, yeap the same guy, sitting in the 3rd row on my right. Same expressions that he had the last time.
While I roll-call, he whispers to his friends who then whisper each other. No prizes for guessing what.
I begin the class with some theory. The guy is now smiling. His friends are trying to control laughter. I start the first question. The guy is now whispering again.
I am all red in anger but super cool in my mind (so I think back then). I point my index finger (you know what I was thinking) at him.
I just nod. Instead of saying anything, taking a last-minute resort since I don’t have a plan, I signal him from my hand to come forward. I am giving him a hard deep look, while the batting of my eye lashes are annoying the hell out of me.
These few seconds for me were like centuries.
Thought bubble: What if he refuses to come? Popat ho jayega! (that’s Hindi for – that would be a public humiliation)
At that moment my heart beats could have well been visible like that of the Genie in one of Alladin’s episodes. At the same time, I want this to be an absolutely dramatic episode. The heart is deceitful you see. No words are told. Only a strong gaze. A signal of my hand.
To my GREATEST surprise, the guy freaks out. The colour of his face, I feel, almost changes. The smile is gone. He looks nervous, frown on the forehead. Without a word, he stands up. Takes his bag and comes forward. I signal him to take the front seat, right before my podium.
Me: See, some people deserve the Chief Guest seat!
I being the workshop. The guy and his friends freeze. Nobody speaks a word. They avoid meeting my eyes. The guy is buried deep in his Concepts Book. I ask him a question. He says he doesn’t know, without looking up at me.
Class Over. One of the best I have delivered (so I think). The moment I am out, I control the urge of shouting ‘Yippie’.
End of Episode 2.
Next Class. I ask him to take the ‘Chief Guest’ seat again. He obeys. Bursts of laughter.
The friends give him a ‘pitiful’ look now. His ego is hurt. But how do I know? His face.
Next class. I decide to give him a break. No Chief Guest Seat. So he is back in his 3rd row, right side.
But he decides to get back at me. While I am discussing a question with a student, I hear a loud burst of laughter.
I look at him sternly. The whole class is surprised as to what happened suddenly.
Me: If you think I cannot slap you for disturbing my class, you are mistaken. Don’t provoke me. I am a peace-loving person.
He is freaking out. Face down. The group is silent again.
Thought bubble: Ha! SCORE CARD: 3:0.
End of episode 3.
Next class. He doesn’t turn up.
Thought bubbles: Awesome. That’s precisely what I wanted. Tit for tat.
ALSO: Yeap but I lost a learner. He might have been a good student. Stink!
BUT ALSO: Whatever. SCORE CARD: 4:0.
The Operations executive Nitin approaches me the next day. “Bande ko daraa diya aapne to. (You scared the hell out of that guy.)
Me: What? How do you know him?
Nitin: He skipped your class yesterday and was sitting at the couch, so Sachin (another executive) asked him what happened. Excerpts:
Sachin: Why did you bunk the class?
The guy: It’s Verbal Ability. Boring.
Sachin: Are you kidding? Do you know who’s teaching VA?
The guy: Who?
Sachin: Mukti. She is one of the best here. Nobody misses her class, bro. Ever.
Imagine my happiness upon hearing this. It is one of the reasons why I absolutely loved TEAM CH especially when they ganged up to teach an unruly student a lesson.
The guy: Really? But this madam said she would slap me?
Sachin: Boss, you are dead. Did you misbehave in Mukti’s class? Now even the directors won’t help you. In fact complaining to directors is actually a bad idea, they may suspend you for a month or so.
Remember that Nitin is over-hearing this little chit-chat. After a while, he cannot resist barging in.
Nitin to him: And if Mukti said she would slap you, she actually might.
Nitin and Sachin, like the best CH employees ever, persuade him to attend the next class and to behave himself. How I love those boys!
End of episode 4.
Next class. The guy is already voluntarily sitting in the ‘Chief Guest’ seat. Behaves himself. Participates.
He answers a question. I tell him: Excellent observation.
He and his friends are clearly surprised at the change of atmosphere.
Eventually, his friends become some of the most active participants in my class till the last day of their batch, three months later. We all manage to strike a great academic chemistry. Amazing questions asked. Delightfully answered.
The guy attends all my classes. Studies sincerely. But somehow, even after my you-are-forgiven-even-if-you-didn’t-say-sorry look, he could not meet my eyes every time our paths crossed.
I am super amused at my little victory.
The End of all Episodes (so I had thought)
April 2012. Call it a sheer co-incidence or divine vengeance! He was given a second row seat during a CH function held at the city university Auditorium. I was the Master of Ceremonies. Do I need to tell you that my podium was in the exact same angle from his seat as that of the one inside the classroom?
The guy. Same surprised expressions. Face down.
And the rest, as they always say, is the HISTORY that you just read.
[Present Day. Dear Diary. January 2020]
The benefit of the hindsight
Today, I am wiser. I am not very proud of what I did back then. In fact, when I re-read the diary of 2010, I am ashamed of a lot of things I did. I am aware more than ever now that I missed an opportunity of apology and an opportunity of forgiveness from him.
Things look so starkly different on the hindsight. We are the heroes of our own life story. On the hindsight though, we realise we were villains in so many others. I have nothing new to offer today in this blog. Except that I do regret many things. I still make mistakes. I still regret them, sometimes immediately, other times much later.
To many of you, this incident may not seem like it was my fault at all. But I am guilty of making it a War Of The Worlds – like my dignity or my worth depended on it. That student could not really see my heart – it was gloating over the little victories. I actually took delight in his misery, and I did nothing to make him feel better or feel just comfortable enough. I failed to be the bigger person. I failed to care enough.
It amazes me that I do have a God who forgives me, no matter what. My prayer is that I don’t lose opportunities of being forgiven, from those I care for and from those who cross my path.