CALF-LOVE

How it changed.

Woman's Era - - Short Story - By Hyma Bal

It was in the sec­ond term that Ran­jith started los­ing his grade. Not in other sub­jects, but in English, which was one of his strong sub­jects. She had called him to her ta­ble, af­ter class, and showed him the mis­takes in his es­say.

Sreeja de­bated on which sari to wear, on the first day of school. It would be her first day on her job as an English teacher in the Bea­con High School. Not that she wanted to im­press the stu­dents, but more be­cause she wanted to gain con­fi­dence. Wasn’t there a say­ing ‘clothes maketh a man’? She chose a new crisp Ben­gal cot­ton sari. She did not want a silk or ny­lon sari that would keep slip­ping from her shoul­der. And of course she wanted the chil­dren to re­spect her. Just 23, she didn’t want the stu­dents to feel that they could make her dance to their tune.

With a sense of trep­i­da­tion, which she hoped didn’t show on her face, she stepped into Class X. The 27 stu­dents, boys and girls, stood up as she en­tered “Good morn­ing, ma’am,” they said in uni­son.

“Good morn­ing, chil­dren,” she re­sponded, and af­ter bid­ding them to sit down, she con­tin­ued, “You know I am your new English teacher. I guess you al­ready know my name Sreeja Mo­han. For a start, be­fore we be­gin the class, let me have your names please. We will be­gin with the girls.” The

girls were seated to the right of the class, and the boys to the left.

A voice from the male sec­tion quipped, “Why not be­gin with us boys, ma’am? We are dy­ing to get ac­quainted.”

She smiled, “All in good time. Ladies first.” An­other voice: “They are not ladies. They look like but­ter won’t melt in their mouths. Ap­pear­ances are de­cep­tive.”

Sreeja saw one of the girls stick­ing out her tongue at the boy. She pre­tended not to no­tice “No ban­ter­ing please. Let’s get on. You next.”

“Amla,” so it went, till she came to the last boy – good look­ing boy, still wet be­hind the ears.

“Ran­jith, ma’am – I am the class leader. And if I may say so – you are beau­ti­ful, ma’am.”

Sreeja looked at the boy. He should be 15 or there­abouts, with a faint trace of a fu­ture mous­tache on his up­per lip. The boy was smil­ing at her. She mur­mured, “Thank you for the com­pli­ment.” Ought she to have rep­ri­manded the boy? But even as the chil­dren laughed and thumped their desks, the bell rang.

Ran­jith – He was the top­per in al­most all sub­jects. The next day, when she gave them an as­sign­ment – a para­graph on Dig­i­tal In­dia, Ran­jith’s piece was the best of all. She ac­knowl­edged it, and he looked very pleased.

The fol­low­ing day, he had placed a small flower vase, with a rose on it, on her ta­ble.

She guessed it was Ran­jith’s do­ing. She com­mented “Nice to see a rose here. But I may knock it over, when I stretch for the books. So, we will keep this vase, on the shelf here – Thank you, chil­dren.”

She had risen, and kept the vase on the shelf. Every day af­ter that, the stu­dents saw to it, that there were flow­ers in the vase.

The first term went by. Sreeja was pleased with the stu­dents, and happy in her teach­ing ca­reer. She felt she was in her el­e­ment.

It was in the sec­ond term that Ran­jith started los­ing his grade. Not in other sub­jects, but in English, which was one of his strong sub­jects. She had called him to her ta­ble, af­ter class, and showed him the mis­takes in his es­say.

“Ran­jith, see here. How come you have mixed up the tenses?”

His voice had started chang­ing – the ado­les­cent stage. It had taken on a hoarser tone.

“Er – ma’am – I don’t know. I… I think I was not con­cen­trat­ing. I am sorry.” He had taken the book from Sreeja’s hand, and his palm had rested on her knuck­les with a lit­tle pres­sure. Will­fully? Ac­ci­den­tally? An­other time, when she called him up, he had stood too close at her back. Had his hands, re­ally stroked her hair at the back, or had she imag­ined it?

But the fact was, Ran­jith who al­ways scored the high­est marks in English, had let a girl take over. His an­swers were not to the point, and he was mis­spelling even sim­ple words. Some­thing was amiss, and Sreeja had called him up, af­ter class.

He stood awk­wardly in front of her, eyes down­cast. Not the con­fi­dent class leader but a con­fused young boy, who seemed to have lost his bear­ings.

“Ran­jith, you seem to

“Amla,” so it went, till she came to the last boy – good look­ing boy, still wet be­hind the ears. “Ran­jith, ma’am.”

“No, no prob­lem” Ran­jith man­aged to say, still not look­ing up at the teacher. “Any prob­lem here in school? Here in class?” “Y… yes…” the answer came halt­ingly. “What prob­lem? Tell me. Let me see if I can help you.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.