About Ms Linda.
What is the human mind – a treasure box of memories? A box that cages our emotions that are let out only when we least desire them! Everyone has a memory box and it is vital for them to keep it safe for, if it falls into the wrong hands, the outcome can be dangerous. Who would want to give someone the power to control the mind? T he whistling wind interrupted the loving intensity of my thought. Crumbling the paper-back into its original shape, I put it inside the azure wooden box, trying to erase everything from my mind. But the memories had been unchained. And it all came rushing back to me. My heart started throbbing faster and I became delirious. Hallucinating about my dead mother and my beautiful wife, I was caught unawares when I saw another woman in my vision. Draped in a faded yellow sari, she looked aged, not old. I could not see the face clearly but I felt I knew her. She had a frown on her face, and it looked like she wanted to talk to me. She lifted her hand and signalled me to stop. But a mild haze came and my vision was soon lost. All I remember was my family calling out my name again and again, deliberately trying their best to make me conscious.
Draped in a faded yellow sari, she looked aged, not old. I could not see the face clearly but I felt I knew her. She had a frown on her face, and it looked like she wanted to talk to me. She lifted her hand and signalled me to stop. But a mild haze came and my vision was soon lost.
Earlier that day The motion and the annoying sound of the cuckoo clock at the stroke of 7 am, woke me up from a deep slumber. Unlike my usually active days, I felt uneasy. Complying with life’s rules, I gathered all my strength to get ready
Hallucinating about my dead mother and my beautiful wife, I was caught unawares when I saw another woman in my vision. Draped in a faded yellow sari, she looked aged, not old.
for work. For days I had been preparing for the product launch and it was that day, but the shadow of doubt darkened and I felt weak in my knees. Reaching office on time, I spent another half hour rehearsing my speech, the mirror being my audience. But soon it was time.
“Top notch!” shouted my boss the moment I said, “Thank you.” I felt on cloud nine. With such an exuberant performance, my promotion was confirmed. I called up Ramola and shared the details with her. The dutiful wife that she is, she started planning for a lavish homecooked supper immediately. I decided to leave from office early and apparently that was the worst decision I made that day for, no sooner had I reached the main highway in my small Ritz than I was hit by an overtaking truck. Baffled and weak, I tried to pull myself away from the steering but I soon realised that the machine was more powerful than human force. The steering had cut through my ribs and pierced my diaphragm. I did not feel any pain because I passed out soon after I saw my condition.
What happened next, how I reached the hospital and who informed my family- are still some unanswerable questions for me.
While at the hospital, my family had initiated a flood of tears. My elder son was on his toes keeping pace with the requirements of the doctor, my younger daughter stood near my wife, both wailing and praying at the same time. My father was too old to show any emotions and since my mother had passed away just a year before, my accident was too much for him to digest.
A fter two hours of operation and immense pain, the doctors finally gave up and spilled the beans before my family that had already made up its mind to not let me go. But sooner or later they had to give in, for death is our greatest enemy. We know that we will lose the battle, yet we spend our entire life fighting.
Lying on my death bed, wondering what wrongs I did in the past, I asked my son to get the memory box from our house. I had treasured so much in that box – my mother’s photograph, the nail of my dead dog, the first band-aid that was put on my daughter’s knee, my wife’s old bangles, the first aromatic candle I bought for my honeymoon, my first love letter, my medals, the keychain my mother gifted when the twelfth grade results were out, the yellow English notebook and the first pen that my father bought for me. Each item forced me to walk down memory lane and I realised that I was living the last few hours of my life. Among all the things, the yellow English notebook didn’t remind me of anything. ‘Class 4’ was scribbled in graphite on the cover. As far as I could remember, I had not kept that book in the box. But then who did? Mother?
Present time The sudden chaos of people around me brought back my consciousness. The blurred vision made me uncomfortable. I wanted to know who that lady was. But with so many drips and a major surgery, my lips refused to aid my mind. I could only think, for the mind was still under control: the body was not. The doctor gave me another injection, probably anaesthetic to reduce my pain and my eyes followed the command. Yet again, I saw a similar vision – only this time the lady’s face was shown. She wore a tiny red circular dot on the centre of her forehead. Her small earrings twinkled in the light. And what I visualised next, made me stop dead in my tracks. She had the yellow notebook in her hand: she was my English teacher!
It took me a long time to remember the time when I had had a squabble with my teacher.
After two hours of operation and immense pain, the doctors finally gave up and spilled the beans before my family that had already made up its mind to not let me go.
Twenty-nine years earlier
I always thought marks are nothing but a facade behind which the real happiness lies. My parents always wanted me to believe that grades are what will determine my future. But I argued the toss and made a deliberate attempt to enjoy my life to the fullest. It was during my twelfth grade that I came across Ms Linda, my English teacher. The entire year I tried studying hard but to no avail. Ms Linda always encouraged me and helped me practice a lot. But I despised her for all
that she did. As the year progressed, my inclination towards the subject faded, yet Ms Linda kept on coaxing me to study harder, for the scores in English mattered.
O n the day of my final exam, something unexpected happened. I missed my school bus and hence, my father asked the driver to drop me in our car. Unfortunately, I reached the school late and was denied entry into the examination hall. However much I tried to explain, the external invigilator refused to excuse me. Finally, not left with another choice, I ran to the principal and blurted out the false truth.
“Sir, Ms Linda had locked me in the detention room because she wanted to punish me for misbehaving with her. I tried to clear the tiff but she did not listen. I shouted for help and when the peon unlocked the door, I fled.”
“What nonsense is this?” shouted my enraged principal.
“I am telling the truth. My mother had come with me to school. You can ask her.”
As he dialled my mother’s phone number, I panicked. Though I had explained her everything, I doubted her pure conscience. What I had asked her to do for me was something she would have refused. But to my utter surprise, she agreed.
A fter the confirmation from my mother, the principal called Ms Linda in his office. The young lady walked in without a clue. The next thing I knew was that she was fired from her job. She had tried to explain, she had tried very hard. But the management wanted to preserve its reputation. In the end, I was given the permission to write the exam and she was left jobless. I encountered her a few times in the city later, but every time I managed to ignore her and walk past her. I consoled myself by believing that she deserved this because she pestered me to study even when she was not my parent. But that guilt did not die. It remained with me till I decided to bury it deep within my heart. But my mother had other intentions, for she kept the yellow notebook in the memory box, hopeful that one day the memory will be revived and I will go and apologise.
Present day The sudden pat on my shoulder brought me back from the memory lane. I opened my eyes only to find my wife standing beside me and sobbing. Guilt engulfed my soul. Breathing became difficult and the restlessness increased. Only if I had the time and energy, I would have got up from the bed and gone in search of Ms Linda. I would have held her hands and cried for apology. It was only then that I realised what I had done to her. She was the one who helped me save my career. The yellow sari that she had worn on that fateful day had been haunting me for years. But only when I was the most vulnerable, the vision overpowered my mind.
looked at my wife and I cried. She, too, gave me company, for she could not bear the sight of her dying husband. Words did not matter at that time. The unfulfilled desires and unresolved guilt had won the game. It was time for me to kick the bucket. But my soul refused to leave the body. I tried to speak to my wife but could only manage to say “I wish I could turn back the clock and bring the wheels of time to a stop”.
After the confirmation from my mother, the principal called Ms Linda in his office. The young lady walked in without a clue. The next thing I knew was that she was fired from her job. She had tried to explain, she had tried very hard.