The chocolate looks of Mehul were very decisive, for he had just knocked the door of his teenage and had only celebrated his thirteenth birthday. As is the case with every age, the teenage for him painted the air pink and red. Not that, Mehul was good at art and drawing, but was experiencing a feeling which was beyond his level of understanding. And his new found interest in science was a matter of surprise not only to his parents but even to himself.
The credit was to be given to Ms. Neetu, a 25 something years charming and attractive science teacher. Mehul’s new found interest was courtesy his science teacher.
It was quite a confusing syndrome for Mehul, as he was unable to gauge and judge the feeling, but one thing was very evident to him. That he felt strongly for his teacher, and the feeling was beyond his scope of understanding. Not just Mehul, and his parents and friends also found his new interest in science indigestible.
An air of love was not just confined to Mehul but similar air seemed to flow from the direction of Tia, who sat parallel to Mehul in the adjacent row. Tia never let go any chance of extending her helping hand to Mehul, be it lending her extra pencil or offering him to share her lunch box or helping him in copying down the notes or traveling an extra mile to complete his homework. Stealing his glance or exchanging a smile with him meant a lot to Tia. Who was ignorant of Mehul’s new found interest in science, or precisely put, the science teacher.
Like Tia, even Mehul never let a single chance fade away when it came to impressing his favorite teacher. Ms. Neetu always found one hand up, to answer every question thrown open to the class. This made him create a special place in the mind of his teacher. To add on to his studious, intelligent and attentive behavior was his display of little kindness, which was evident from his gesture of giving a flower or sharing a sweet from his lunch box. And Ms. Neetu was more than obliged to accept these little gifts; and the acceptance of gifts came with a soft touch on his cheek or a pat on his back. Mehul never let any of these moments go from his memory. On days when Mehul received a sweet touch on his cheek or a peck from Ms. Neetu; he preserved these feelers by not allowing his mother even kiss him on his return from school.
Mehul was the most pampered and favorite student of Ms. Neetu, she found him handy for trivial tasks like distribution of notes in the class or borrowing a duster or a piece of chalk from the neighboring class or reminding her of the page number of last taught session. This made Mehul feel special and his confused mind was busy building castle of dream.
Every action of his teacher left him wondering in search of some meaning. When he was praised before the class, he wondered if she favored him. He always tried to find reasoning in her behavior, even when she exchanged a dialogue or two with the co-teachers he wondered if he was the subject of the talk. When it came to submission of notes or project work for any other subject, he ensured not to submit it during the class time and do the submission in the staff room either before the class or after the class. He made every effort to steal or exchange a look of Ms. Neetu in the staff room as well. Mehul being Ms. Neetu’s favored student, she mostly acknowledged him in the staff room.
One of the days, a young man knocked the door of the class and Mehul found his dear teacher more than happy to see the young man at the door. Exited, Ms. Neetu greeted him at the classroom door and exchanged a moment of conversation with the young man. Mehul’s impatient brain began wandering and thinking about the young man, on return to her table she carried her lunch box which was apparently given to her by the young man. There began a series of calculations as to why was his dear teacher exited to see the young man at the class room! Why was he at the door to deliver the lunch box! What could have, the two of them spoken about! And most importantly who was the young man!!!
Perplexed and utter confused; his mind was busy finding answers to these question. Distracted with the thought he sought to find answers from his friend Mihir, and resulting in distracting him and the class. This was just enough for Ms. Neetu to warn Mehul with a smile. But, that did not stop Mehuls’s series of doubts and anxiety of the man in his teacher’s life. Engrossed in dealing with his confusion, the class was disturbed by the peon Shivkumar. The school peon called Ms. Neetu to handover a bunch of keys. While handing over the keys the peon softly conveyed a message which fell on to the ears of Mehul. That was just enough for Mehul to feel relaxed and resume his concentration on the subject of study. The message was “teacher ji aapke bhayya, lunch box ke saath ghar ki chabi dena bhul gaye the, isiliye unhone mujhe gate pe kaha chabi aapko dene”.
One fine day Mehul read the board outside the class that Ms. Neetu was absent and her class would be engaged by the drawing teacher. This had been a usual practice at the school, where on any given day if any teacher was absent, the class would have a drawing or crafts or games or a leisure class in lieu of the original class. The message of Ms. Neetu being absent brought cheers and broad smile on the faces of the students. The only one disheartened was Mehul, was it his fondness towards the teacher or his liking towards science was his confusion but the fact was he was feeling low. And he preferred not to play with his friends during the lunch break.
The science class was replaced by drawing and Ms. Neetu was replaced by Ms. Shweta, the drawing teacher. Ms. Shweta gave an assignment to the class to draw their favorite animal in natural habitat. The class was over exited to preset the best, but Mehul was least interested and was engrossed in scribbling on his drawing page. His ever ready next bench friend Tia was more than happy to extend tips on drawing or if need be, draw a picture for him. But Mehul declined her helping hand and continued with his scribbling. The result as expected was a punishment to stand before the class facing the wall. But, this made no difference in the line of thought. His erratic behavior was resultant of the absence of his favorite teacher Ms. Neetu. He was unhappy of the fact that his teacher had not informed him about her absence the previous day. He was now concerned, if she was unwell or was she out of town or was it that she faced some problem. For him nothing mattered, all he wanted to know was her reason for absence. And his mind got busy with all the calculations and miscalculation, assumptions and presumptions.
Carrying the worried look back home, Mehul decided to enquire about the absence next day. On the following day Mehul picked a rose for his teacher and ran to the school at his usual time, he preferred not to play along with his friend and chose to rush to the class to check the daily subject wise update on the class board. Nothing less than an atomic explosion was felt by Mehul in his brain, his favorite teacher was absent again on the second consecutive day.
Absence of his favorite teacher meant another day of frustration and confusion and another sleepless night. This was just too much for a thirteen year old child. The entire day was spent with distracted thoughts.
During one of the classes Mehul paid no attention at the subject and that resulted in punishment. He was caned on his hand and made to stand on the bench for not paying attention. The only one to sympathies with Mehul was Tia; and Mehul found the much needed warmth in her eyes.
By the end of the day, Mehul’s worry, frustration, confusion and distraction was at the peak. He was now annoyed, for not knowing the reason for his favorite teacher’s absence. He spent sleepless night rehearsing and rephrasing his words to Ms. Neetu, displaying his displeasure on her absence and more over, for not sharing with him and informing him about her leave.
Next morning Mehul tried maintaining his calm, as usual he reached school 10 minutes early and chose to play with his friend and not check out the board for daily class update. Post assembles when Mehul entered the class, the board read that Ms. Neetu was present and would engage the science class which apparently was the last class for the day as per the time table. This meant that Mehul had to remain composed and retain his calmness for the whole day. He could not afford to loose his calmness as he did during the two previous days, and result in another day for punishment.
The day passed and it was the time for science class, Ms. Neetu entered the class and the whole class stood up to wish “good afternoon”, Mehul chose not to pay any attention to the teacher and with his head bow down he continued fiddling with his compass box. But, surrendering to the excitement, he glanced at the teacher from the corner of his eyes. To his surprise, he found Ms. Neetu dressed in best of her dresses and her palms had a mehandi design, also he observed that her finger had a sparkling ring. Ms. Neetu on calling out Mehul’s name asked for the page number which was dealt in the previous class. Mehul chose not to pay attention and kept silent; on teacher’s second call Mihir rescued Mehul and informed her about the page number.
Mehul had almost lost his calm, the ring and mehandi made no understanding to him, and he was now toiling with the thought of what it meant as he had seen his own mother with mehandi and jewelry on his uncle’s and aunt’s wedding. Mehul had no clue of what had happened and his only source of discussion was his bench mate Mihir. The chat between Mihir and Mehul seemed to be a little louder and Ms. Neetu throwing a piece of chalk at Mehul warned him to punish if he was inattentive in the class.
The class progressed and Ms. Neetu asked the class to draw a physics diagram in their books, while she took rounds of the class. A confused Mehul paid no attention to the teachers instruction and continued scribbling the page and toiling with his thoughts.
On reaching to Mehul’s desk Ms. Neetu saw that he was inattentive, and so she decided to punish him by making him stand on the bench. At this moment, Mehul was completely broken from within, not for the punishment that was given to him but for all the worry and care that he had for his teacher was not reciprocated by his teacher and on contrary he was punished. His eyes were almost moist; and the very moment three other teacher’s along with the vise principle entered the class with a large bouquet and presented it to Ms. Neetu on behalf of 6th B class and congratulated her and announced to the class that Ms. Neetu was now engaged. And that was the reason for her absence for two days.
Mehul who had controlled the tears, now were ready to roll down, but the school bell came to his rescue to end the day. All his classmates hurried to leave the class, but Mehul was shattered and sat on his bench with his head resting on the desk.
Tia who never let any chance of being around Mehul sat next to him. Holding his hand, with softness, she said “it’s okay”. With a few seconds delay, Mehul raised his head saw Tia sit next to him with a pretty smile and holding his hand. With a relaxed face Mehul gave a sweet broad smile to Tia.
“Kaun kambakht kehta hai… hum jeete ek baar hai aur… pyar bhi ek baar hi hota hai…”