by Suja Koshy
It was one of the hottest days in April. Outside, the temperature was comparatively higher than that of the past few decades. The crowded classroom and the asbestos sheets above, made me sweat more..
It was the first day of the final examination. I took the attendance. Full attendance surprised me because poor attendance was common in our school.
I started distributing the question papers to the students. They were busy in adjusting writing pads and were writing their names on the answer sheets. In our time hardly I had seen students using writing pads in lower classes. This generation students’ or maybe the parents’ approach towards the examination is entirely different from that of our generation . I think new generation students are more conscious about their ‘bright future’ and they believe that it entirely depends upon the ‘grades’ they score.
All students were concentrating on their answer sheets without bothering about the scorching heat in the classroom.
I was thinking of going to the washroom and wash my face as I was sweating a lot. But I chose not to go as it was examination time and the Head Mistress would notice my absence from the exam room and take action against me.
I just stood near the window for a little breeze, peering out. I saw one lady near the gate who was arguing with the watchman. I asked the watchman to let her inside. I noticed her. She was finding difficult to catch her breath as if she had come from a race or she was being chased by someone!
Hiding something in her sari ‘pallu’, she came to me nervously.
She was looking for me only, I realized. She looked at me and pleaded with a soft voice "Teacher, will you please send Vijay out for some time?"
"He is writing the exam. Why do you want him now?"I asked, astonished.
I noticed a packet which she was hiding behind her.
"Teacher, he didn’t have anything today. He must be very hungry now,” she came closer to me and whispered.
She asked me for the permission to give the packet to her son. I looked at the ‘vada pav ' wrapped in an old dirty newspaper.
"Now it’s 2’o clock. Why he didn’t have anything till now?” I asked curiously, but with a little bit of hesitation for disturbing during the exam time.
She was trying to force out her words in between her sobs. She took my hand in her bony hand and murmured, "There was nothing left in my house to cook and feed him.’’ She paused a little, and then continued, "Vijay was with his ailing father when I went to sell my earrings to pay his fees which were due..Will he be allowed to write the examination without paying fees’’? She stared at me.
I felt embarrassed .She continued. “So I went and paid the fees first and then bought some food for us with the money left.’’
In her skeleton like figure, her wide open eyes and big teeth occupied most of her face. As I noticed her empty ears, I wished they were adorned with the missing earrings soon.
I turned back to the class to avoid further conversation with her and sent Vijay to his mother. ***