Monday, November 26, 2012

In memory of a mischief-maker

Writing an obituary for a student is the worst thing that can ever happen to a teacher! Having come from a profession where we're considered above and beyond all emotions (of course with an exception of a teary-eyed and emotion-choked Arnab Goswami), I thought I'll take the shock, and the pain, without much difficulty. But that wasn't the case!

The fateful Tuesday morning (20.11.12) was like any regular one... or at least it started like one. It being a class-free day for me, S and I set out to get some work done at the bank. We went smiling, came out with the happy and hungry thoughts of invading the nearest dhaba for lunch before we work through the second part of the day. All was well and cheerful till we reached the dhaba when a good Samaritan colleague informed us that we're forbidden to go "there" as "a boy died there just now". Though the message was confusing and triggered a lot of questions in our minds, S turned the bike towards the office without another word.

Post lunch in the college canteen, I tried to squeeze out some more information from a senior colleague on the-boy-who-died. And what we got to know wasn't good news. A first-year student of the engineering college drowned in a nearby pond across the road. That was my first moment of shock. Seeing the expression on my face, S quickly rushed me out. First-year?! My only prayer since that moment was "I hope it's not somebody I know..." because I know quite a few first-year students personally.

The tension kept building up as nobody seemed to have a clue about the unfortunate kid. As the day passed and the evening set in, things slowly started seeing light and the name and other details got out. It was J bhai, one of our attenders, who broke the news to me. He didn't have much information except for the name of the boy who drowned. He then cross-checked the name and the spelling, along with the roll number, in my attendance register. My worst fears were confirmed. He was a student of my class... somebody who I knew - by his first name, middle name and last name - for the past 3 months and 4 days.

The moment was beyond shock, though that was the initial reaction as my brain went numb. Shock engulfed me suddenly and kept overwhelming. It felt as if all the energy drained out of my body. My feet, especially! As I dragged myself out of my room and down the stairs, the news was re-confirmed by two more colleagues. Though I saw a few of my students gathered near the dais, I had no courage to meet their eye, or talk to any of them... The bubbly me had deserted me for the moment and I just dragged on without a cheerful "Hello", "How're you?", "What're you all doing here?", "No class?" or "Good luck" for the next day's exam.

The nightmare had just begun as shock slowly gave way to pain. And pain was coming in waves. Everything around looked like a blur. I was talking, cleaning, arranging and re-arranging things mindlessly, watching TV - but nothing seemed real anymore. The only thing I was doing with focused attention was to trace the boy's FB account. I don't know what made me do it. But after over an hour's effort, I found him - smiling as mischievously as he always did - on FB. Reality striking, I started prying into his not-so-private life by checking his photographs, friends' comments - in fact trying to find out everything 'about him'. Ironical as it may sound, his favorite quote is "Life is too short. So why don't you love me before we run out of time." And then I found a comment posted by his friend, posthumously, "Miss you balli... aise bhi koi chhod ke jaata hai kya". And that really broke my heart.

The first wave of severe pain hit me just when I was about to doze off. The kid's smiling face, both on and offline, and his friend's comment kept coming back to me - depriving me of my usual sound sleep. With a heavy heart and eyes that kept welling up, we reached the college next morning to attend the condolence meeting at the institution. The garlanded photo on a stool with flowers placed in a heap in front, and the overpowering aroma of the incense kept confirming, and re-confirming, the tragedy that could have been evaded had he been a bit less reckless, and a bit more careful.

Now what can I say about Pradip? He was like any happy-go-lucky teenager - dark, thin, short, smiling, reckless, mischievous and talkative. He was neither brilliant nor studious, but he was smart. Not the kind of student teachers would take note of. With a high-pitch, and slightly feminine, voice, he used to keep yakking in one of the last rows. So he was one of the first students whose names I made it a point to know; warned him a couple of times and threatened to throw him out of the class if he "cannot stay quiet". The last I scolded him was two weeks earlier when I told him he'll not be allowed to write the exam if his attendance percentage doesn't improve... :( And improve, it did not. He still bunked classes despite the warning.

He knew he wouldn't be allowed to write the exams because of his poor attendance. He knew and he came prepared... with a towel, a pack of cigarettes, the company of two friends and the thrill of swimming - in a lonely deserted pond amidst nature. The two friends who survived will certainly be scarred for life. And so will be his parents. His father (especially) who works as a security guard in one of the prestigious software companies in Bhubaneswar... who must have dreamed that his son will become an engineer, and someday will work in the same company!! The father's dreams shattered, the mother's heart broke, and the sister's hopes vanished... all in a matter of a few seconds.

Why? Why? I wonder if it's his age, his adventurous spirit or his reckless attitude that predominated and prompted him to take a swim in untested waters on that fateful day! I'm yet to get an answer, and the only person who can answer it right cannot do so - ever again! A moment of thrill cost him his precious life, nipped it in the bud and sucked the life out with ease. S is so right. Such is the fickleness of life!

All I can say now is - be happy, no matter where you are! And may your soul rest in peace!! 

1 comment:

Ruthu said...

Shanthi .... His quote and his friends comment are actually the most ironical and hard hitting things!! Take care !