December 9, 2013
The haze cleared and she saw the cluster of fine-looking purple carnations hanging from the balcony of her old class room. She parked her car outside the main gate and she could smell the fragrance of the flowers blend with the scent of the concrete building. A bizarre feeling of comfortable nostalgia sheltered her heart as she took the long flight of stairs, matching every step with the rhythm of her heartbeat.
The carved wooden door creaked as she pushed it open. Miss Diana was seated on the chair placed before the blackboard, monitoring over a quiet and busy class room. She was just as she had remembered her. A tall, fair complexioned slim lady, with curly honey coloured hair (which now had dominant hues of grey to it) neatly brushed and pined into a half pony tail. She was dressed in an elegant yet simple cotton saree.
She looked up from the bundle of papers she was evaluating, and spotted Smriti standing on the doorstep. Her face lightened up, and she walked towards her most beloved student and took her into an extended and warm hug. Smriti felt a cavernous twinge of pain and homesickness smack her sprit. Diana felt a powerful feeling of love pour out of her and a flood of memories flashed back to her.
July 3, 1999
It must’ve been an empty co incidence or a sign of destiny or both. Diana heard her favourite track from Roja at a distance as she walked to a small room full of energetic and dynamic seven year olds. She had been dreaming of her first day as a teacher and here she was now, living it. The class slithered into silence as she walked in, except for a small rustling noise from the back. She gave a short self introduction and asked the students to stand up and introduce themselves. The rustling in the back continued.
It was a short girl, with large eyes. She was so deep in into a very animated game of hand cricket with her bench partner that she had not noticed that her turn of introduction had come.
“You, little miss in the red skirt. What’s your name?” Diana said as she put up a smile.
“So, tell us about yourself, Smriti.”
Silence. The little girl put her head down and froze.
“What’s your father’s name?”
Silence. The little girl’s head was still put down and she started scratching the wooden desk with her nails.
“You’re mother’s name, dear?” Diana tried her best to sound composed.
Silence. The little girl now bit her lips as she continued scratching the desk.
Strangely though, Diana did not feel angry. The little girl seemed like she was having her own issues to deal with and Diana thought it would not be right to push her and decided to give her some time. She asked her to be seated and went to the next student.
JULY 4 1999
Second day into her teaching career and Diana learnt that a history class before lunch hour was the last thing that kept a room full of seven year olds entertained. It was the little girl with large eyes again. She was in a very animated conversation with her bench partner and scribbling down in her book.
Diana took in a deep breath.
Be calm. She told herself. Losing your temper in front of bunch of seen year olds is not very impressive.
The little girl jerked as she paused her story telling conversation and stood up.
“Pick up that notebook, and come sit here.” Diana pointed to an empty desk close to the board and near the teacher’s table.
Smriti obeyed silently.
Just as the bell rang, and the students left for lunch, Diana noticed that she was in the room with Smriti, alone. She was scribbling in her notebook again as Diana walked closer to her.
“Can I see that?” She asked.
Smriti quietly handed over the big pink spiral bound notebook. Diana opened it to find the pages of the fat journal were brilliant pencil sketches of animals and birds.
“That’s beautiful, Smriti.” Diana was awestruck at the telling detail of the sketches. It was simply way too brilliant foe a seven year old.
“But Darling, you can’t do this in class hours.” She continued. “You won’t learn what we’re trying to teach you then.”
Smriti nodded her head in a docile way.
JULY 5 1999
Two minutes into the class and Diana realised that it was unusually quiet. She saw that Smriti was absent. She realised how she strangely missed the quiet and rebellious girl’s presence. The rest of the day was a complete drag for her.
JULY 12 1999
More than a week had passed and Smriti still hadn’t come to school. The small tone of worry that developed since the day she was absent had evolved into panic. Diana had an instinct that something wasn’t right and she wanted to know that Smriti was fine. Diana sensed a deep sorrow in her eyes since she met her. The quite little mysterious girl.
Right at that time, a tall and dark man, in neatly pressed formal wear walked into the classroom. Diana easily recognized the little skinny figure next to him.
“Smriti!!” Diana exclaimed.
Smriti gave a weak smile as she sat down in her place. The tall man walked away, just as fast as she had come. Diana could see that he was clearly a busy man with a white collar job. At the end of the day, Diana went next to Smriti and sat down.
“What happened?” she asked. “Why were you absent for so long?”
“My dad got married.” Smriti gave a short reply.
Diana was taken aback.
“You mean, the man who just dropped you?” Diana asked, failing to cover up the shock in her voice.
Smriti nodded. Her face was blank and rigid. Diana hesitated before she spoke again.
Smriti’s large eyes welled up with tears, and she bit her lips again, as they overflowed from her eyes and down her cheeks. Diana saw the little body tremble as she wiped her eyes with her skinny hands. But no, the tears would not stop. They overflowed, like they would never end. Diana’s heart broke. The pain of losing a mother, she had been there.
“Was she ill?”
Smriti nodded. “For more than a year.”
“Is she nice to you? You know, your dad’s….?”
“She’s not mom” came an uncomplicated and strong reply.
The little girl broke down again. Diana took her in her arms, and held her until she finished crying. After a few deep minutes, she took out Smriti’s sketchbook.
“What’s this?” Diana pointed at a brilliant sketch in the middle of the book that completely covered two pages “It looks beautiful!” She said in a cheerful tone, trying to change the topic.
“They are purple carnations.” Smriti said in a coarse voice. “My mother used to grow them in the backyard, but they withered and died, as she got sick. They’re my most favourite flowers.”
That night, Diana couldn’t stop thinking about the little girl’s emotional mayhem and ache. She strongly felt like she had the responsibility to make it go away.
The next morning, she bought a packet of Carnation seeds on her way to school.
December 9, 2013
“They’re still alive?” Smriti exclaimed at the fresh bunch of purple Carnations.
“Ah, they are” Diana replied in a soft voice. “They are in many ways like you, darling. They need lots of special care, intensive attention and individual tending to. That’s what makes them so precious. ”
Smriti gave a teary smile.
“I would give up everything in the world, including my job as a graphic designer to be your student again.” She choked.
“Oh dear, you always are.” Diana said. “You never left.”