It was his turn next. Miss Tulsi waited while he gave her a hard stare before getting up with great reluctance. “I’m Tshewang…….” The pause was the silence before the storm, “….and I LOVE CRICKET,” he boomed. The whole class turned towards Tshewang whose introduction to their new class teacher sounded more of an angry grunt than the normal shy ones. “Thank you Tshewang,” she said turning over to the girl sitting beside him as if she did not hear the malice in his tone.
Miss Tulsi had joined Dala Middle Secondary school in Gedu with her heart weeping with sorrows only she could understand. She had always hated passing by the misty Gedu en route Thimphu where she was born and raised. When she completed her training from the Samtse college of Education with her dreams on helping in building the future of Bhutan through her dedication and sincerity, she never realized that the very start of the journey would be a slide downhill. Opening the envelope of her placement order, she wept like a child being sent for a time out.
But the tears while opening the envelope were less salty for she had yet many more tears to shed. Stepping into the cold foggy Gedu gripped her with a life that forewarned her of the upcoming mist of unpredictable future. The rickety old house, which was to be her abode now, stood with a haunted expression and she cried. “Did I choose wrong career?” she thought of her college mates who had opted for other jobs and now lived in posh concrete buildings in Thimphu and Phuentsholing.
SMASH, her already cracked hazy glass shattered with a ball that bounced right into her cold house. She went out with all her hatred for the place brimming and shouted angrily at the group of boys playing cricket. That was a bad start. The boys who lived in the houses nearby and their parents took immediate dislike of this new tenant in their neighborhood. Tshewang was one among those, actually it was his biggest sixer that had smashed her window and hence the bigger malice from him for she ruined his glory by shouting angrily for a broken window glass.
As her ill-favored fate would have it, Tshewang was in her class and she knew their disdain for each other starting from the introduction with the cricket ball smashing her window glass would be a story she would have to live and live very hard.
Tshewang showed his disdain right from the introduction. He started hating her subject. When she asked him any question, he just shrugged even when he knew the answer. He came without his homework done and left his desk happily when she told him to get out of the class.
Miss Tulsi, human that she was, took immediate dislike for this boy but her teacher heart dug with its tiny shovel aiding her to hide her displeasure. When she wanted to shower him with, ‘You Dumbo! You don’t know this?’ she instead put a plaster of fake smile on her face and said in her sweet voice, “at least you tried, that was wonderful! Please take your seat.” When she saw his incomplete homework, instead of whacking him with abusive words, she sent him out but always allowed him to get in when he was done with it. She somehow felt that he enjoyed doing his homework out of her class and she sensed the pride he felt at having conquered her.
A silent battle had begun between them.
As time flew by, Miss Tulsi realized that her fake smiles had turned into genuine ones and her frequent shower of questions to torment Tshewang had been replaced with his correct response which were always followed by her genuine reinforcement.
By mid-term, Tshewang sat regularly for her class with enthusiasm while Miss Tulsi basked in the knowledge of seeing him improve in her subject. The battle for trying to trigger hatred had resulted in genuine learner-teacher pursuit of knowledge. She realized she cared for the improvement of this soul she had first set her heart with hatred.
After result declaration, Miss Tulsi went to the staffroom to grab her handbag to head home. She saw an envelope with her name scratched with the familiar ‘hen’s scrawl handwriting’ as she called it. “Dear Miss, Thank you for making me what I m today!”
Tears ran down her eyes. She knew what it meant. She knew how the monster of a misguided boy had taken the track of an earnest learner’s road while she herself had fought the urge of her rotten heart to clear this path for him.
She looked at the misty Gedu through her misty eyes. Having completed the first year of her teaching job and landing up in a place so dreaded, she knew she had not made wrong move in her life. She knew there were many Tshewangs waiting for that small shovel in her heart to pave their way into right route of learning. She headed back to her rickety house knowing full well that her friends living in the posh buildings could never sleep with the blanket of this kind of fulfillment in life.
(P.S….dedicated to all the teachers who make a big difference in the lives of their students. HAPPY TEACHERS DAY in advance)