‘Hey you! Come over here,’ The teacher smiled and called the chubby girl to the front of the class. Addressing the other students, she pointed at her face and said, ‘Look at her! Doesn’t she look funny!’ The class of forty students began laughing. The girl stood there, clueless about what the joke was. The teacher told the girl to go and take a look in the mirror.
Confused and embarrassed, she made her way to the girls’ bathroom and stared at the mirror. A small blue patch of ink had made its way to her face. She turned around a bit, acting out the scenario from a few moments ago, curious to know how she would have looked in front of the class.
The class was the fifth standard. The little girl was me. The patch of blue on my face had come from my ink-smeared fingers.
That teacher taught us Hindi. She was a good teacher, and probably the sole reason I actually know the Hindi alphabet better than most of my Hindi speaking peers. But for reasons I am still not sure of, she constantly picked on me. My Hindi was terrible. My handwriting even worse. Every page of my notebook bore scars from her red pen. Strangely, her remarks in my notebook were all written in English. I can vaguely recall one such remark, ‘Instead of improving, your handwriting is getting worse with every class!’
I was terrible with pens. We were only allowed to use fountain pens. Ball pens were a complete no. ‘It’s bad for your handwriting,’ that’s what they said. I had to change my pen frequently. I broke nibs. The refilling compartment would leak as I wrote — leaving blue fingerprints on my notebooks. I took it as a sign of achievement — proof of a great writer, or at least one that writes a lot. I could make the best pens leak. I began using different kinds of pens, and they leaked too. I even managed to break the nib of roller-ball pens.
For over three years, I have attempted to narrate this little incident from my childhood. And every time it ended up with me breaking down. I always imagined that I would write about having forgiven her and sound magnanimous. But I cannot bring myself to say that. Her insult was a personal one — one which no child should be subjected to, and most definitely not by a teacher.
One might say that hatred is another side of love, and that deep down inside I probably want her to like me and be nice to me. That may be true. And by not letting go of that incident and allowing it to torment me, I am more likely to harm myself more than anyone else.
But today, as I prepared to write this — my 200th post — I wanted to put to rest the whole issue. Having ink-smeared fingers is no crime, and my inability to take care of a pen has nothing to do with my ability to write.
This morning, I took out my fountain pen and washed the dust off it. I cleaned the nib and watched my fingers get soaked in ink. Then I sat down to type.
Now that I have written this, I realise why that incident refuses to leave me. As angry as her behaviour makes me today, my own reaction to it at that time never ceases to amaze me. For some reason it never hurt me. The little girl I saw in the mirror didn’t react – at all. She was different. She was indifferent.
Did she notice that? Was the teacher trying to get under my skin and make me feel something — love or hatred — towards her? I’ll probably never know. But it sure feels good to think about it!
NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging
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