‘The winds are always cold at this hour’ Reena thought as she got up for school. She lazily scrubbed a brush over her teeth and took a bath. It was 5:30 am.
The ball of sun appeared to rise from a red lid far in the horizon. The surroundings were dark as a starless night sky and as she went to her balcony, she waited for some sounds to occur. There was the muted rush of a bike, and the ding of the morning bell of the Durga temple. Pigeons cooed in unison. But everything was silent. A pale-yellow bus roared, driving out stray dogs from its path. It pulled to a stop at the Mahanadi Society waiting for the only student from this society to board the bus. Reena waved her dad goodbye as she entered the bus.
Jiya beckoned her to the third two-seater. The bus bellowed and took a ‘U’ turn from the stop in the opposite direction.
After thudding a little it again came to a stop. Reena wondered why the bus had stopped. Was the engine down? According to the bus Didi, it was waiting for a child ‘s mother who had forgotten to bring his art material for his drawing competition.As silence stretched, the pace of blabber and jabber among children increased. Rohan, the ‘BothersomeBoy’ of the bus, cried at a nearby hawker for some bhelpuri. Many gawked at his courageous behaviour which soon invited a spanking from the bus Didi.
‘Which papers have you got?’; Jiya asked, breaking the silence.
‘None’ Reena replied
‘And are you participating in the annual day?’
Reena felt extremely sad and out of sorts. She repelled Jiya’s questions with a No or None. Of course, Jiya soon understood.
She turned her head towards the seamless blue sky. which was dotted with fringes of red, yellow and orange. Rings of birds marched and flapped their wings, cheering the younger pack to join. Red Bulbuls chirped as quickly as they moved. Butterflies circled around the nursery. However, nothing could turn Reena ‘s attention.
Reena ‘s mathematics teacher was to give the marks of Mathematics. Rather than feeling excited or perturbed she felt a numbness settling over her. Her teacher M. R Rangarajan, was a stout lazy domineering fellow. He never taught anything nicely, and whatever he drew on the board was done with utmost listlessness. He loved moving his pot belly to an old song while also drawing the shape of a circle on the board. He never went beyond 3 questions in three days, and soon the chapter got over with children left to do the exercises on their own. He never asked for notebooks regularly but rather in the most unexpected times.
In short, he was nowhere near to a typical Mathematics Teacher.
M.R Rangarajan was called Ranjeet in the class. ‘Ranjeet Sir arrived!’ Ranjeet, a popular actor was known to play villain roles in Bollywood movies in which he ill-treated girls. But instead of terrifying girls he terrified the boys out of their wits. He believed that it was not possible for him to toil hard for grade 10 for he was too busy with grade 11 and grade 12. And that, Reena believed, was the sole cause of her thinking too hard.
Yesterday, he had left half the stack of checked papers of her class at home. It contained Reena ‘s paper as well.
The bus reached the school. Little graders pushed themselves in to go out first. The rest of the bus meanwhile, tried to wake up from drowsiness while people like Reena tried wishes, swears, and prayers to get out of their predicament. It was the paper showing day for all other 10th graders as well as 11th and 12th but none had got a teacher like M. R Rangarajan. Or Rowdy Ranjeet Sir.
At school, everyone was excited to see their papers. In English the class topper was Priyandarshi Goel. Most had got satisfying marks in science but there were those who still requested a slight increase in marks. In Hindi, people had written all sorts of poor and “unpersuasive” answers. It was the seventh period.
Ajay, the class monitor was given the responsibility to keep a lookout for Ranjeet Sir. His arrival after all, would mark readjustment of: behaviour, changed places, desks, teacher ‘s desk in the class. There would be a readjustment of everything in the class.
‘Ranjeet Sir arrived!!’.
Everyone shuffled and moved. When Mr Rangarajan entered the class, it was super quiet. He took a stride to the teacher ‘s table and sat down waving his hand so that we could settle down as well.’ Roll no. 1’, he called out. Reena looked around in agitation. Hers was Roll no. 4. What would she do?‘Roll no.2’ Jayeshwari was a good student and everybody cried to know her marks. Reena felt as if Jayeshwariwas stripped of her privacy. Bad or good marks, she had the first right to see them. Roll no. 3 ‘T.C Sir!’, someone called.‘Roll no.4!’, It was a chance, a punishment or both, for Reena to be having the fourth roll no. in the school.
She approached the teacher ‘s table and drew her hand for the paper keeping her head down.
‘The paper is partially checked’
What? she thought. He made some ticks and gave marks in circles.(2),(2),(2),(3),(3),(3),(5) How could she do all the 2 mark questions right? Wasn’t that trigonometry question of 2 marks thoroughly wrong?’ Reena saw him flick and put ticks. He looked at the marking scheme and gave her 1.5 marks in that question.‘But sir, why have you given 1.5 marks in this question? It is a silly mistake for an easy question!”
‘Aah I don’t remember the question’, he said. She produced her own question paper.‘Well the marks are given for writing the steps’, Ranjeet Sir said casually. But Reena was not satisfied. There was no reason to give marks. She had copied the question in those steps and done that question wrong.
If that is how marks were being awarded in each question, with a chief carelessness and indolence then those marks did not give her any pride.
‘ Sir, if in the final examination I make the same mistake will I get 1.5 marks then?’; Reena pushed.
‘ No but you have written the ste- ‘
‘ I don’t deserve these marks as well.’, She finally stated.
Her mathematics teacher stared at her in astonishment. He wrote zero in front of the question.‘Class this is the first time, No, the second time I have discovered an extraordinary student!’, Ranjeet Sir roared.‘The first one lives in Australia today working in some bank. I always wondered that your class had some inner potential. But most of you, including those going to coaching, worry about getting more marks! Perhaps we should learn a lesson today!’; Ranjeet Sir stood up from his desk.
Reena looked at her still left unchecked paper and sighed.Life can sometimes make strange demands to oneself.
(based on a true story)