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On the occasion of Teacher’s Day here is a story by Rimli Bhattacharya about a childhood crush on a teacher, who was indeed special to her.
See, this is Archimedes principle – “If you put an ice cube in a glass of water, the cube floats because ice is less dense than water. So, the ice underwater displaces that volume of water. To make things easy, we will say that the ice cube is a perfect cube, where each side is 1 cm long. Let’s also say that the ice cube is floating so that 0.8 cm is under water. How much does the ice cube weigh? To determine that, let’s go over some calculations” blah blah blah
I was not paying attention at all, physics lessons were very boring but I still loved his classes. Five feet, eleven inches with glasses on – oh how much I loved those glasses of his. I guess he had myopia, he never looked at me with his glasses on, whenever we spoke on that playground. He was trying to teach me some stupid equations, when all that I used to think was possible ways to propose to him.
I was fifteen and had read all the Mills and Boon series and done some sneaking into Jackie Collins as well. So it was very natural…nothing wrong in loving my physics teacher right?
“Meet me in my room at 3”, I got a note from him.
Hey, that’s a great chance, he must be thinking of proposing to me. Yak, those filthy toilets don’t even have a mirror.
“Sisli, can you give me your geometry box please?” I asked. “Why?” Sisli reverted back reading a boring Geography lesson on rains, forests and deserts.
“Just like that, I want to see that Protractor,” I said. Sisli’s geometry box was brand new and I could see myself in its shining cover.
Continuing with her studies, Sisli handed me her box and I looked at those tinted glasses. Though the refractory image deformed my face I said, “That’s the problem with the box, I am good looking and there is no doubt about that.”
The next three classes were very taxing for me. Those days we didn’t have the privilege of wearing a watch. “How silly, you want a watch? Get lost. Concentrate on your studies,” were my father’s words every time I begged him for a watch. “You wretched girl, forget your novels and please concentrate on science. You need to clear JEE, IIT and then I will gift you a watch. I am going to keep all those rubbish novels of yours under lock and key,” my father stormed.
So, I had to completely depend on the school bell. It rang at 3 and my joy had no bounds. Fixing my knee length skirt, brushing my shabbily tied pigtails, adjusting my tie and my blouse, I walked into his room.
Look this is going nowhere, I didn’t even mention his name – Joseph Smith, a Catholic and a single man – that I knew. Thanks to my Sherlock Holmes studies, I had figured out that he was single. The days he didn’t shave, I found him no less than the James Bond. But the days he did, I found him to be like Aamir Khan. Without any doubt he was the most handsome man I had met in my life.
“May I come in sir?” I almost said, “May I come in Joseph?”
“Yes please,” and without looking at me he said, “I thought you were good in science, in fact your marks in Maths, Chemistry, Biology are all good. Physics too was good. But what is the problem with you now and what is this?” He gave me my exam paper. Good lord, 38.5 on 100, I had just managed to pass.
“I have also seen you chewing a pencil stub, scratching your hair and absolutely paying no attention when I take lessons. I need to complain to your parents. Bring your calendar, let your parents know about your gradually fading scores.” The fact that he did watch me during the classes was more exciting than him calling my parents.
“Sir, please give me one last chance, my mother will hit me,” I begged with tears. Those were genuine because I knew how serious my parents were regarding my studies. I come from a family of professors.
“Okay, this is the last warning. If you need any help with the equations or the principles please do let me know, you can approach me anytime.” She then thought to herself, “Yes I have a problem, I need to propose to you, to hell with those prisms, theorems, light and sound.”
“Now go, start your studies, work hard and achieve your goals. You are a good student, in physics as well. You will fare well, my blessings are always with you.” He turned around and continued with his answer sheet checking.
I was almost heartbroken. “Blessings? Why does he have to bless me? Thank God, at least that note to my parents got cancelled. But okay, all husbands do bless their wives”, I thought. Didn’t I read in Collins’ Lucky about some blessing factor, maybe I am confused.
“What did he say?” Sisli asked. “Nothing; he said that I am a very good student of high caliber and he has always appreciated me,” I said. “That Cherry Blossom, what else will he have to say, my goodness he is so dark, we cannot even see him if there is a load shedding.” Sisli said, continuing with her lessons.
“Cherry Blossom! That boot polish, how dare you Sisli. But it’s okay I’ll forgive you because you gave me your geometry box. A friend who helped me in distress.”
Back to studies, but dear me, will you please understand Mr. Smith that I cannot concentrate when you take our lessons. But no, I have to prove myself. The only thing I did for next month was work hard on Physics. I neglected all other subjects but held on to Physics.
He met me on the playground where I was gleefully playing the basketball – all covered in dirt and my hair clips had fallen. He called me, “Hey Rimli, listen, come soon”.
This is not a good time, so ugly I am looking. But he is calling, I need to run and so I did. Rubbing my dirty hands on my equally dirty skirt, I walked towards him.
With his hands on my shoulder, hugging me tightly he said, “I am so happy for you, you have got 98 on 100. Brilliant! Didn’t I say you are a good student? keep it up. One more thing, I am leaving within a month. I am shifting to UAE for my higher studies. So, follow your passions, aim for the sky, just know you are good enough. You need to be little more grounded, be focused. My best wishes.” Planting a kiss on my head he walked away.
I couldn’t believe what he said. I couldn’t play. I ran to that filthy toilet and wailed. Rubbing my swollen eyes, I returned to my class. “Hey you know, cherry blossom is leaving, now we will have someone new.” Sisli said as if she was saying something great.
“Cherry Blossom”, he is my James Bond, Aamir Khan, he is my world but then again, Sisli is my best friend. So it’s okay Sisli can call him “Cherry Blossom”.
The school gave him a farewell. Being a member of the choir I too sang, “Sagor Nodi Koto dekhechi desh, ar pahare shonali koto surjoday, ami dekhechi dweep koto ontorik, ar nishuti ratre bone chondrodoi”. It was not a perfect song for a farewell but our music teacher thought so and we sang.
He left, the last lecture he took was not on physics but on his hardships, how he dealt with life, how to break boundaries and move forward. Also, about having faith and being kind. We all listened, we were too young to understand what he meant by hardships, boundaries, kindness etc and I was like, “How will I live without you, I cannot even think, and those songs I sang for you – gazab ka hein din, socho zara, ye diwana pan dekho zara, tum ho akele him bhi akele maza aa raha hein kasam se”.
I must have fallen in love a dozen times after that, but Joseph Smith was someone special, no not a lover anymore but someone whom I respect and hold in high esteem.
Sir Joseph Smith I don’t know where you are, but this student of yours indeed loved you, a childhood crush. Everybody called you ‘Cherry Blossom’ and yes, I too have myopia now. As I type out this story, I have my glasses on. It was you who told me, “My blessings are with you always”. Yes I need them more and more. I wish I could say it to you that it was your blessings which helped me go that extra mile.
Published earlier here.
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Rimli Bhattacharya is a First class gold medalist in Mechanical Engineering from National Institute of
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