How I Became The Teacher She Could Come To When She Was In Distress

Amaira and the other students who followed, helped me evolve into more than just a Math tutor, but a guide who provided a safe space for them to open up and be themselves.

Trigger Warning: This deals with depression and suicidal ideation, and may be triggering for survivors.

Amaira was a confident and poised young woman who just turned twenty and exuded an air of sophistication. She carried herself with an alluring grace that drew people to her. She was bubbly and frank.

I was her mentor, a Math tutor, to be precise. Growing up with a conservative upbringing, I was often hesitant to speak my mind. In contrast, Amaira’s posh upbringing instilled in her the confidence to express herself freely and at a young age.

The stark difference in our upbringings was apparent in our interactions, but it also allowed me to learn from her and expand my own perspectives. We were able to build a meaningful connection based on mutual respect and admiration. While I preferred to listen, Amaira spoke freely and at length during our sessions.

Amaira showed me a very different way of looking at life!

“Ma’am, do you smoke?” Amaira once asked and I was caught off guard. Before I could even process it, she asked me, “Do you have a boyfriend?”

As a typical conservative South Indian woman who got married at the age of 21 and had a three-year-old daughter, I was taken aback. But the young lady didn’t stop there, she threw another question at me, “Do you have friends with benefits?” I was left bewildered.

I had recently read about “friends with benefits” in a book, and I was still struggling to come to terms with the concept when I was asked straight to my face if I had any such relationships. I was taken aback but nevertheless, we both shared a laugh and I made it clear that my answer was a definite no.

However, I appreciated the fact that she saw me as more than just a math tutor and felt comfortable enough to confide in me. I was glad that I could provide her with a safe space to open up and be herself. As much as we discussed the syllabus, we also talked about life in general.

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While we worked on solving problems related to Laplace and Fourier transforms, she would occasionally share details about her hobby of collecting lighters. She even mentioned her desire to throw a Halloween party in our huge backyard, which I had only ever viewed as a space for gardening.

At first, she came to me to learn math, but little did she know that she was also helping me broaden my perspectives. She was like an open book, introducing me to a world that I had never seen or experienced before. Through her stories and experiences, she allowed me to be a part of her world and learn from it.

It’s important to acknowledge young people are more than mere students!

Although I had always maintained a friendly vibe, as my students had mentioned, this young woman helped me see their lives without any judgments. Amaira and the other students who followed, helped me evolve into more than just a Math tutor, but a guide who provided a safe space for them to open up and be themselves.

We often underestimate the struggles that young people face, but it’s important to acknowledge the challenges they encounter, including hormonal changes, peer pressure, and the expectation to conform to societal norms and please their parents. These pressures can be overwhelming and can cause them to succumb to negative influences. Amaira was no exception.

After passing her graduation with flying colours and deciding to take a year off to explore her other interests, I received a shocking WhatsApp message from her one day out of the blue.

My connection with her helped me help her at a crucial point

It read, “Ma’am, I am sitting alone on the terrace, and I have slit my palm.” It was around 9 pm when I received the message. I immediately called her, but she was not answering. I felt overwhelmed and choked up, knowing that something was not right.

She was reading my texts though and that kept me hopeful and also made me conscious of the choice of my words. This is how the conversation followed:

Me: Amaira, I love you, I mean it and you know that as well.

Amaira: Yes ma’am, but I’m hurt and feeling hopeless.

Me: Dear, it’s okay to feel that way. We all experience difficult emotions at some point in our lives. You are strong enough to navigate through this feeling.

I then asked her to send me a picture of herself to ensure she was okay. She sent a photo of her blood-soaked palm, showing a deep cut. I made a mental note that the cut was on her palm and not her wrist, which could have caused more harm. Knowing the kind of intelligence she has this observation kind of hinted to me that she had just done this on a whim and not actually suicidal.

Taking a deep breath, I decided to change the tone of our conversation to make it lighter. I felt a little fearful, but my instincts told me it was the right thing to do. So I texted Amaira, “Wow, that’s a pretty deep cut. Looks like you’re all set for Halloween with a perfect zombie costume! (winks)” It felt a little risky, but I hoped that it would help her relax and lighten the mood. It worked.

Amaira: Ma’am, I love you. You might have just saved me from jumping from the terrace.

Me:  Love you too, lady! Oh no, that’s not fair. How could you decide that only you had struggles, haan? (winks)!

Amaira: Oh sorry, I forgot you are married! (winks)

Me: Lol! Now get to your home and attend to your wound first.

Amaira: Hmm…I am worried about what my parents would say…

Me: For now, just tell them you got cut by mistake and get first aid done. Later when you are ready to talk about it, you can tell them. They will understand.

Amaira: Ok ma’am.

Me: Send a picture of your palm with first aid done.

Amaira: Sure.

After a wait of a nerve-wracking 10 minutes, a notification popped up with a picture of Amaira’s bandaged palm, but this time, she also showed her smiling face behind it.

Author’s Note: This is a personal story and the name is changed for privacy reasons.

Editor’s Note: For IWD 2023, we’re publishing #MentoringStories in both fiction and non-fiction, for the IWD2023 theme #EmbraceEquity. This non-fiction story is one of the winners. See all mentoring stories here.

If you or anyone you know is feeling depressed or suicidal, here are some of the helplines available in India. Please call. 
Aasra, Mumbai: 022-27546669
Sneha, Chennai: 044-2464 0050
Lifeline, Kolkata: 033-2474 4704
Sahai, Bangalore: 080-25497777
Roshni, Hyderabad: 040-66202000, 040-66202001
SPEAK2us – Tamilnadu 9375493754

Image source: shutterstock

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About the Author


Seetha is a mother, homemaker, a wordsmith- poetry possessed & math obsessed, aiming to make a living through poetry! If you don't believe it, check out her website: read more...

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