The sun was a discoloured canvas ball, fraying around its edges, washed and hung out to dry in the western sky as he trudged homewards. The wind lashed at him, pushing his head lower and he walked, one foot carefully ahead of the other, the headmaster’s voice echoing in his ears in a litany of shame.
“Kal ki baat aur thi. You were good…new technology…you should have upgraded…it’s a new world now…computers, LCD, PowerPoint presentations, multimedia learning…value for money…smart, young breed…professionals” Every step became harder to take but he doggedly went on, step after step, until he reached the gate that had long ago stopped pretending to be a security device.
He pushed and the gate gave way listlessly, as if to say “what’s to protect anyway?”
Once inside his compound, he stood still for a moment, preparing for the dozen clawing demands that were waiting for him on the 3rd floor of the ramshackle house in front. That’s when he saw the shiny black BMW hogging the tiny space in front of the house. Curiosity picked up his pace.
His wife opened the door almost before he had rung the bell and he heard the high, false brightness of her voice as she let him in. “Look who’s here!” He craned his neck apprehensively. A mid-thirties, fair, well-dressed, portly man with receding hair stood behind her.
“Aditya Sehgal, year 1993. Spoilt, trouble-maker, but very bright boy,” his mind immediately recited as the man bent down to touch his feet.
“Bless you, Aditya,” he said and the man straightened, his face glowing with happiness.
“Sir, you remember me!”
“Of course,” he said. “You waxed the black board. You broke the beehive. You threw water-bottle missiles at pedestrians from your classroom window—“
“Yet you never stopped believing in me, Sir. You made me who I am. I have a son now, Sir. I wanted him to meet you. I brought my family to take your blessings.”
He looked down in awe at the little bundle kicking and wriggling in a pram beside the window. Tiny hands stretched outwards, trying tirelessly to grasp the bands of sunlight that streamed in from the grill.
“When did I stop believing that I could catch the sun?” he asked himself.
He felt himself unfurl. His shoulders went back into position and his head came up. Tomorrow, he would enroll in a computer class. He was a teacher, after all. It was his job to learn.