Sunday, June 1, 2014

What I've learnt about Love, Loss & Everything in Between

Mrs Usha was my High school Hindi teacher.

She is one of the most sombre people I have ever known in my whole life. 

To all the students in the school Mrs Usha was kind of a dark horse. We didn't know much about her personal life, the few details things that we had grown accustomed to were that she was never late to the school, she never missed a single class, and come rain or shine she always wore a red woolen sweater.
Einstein : But I still don't understand women !

I was born a sentimental idiot but it took me sometime to realize it. Among the 36 students in class X-a I was one of the two students who tried to figure out the origins and evolution of the enigma that was Mrs. Usha ,Vijayraj was the other. 

Mrs. Usha once snapped at me when I tried asking her if she was married and if she had any kids. It was weird reaction. I was obviously startled but I decided to give up my pursuit to try and decipher her.

Then our mid term exams came by.

A list of possible essay topics were annouced a week before the tests began-
Do not choose 'My experience at a cricket match' for your essay it will be like digging your own grave she said emphatically to the whole class before we left.

When the day of the test finally arrived I was so underprepared that even the memory of the exam still gives me the chills, the only thing I was prepared for was the essay and the only topic I was in any position to write about was 'My experience at a cricket match', quite simply because I spent the entire day before the test watching an exciting match between India and Pakistan which we won off the last ball.
There's nothing quite like a last ball win

I took a deep breath, and unleashed myself on the pages that lay before me, I knew I was exceeding the word limit but quite frankly I didnt care, in the 3 hour test I used up one and half hours writing this essay and i still had time remaining to answer the other questions, well thats because i didnt know the correct answers to any of them.

My peformace in the test was dismal but I left the hall in high spirits, smiling to myself as though my essay would suffice to help me pass even though it only carried 10 marks.

When the time for the mid term results came by I waited with bated breath for Mrs Usha's class, she walked in with our corrected answer sheets and gave us a dressing down for all the mistakes we had made.

In the biography section Vijayraj had written an incredible yet highly fictionalized account of Munshi Premchands life that included an outrageous mention of how the famous author excelled in basketball and football as a child and how an injury forced him to start writing instead of playing in the fields.
Although Mrs. Usha made him cry for insulting one of Indias greatest story tellers i'm sure the memory of this incident makes him laugh ot loud today.
Munshi Premchand the Shakespeare of Indian literature.

When She finally arrived at discussing the essay portion of the test with us, she lauded the efforts of the brave students who chose to write about national integration ,unity and diversity etc while expressing utter disgust for the disobedient morons who went against her advice and chose topics that had only limited scope for expressing ones literary prowess.

I started to sweat, failure was imminent.

She started handing out the papers according to our roll numbers.

I was reluctant to see my marks.

My classmate Anil loved seeing the scores of other students, he didnt blink an eye when I asked him to see mine.

"Whoa" ! He remarked.

"What" ? I almost shouted 
"Did i fail" ? "Did i fail" ? I asked him repeatedly

"No, you passed, its your essay, It looks like she has just drawn a line across your page", He shrugged his shoulders and said - "Well, I guess she hated it man".

"Thats not possible". I said as i snatched the paper from his hands.

Yep, there it was. A long diagonal line across the sheet that looked like a key.

My joy of passing the test was shrouded by the utter disregard of what i considered my best literary work ever.

Dismay spread across my face.

Mrs Usha was  looking straight at me, I know this because I was trying to express my disappointment by making angry faces at her while keeping my head down.

"There's one thing you all must know". She announced.

"Of all the essays I read there was one that impressed me the most". 

"Which one?" someone from the back of the class asked.

"Its the only essay for which i have given a score of 9 on 10".

All but 2 Students in the class started flipping through their papers, except for me and Vijay.
It became evident after a while that none of the students had scored a 9 in the essay, even Avinash the class Hindi pundit was given only a 7.

The bell rang 10 minutes later, it was time for us to return our answer papers and head home.

I chose to wait for everyone to leave, Vijay wanted me to accompany him to a restaurant nearby where they apparently served the 'best parotas and curry' he had ever eaten, it amazed me how he manged to have such a good apetite inspite of his performance in the test.

Vijay left in a hurry.

Mrs Usha beckoned to me and I got up from  my seat.

I thought i saw her smile when I handed in my answer sheets, but then I quickly brushed aside the thought telling myself it was probably just the angle from which I was looking at her.

"Why didnt you tell everyone that it was you who scored the highest in the essay ?". she asked me as I began to leave.

"Me ? Are you sure ma'am"? I reiterated.

"Yes", look she said pointing at the long diagonal line across the page on which i had written my essay.

Thats when i noticed that the line across my page was in actuality the worlds wierdest nine i had ever seen before.

"Wow !!! I thought you had striked off my answer because i chose to write about the match instead of the constitution, or our democracy". I said trying my best to hide my excitement.

And for the first time in my life I saw her laugh.

I also saw the slightest possibility of initiating a conversation right then and there with Mrs. Usha and I took it.

"Can i ask you a question ma'am" ? 

She paused for a moment.
"Just 1 question,Only If you are willing to carry these papers for me to the staff room" She said.

I picked up the pile of sheets and walked with her.

Here i was with only one question to ask her and naturally, I wanted it to be something special because I knew that there wasn't going to be a chance to ask her a follow up question, what i asked would have to count.

Time was running out, the staff room wasn't very far from where we stood and I was struggling to find a suitable question to ask her apart from the usual Where are you from?
Where do you stay ? What is your favourite color ? and so on.

We were just  few feet away from our destination when Mrs. Usha looked back at me and asked me if i was going to ask her my question or not.

Here's what i asked her-

"Why don't you smile even though when you do it makes your face glow" ?

She looked at me with sympathetic eyes and said-

"There was once a person in my life who brought me nothing but smiles and laughter, then one day he was taken from me, he took with him my one and only reason to be happy. 
That's why i dont smile even though I know it makes my face glow".

I saw her tear up and as she gently took the papers from my hand she said 'someday my words will make more sense to you than it did today' and disappeared into the staff room.

Barely a month later Mrs. Usha got transferred to another school, I didn't get another chance to ask her what exactly had happened in her life or who it was that was taken away from her, the conversation we had that day remained in my memory and even though i never told my classmates about it, from time to time I thought about what she said.

There was a period in my life when the fear of losing someone I love kept me from even contemplating falling in love , the question - What if they leave or are taken away from me was something i couldn't answer without experiencing considerable emotional pain.

That's when I read these lines-
“First best is falling in love. Second best is being in love. Least best is falling out of love. But any of it is better than never having been in love.” 

I guess the reason why we call it 'falling' in love is not because it has anything to do with gravity, its probably because unlike other emotions love offers us the opportunity of being immersed in a realm of infinite possibilities, an endless journey that gets better with every passing minute.

Its a ride worth taking.

Maybe some part of you wants to ask me how I deal with the fear of one day being taken away from the one I love ?
Truth be told, I don't know how . 

But as I take it one day at a time it becomes clearer to me that no matter where life leads you, or how much it hurts to have your heart broken-
In the words of Alfred Lord Tennyson-It is better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all.

Until next time.