Being Women

Of Love, and Sundry Other Things

Love is not always about the opposite gender. Pure love is everywhere and subtle. What you need is to have that heart to feel and reflect through it. It could be a teacher-student affection or ones who never returned. Not necessary the everyday dosage. Read this beautiful narration through a teacher’s lens.

Blackboard. Chalk. Duster. Books. Benches are part and parcel of my life all these years. Turn the corner of the street in the morning, and hundreds of sunny faces would run to you, singing “G-o-o-o-d M-o-o-o-o-o-r-n-i-n-g Ma’am” aloud and cheerfully. Walk along the corridor, and some unknown kid is sure to walk up to you with a flower grown in his hand-painted pot. Scold them for their incessant pranks severely, and you would find them standing quite erect, heads down, turning pink in their desperate effort to suppress laughter. 

Nowadays, when I step into an almost empty school, I find myself standing dazed in front of empty classrooms. Or, staring blankly into the screen of my mobile phone that flashes names of my students while they write. It is so different when they are not around. Today let me share with you two or three simple stories that touched my heart, made me laugh out loud, or moistened my eyes but stories that are nonetheless real. Stories that speak and breathe of love. Of affection. Of naughtiness. That you can find nowhere else but in a school. And these stories are not from one school either. Students too belong to various rungs of the socio-economic ladder – while some own a lot, some do not even own a penny. 

Once, I had been the Class Teacher of a class that had a child suffering from acute difficulty in walking and speaking. He could not walk on his own. Had been fine as a child but could not stand up properly after he recovered (or did he ever?) from pox, so his mother had told me.

“Miss, my boy used to run on the fields of this school as a child. Now, even the sight of the field annoys him and makes him restless.” She said, with glistening, moist eyes.

I met him when he was in his teens. On my very first day in his class as the class teacher, I found out that he has got wonderfully caring friends who used to help him up and down the staircase (the classroom being situated on the second floor). Friends who don’t involve the adult caretakers, and see themselves that their friend is taken to and out of the class safely, friends who ensure that he does not become late for the class, friends whom I see waiting every day outside the school gate for him to reach. Sometimes they reach the class after the assembly is over, as they have to avoid the usually crowded staircases. 

One day, most of his classmates were absent, owing to the half-yearly examinations knocking at the door. As the students were singing the prayer, I saw one of his classmates appearing in front of the staircase, panting but dragging his friend with utmost strength. They were a little late and didn’t ask for help probably. The boy who was carrying out the task single-handedly was rather thin, but he was smiling. Through a corridor crowded lesser than the other days, they came strutting like victors, panting and sweating. On reaching the classroom, both of them lined up along with the others, without putting their bags down and finished the prayer with the others until I signalled to them for going in and taking a little rest.  And I stood mesmerized. It restrengthened my belief that if there be any god, he/she must be in us, among us, body and flesh, not to be worshipped, but to be admired, and to restore our trust in humanity.

There happened to be a girl. She lived with her relatives down here, while her mother singlehandedly ran a boutique in another city to raise her. So, I had been told. Teachers were frequently annoyed with the girl, for she would not do her task. Would not read or write. Would not submit home assignments on time. She would receive frequent diary notes that she wouldn’t get signed either. I tried to reason with her sometimes. And then, seeing me, she would beam at me. Suppose I catch a bad cold and take a day off, next day she would be holding my finger suddenly on the staircase, demanding, “Where had you been? I so missed you!” On being asked for a home assignment, she would submit her copy, a little flustered. A day came when she scored a 90% on her class test. On that day, she couldn’t resist herself. She had on her face what I call a sunshine smile. She jumped about and hugged me tight, saying, “I love you!”

That smile. Oh, that smile still lives in me. 

“None of you would sit together ever again”, I stormed.

“Miss?” Came the meek reply. As if they had done nothing.

“I DON’T want to hear a thing. Is that understood? Change your seats. I don’t want to see the four of you together again. You here, and you there. You there on that corner, beside him. And you, this side. Done. And make sure there are no more complaints.”

“Sure miss.”

“And don’t try to act smart.”

“No miss.”

The next day, I enter the class to find the four naughtiest standing at the entrance. 

“What happened?”

“Don’t know who did it, Miss.”

On the seats indicated for them, neatly stuck are four chewing gums, staring nicely at me.

“Write two essays I had asked last week. Until you get these done, no release during recess.”

“Is that the punishment, ma’am?”


Faces droop. Heads down. Pens write. After a while.



“Can’t we kneel down? Or hold our ears and stand?”

I almost laugh. “Why?”

“Better than writing essays, ma’am.” 

“I need a grammar book, ma’am. You had asked us to tell you personally if we have any problem buying it. I need one.”

I stop walking, chalk and duster in hand, and turn around. 

“Standard IX, aren’t you?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Fine. I’ll bring one.”

She fumbles.

“Yes, dear? Any problem?”

“Baba doesn’t want me to study further, ma’am. But I’m trying to. He even has objections to my coming to school.”

I sigh. 

Next day, I found her absent. The day after too. And the whole week. The book keeps lying in my locker. 

Days after, I get to know she has dropped out. No sincere effort could stop it. Married off, probably. 

The book still lies in my locker. 

2019. I would resign from the institution I’m presently working in, and join another. My class has two months left before their final examination. Probably the naughtiest section of the school this is, and they won’t click their class photograph of the year with the next class teacher. 

“We have requested the principal so that the photograph is taken early, Miss. Before you leave, that is.”

On the day of the class photograph, I am in a saree, as I very often am. After the assembly, I come out with the attendance register and step down the stairs. My 6 ft tall monitor follows me with some copies. On the staircase, I know not what happens. Something seems to shift beneath my feet and I misstep, suddenly discovering myself rolling downwards. In a moment, two strong, muscular hands held me tightly and pulled me upwards. Dazed, I looked up to find my class monitor, almost collapsing himself, and still smiling a smile of relief. 

Who says it’s only the teachers who care?

“Study attentively”, I say. “Yes, even when I’m no longer there.”

“How do we study if the teacher leaves? Whose responsibility?” Annoyed, tearful faces turn away.

And as I walk out, one last hug from the back.

And then, when I enter, one first greeting somewhere else. That is how it works. That is how love has always worked; and when love does, lessons do take care of themselves. Nothing is ever the same when they are not around.

By Saheli Sengupta

Professionally a teacher, Saheli has a zeal for creative writing. Mukta Gadya (Open/ Free Prose) and poetry are her comfort zones, and she principally uses her social handles to publish them. Her writings have been published in different webzines and magazines. Saheli is based in Kalyani, a city a little away from the hustle-bustle of Kolkata, and thus is a lover of nature and solitude. She is passionate about her profession, music and creative writing. She can be reached at

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