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The New Teacher

She could read the innocent eyes of these children that were searching for motherly affection. She could feel the need of emotional healing therapy for these children in addition to their academic classes.

It was the occasion of Teacher’s Day celebration two years ago at my kids’ school and I had gone there to witness the cultural program that was being organized to celebrate the event. Both my children were participating in the function and hence it was their keen desire that I watch them perform on stage. So, I took a day off from my office and decided to witness the event. Moreover, I wanted to compensate for my numerous absences from quarterly parents’ teacher meet at the school.

After the arrival of the chief guest, the cultural program commenced and I saw my children perform on the stage. I could see their eyes searching for their father in the crowd of spectators. On seeing me they acknowledged with a smile when I waved at them. At the end of the function seeing Niharika presenting a vote of thanks to the chief guest was a pleasant surprise for me. I had not heard anything from her after we passed out from the university. She was a very bright and sensitive student and wanted to pursue her career in the field of journalism. Seeing her as a teacher appeared a bit unusual to me. So, I decided to meet my old friend from university days before leaving the school complex with my children. I could spot her in the staff room and sent her a message and requested her to meet me.

We were meeting after about 15 yrs; in the intervening years lots of changes had taken place in our life. I came to know that while pursuing her career as a journalist; she met Vinod in Kashmir Valley and finally they decided to become life partners. She was making a documentary on school children of Kashmir and came across her dashing, handsome, prince charming and decided to tie the knot. But how she changed her profession to teaching from journalism was still a mystery for me. She invited me to her home to introduce me to her husband and narrate the story of her change in profession. So, we decided to meet at her place the next day.

Next day, I went to Niharika’s place with my wife and it was really a matter of great pleasure to meet her warm and charming husband Vinod who was a handsome army officer. Niharika told me that her husband was posted to Udhampur after three years of meeting her first time and they got married there. As a newlywed couple they were travelling towards Udhampur from Nagrota on the National highway that took turns along the hills. Holy shrine of Maa Vishnu Devi could be seen at distant Trikuta Hill complex and well-lit path to the holy cave appeared like a huge garland of mother divine. The reception organized at the unit officer’s mess was heart touching. Everything appeared like a fairytale.

After two days of her arrival at Udhampur, she was taken to a hostel that was being run by Army. It had students from second to twelfth standard. These children were being sponsored by army for pursuing their studies. Each of them had a story to share. They had lost their father/mother in the prolonged foreign sponsored militancy or cross border firing/ shelling and were from weak economic backgrounds. Army had established a hostel for such children and strived to ensure a bright future for these children.

After meeting these children who had just come back from their school, Niharika wanted to know about each of them. She could feel the attachment for these children who eagerly wanted to share their story. Suddenly one of them asked her if she was their NEW TEACHER who would help them with daily lessons after the school hours. She had not expected this question and looked at her husband’s face. A thin line of smile came on his lips and his eyes spoke a thousand words. Immediately she confirmed to the students and next day onwards the afternoon classes started for these students with their new teacher.

Teaching these students was a bit challenging in the initial stage. Each of them had lost one or the other near and dear one due to ongoing unrest. Every one carried an emotional wound that would bleed every time. Being away from home was another issue that had no alternate solution. But she decided to accept the challenge and move on. She could read the innocent eyes of these children that were searching for motherly affection. She could feel the need of emotional healing therapy for these children in addition to their academic classes.

After a year, the academic results were very encouraging and the students met the expectations of their NEW TEACHER!!! some of them got distinction and others managed to clear the exams with good grades. Niharika would explain about various career options to these students and would always encourage them to study with more dedications. Sometimes she would prepare delicious snacks for them that would always be greeted with broad smiles. She would find these children gazing at the entrance of the hostel complex in the evening and when her car entered the complex. There used to be a cheer among them announcing the arrival of their NEW TEACHER.

Time flies and many things change with passage of time. Niharika was no exception. She had to leave the place when her husband was posted to next station. On the day of her departure for the next destination, she went to meet these students and bid good bye to them. She carried their favorite pudding but none of them showed interest. Tears were rolling down from some of the eyes while others were barely able to control their emotions. There was probably only one question on everyone’s face “Why are you going?” It was difficult to convince the young innocent minds that her association with them was limited only up to her husband’s tenure at that station. She wished them a good luck and her students assured her of continued hard work in academics.

All students came up to her car and when she was going to board. The youngest among the students walked up to her and presented her with a rose and a chocolate on everyone’s behalf. She gave a warm parting hug to the little one and assured that the next NEW TEACHER will teach them even better. She could see another car entering the complex of the hostel with the new appointee.

Having seen a teacher’s role in shaping up a student’s life and laying the foundation stone of a society, Niharika decided to change her career to a teacher. It was great hearing her story and I left her place with a feeling of great service to the students and society being made by her. I recollected famous words of Acharya Chanakya that a determined teacher was capable of changing the whole world for a good cause.   

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