It was the first time our eyes met. The morning was quite and cold though it is already February in this part of the world. Thanks to the heavy showers the previous night, the day looked more like the pre-dawn of a day in December.
In the courtyard, stood a boy, tall with an enchanting air around him. Dancing in his large eyes was sheer mischief. His complexion the blend of golden yellow and pink. It was love at first sight for myself and him. “What is your name sweetheart?” He spellbound me with a shy glimpse while his fingers were busy twisting a corner of his T-shirt.
I had joined this preschool as a teacher, just two months ago. I was battling to understand the minds of these tiny creatures. The Child Psychology theories I have learnt confused me and left me to despair in my own quarters. I had begun to wander between the gaps of the ideals and the realities.
As the day broke, I would catch a glimpse of children as they entered the class room just like pretty rose buds tumbling down from a basket. Some days I would hold a child by the shoulder and whisper with all smiles, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”
We all love children because children are the mirrors from which we see our past- a time which cannot be seen.
Children change the way you look at the world at large. They are the softer side of great blunders. A child’s smile can send bouquets of love even when the earth is hit by thousands of earth quakes.
The boundless love for children gave room for a stern policy to stem out in me, not to thrash any child ever in my life.
That was the time when my family was busily engrossed in finding me a counterpart – Mr. Right.
Whenever my feelings got wounded, my abode of consolation were my school children. Leaving home and family behind, I was lost in the world of shades and fragrance for hours and hours of infinite time.
At the school, we had twenty small wonders. Each one was a separate universe, yet Ahmad was exceptional.
Witty and quick to grasp, he was way ahead of others. He kept all the others under him exactly like an efficient politician who manages his mob. I liked Ahmad a lot yet I was so careful not to show my soft spot for him in open. I treated him like I would care for any child in school.
When the children fought, making every minute of my life miserable, sometimes made me despair why this not be my last day at school. Many a time, the cause of conflict would be half an eaten eraser or a faded wrapper of a chocolate. I would smile exhaustingly within, thinking about the fights waiting in the future when these children grow into adulthood.
At times Ahmad would show hostile and antagonistic behaviour when he was emotionally disturbed. He would be called ‘Ahmaaaaaaaaad…..’ Sometimes sweetly by a voice with the blend of love, occasionally in a more firm tone followed by a stern look. He would calm down.
Some days, Ahmad would bring me blossoms of fresh and fragrant Jasmine buds which were yet to open eyes. Half eaten Guavas, old perfume bottles, broken toy cars something or other would adorn my table at least a day or two in a week. During meal time, a piece of sandwich bitten on all sides or a handful of noodles would be forced into my mouth by little fingers.
That day still lives in me. It was drizzling and the sky was purplish…time for creative skills. The classroom walls smelt of a new aroma. Walls stood elite with the new turquoise blue paint.
‘Now look here …..Sweethearts, I am going to give you all crayons and white paper. What are you going to draw?’ I was encouraging the little wonders to give shape and colours to their dreams.
‘Miss, I will draw my home’
‘Miss I am going to Draw Aero plane’
‘Shall I draw my Daddy’?
‘Miss my hand is hurting Miss …’
I was listening to each and every child. ‘wow, very good, beautiful…
Okay, just wait a second and draw, then your hand won’t ache.’
I was becoming a little exhausted and worn out.
The numb headache I was having from the morning was getting onto my nerves. That evening was scheduled for one of the most eligible bachelors coming to see me and I was stressed beyond words. I came out of the class room to the adjoining hall in the intention of having two pain killers.
Suddenly I saw a shadowy little creature standing by the wall absorbed in something. My eyes grew large and I stepped closer. Oh my God. Ahmad was scribbling something on the freshly painted wall.
‘You little rascal, what are you doing? Wait I will teach you a good lesson!’
A monster within me ripped open and dragged Ahmad by his shoulder. It slapped him across his cheeks. Twisted were his pinkish earlobes. It got hold of his ears and dragged him and made him sit on a chair. As the momentum grew meek, suddenly I realized his eyes did not shed even a single teardrop.
Was I acting brutish? I thought for a second and then I started to feel guilty and was blue. Ahmad stood there still like a shadow of a tree in the noon. I felt that he was more hurt by the embarrassment caused in front of the class than anything else. I could plainly see his terribly knocked ego.
Ahmad did not raise his head afterwards. Next day…The whole week…. Children greeted me every morning. I was waiting, clad in my blue attire, Ahmad did not turn up nor his jasmine buds. The urge was pushing me to visit him. I walked towards his home that weekend. Padlocked was the gate and a neighbour came to my rescue. He told in a voice that was edgy, that Ahmad was admitted to the hospital.
I hurried to the hospital to spot Ahmad as beaming as ever in the children’s ward. ‘Miss, do not give my colour box to anyone… I am going to draw this Doctor Uncle now‘… Ahmad raised his hand stuck to a cannula. He was bubbling with little talks endless and infinite as his dreams.
‘Ahmad talks nothing but about you and his school’. Ahmad’s mother stopped for a while to converse. He was infected with Dengue and according to his mother; fortunately he was out of the danger and would be discharged within a day or two. As I kept the teddy bear next to him and his favourite chocolate in his hand, I did not have even a stroke of thought that it was the last time I am seeing him all alive.
The news broke on a day in mild summer, while I was demonstrating to children how to crush the tissue into small purple balls and then to paste them on the drawn brinjal.
‘Little Ahmad passed away’ Innalillah (We all return to God). Ahmad had left us for good. I was unconsciously drawn to the walls where Ahmed carved his last scribble. I ran my fingers over the painting with my heart becoming heavy. A scribble of a person. I could not make out whether it is a woman or a man. But the person was wearing something in blue- a blue coat. Smiling was a crooked heart next to it, scribbled in red. I could not take it any more.
I collapsed down, with every bit of my heart broken. Within my heart a sparrow fell right down from the sky, dead. ‘Ahmad, will you ever forgive me?‘
I broke sobbing, drops of tears drenching my blue coat…