On 24th April, when Rishi got up from his bed, he immediately started contemplating on the day that was to come. It was not deliberate, in fact, at the age of 10, Rishi didn’t even know what contemplating meant. But since it is basic human nature to contemplate in times of crisis, he did it.
The crisis, facing him was that a lie that he had been living with for 4 months, would be called off that afternoon, when he would go to collect his 4th standard Report card. The marks were least of his concerns. The main concern was the embarrassing situation he would be in if his mom found out that he had been telling his class teacher that next year, he’d be leaving school.
He rued the memory of the day, when it first happened and cursed his classmate for initiating it.
What he had meant to say to his classmate was that he was going to go to his native place after the exams. His classmate, crazy fool that he is, misinterpreted it and said to the teacher,
“Ma’am, he is saying that he is leaving school after the final exams?”
The teacher looked at Rishi, and said,
“Is it true?”
“Where are you going?”
He did find it strange to be asked this question in such a manner. After all, everyone went to their native land after the exams. But, the teacher didn’t pursue him further, because the final bell had rung. He too got involved in other things like running to his auto so that he could sit besides the driver.
After a few days, when he came to school without a prayer book and his belt, the teacher said to him sternly,
“Rishi, you may leave the school next year but that doesn’t mean you will not follow rules until you are in this school.”
Rishi felt a huge chunk of disbelief engulf him when he heard that.He wanted to explain, but the teacher quickly moved on to the next topic. And he did not have enough guts to interrupt.
He was going to continue in the same school, next year, very well. But, now if he said this to his Bengali teacher, it would signal that he was lying in the first place. And to explain the whole thing would be too complicated, for him to say in English.
On the brighter side though, Rishi noticed over the period of next few weeks that the teacher’s behavior towards him had undergone a subtle change. It was as if the teacher who no longer scolded him for anything, but merely brought to his attention the fact that he was still in that particular school. And, he must behave according to the rules.
This made Rishi slightly resistant from guilt and now he would only feel a short pang at the mention of things like,
“Before going, you have to take the character certificate from school. And, if you don”t behave properly, you won’t get a good remark on it.”
But such pangs were not long periods of despair where one secretly wishes for a wild miracle to solve all the problems.
But, that day, the day when his fourth standard results were decleared, he felt very panicky. What would happen if the teacher finds out? How will my Mom react?
The answer he did not know, because unlike the Rishi of 7 years later, he was not experienced.
The time finally came. He and his Mom were on the table. His face bore a blank expression. He wanted the building to be bombed.
His Mom finally spoke,
“Yes, So how is Rishi doing?”
“He is pretty much okay.. By the way, he is changing his school next year.”
Rishi’s Mom received the same shock which Rishi himself had received when he realised how misinterpreted his words had been.
“No. He is going to continue next year.”
It was the teacher’s turn to be shocked now.
“Well, there was any plan at all, anytime in the recent past.”, the teacher probed further, just to see if it was not the child’s fault after all.
“No… what did he tell you?”
“Well, for the last 3 months he has been telling me that I am going to leave school & go to Bihar.”
” He is doing no such thing like that. He has been lying. I am going to beat him up once he reaches home.”
“No, no… don’t beat him once. It’s okay. He’s just a kid.”
Rishi felt really relieved at hearing the teacher speak like that. He knew he would be beaten up, but atleast, the pressure of keeping things in the stomach had been released.
At home, Rishi was not beaten up. (He was beaten up two years later, when he copied his father’s signature.) He did get a long scolding though on why lying is a bad thing to do, and shit like that.
Years later, when his father’s friend had come, he was praised his amazing virtue, called ‘The Presence Of Mind.’ Interestingly, the same example was cited.