One day, it suddenly occurred to me that I did not belong and the series of lies should already have discontinued. What lies? The secret I wish not to demystify. I was never content then- this was the seedy truth.
And discontent heart goaded me into teaching school kids. A job, so disrespectful that you vanish your identity here, and identity crisis becomes your identity. What else if you take to teaching after you have always been clapped-down everywhere?
Nobody was what I wanted to make of myself after I could never be a somebody, after I had been all through being told what to do and what not. Oh those jitters! How vehemently they disgusted me!
“Boy, it is time you got married,” said my uncle cum mentor, who was probably wary about my receding hair line. “When do you wish to get married?”
“I don’t have an immediate plan,” I revealed, slowly sipping the tea that he afforded in the lieu of the heebie-jeebies he had planned to dump on me.
“Alright,” he seemed to brood “tell me what miracles happen if you delay it? Man of your caliber should already have begun the journey.”
I wondered why he should get on my nerves, and be depersonalizing the most closet matter. I wonder if he meant potency by calibers which I did not certainly lack. He certainly did not know the miracles that had already happened when my ‘I’ll never leave you’ girl friend dumped me for a Canadian PR holder.
And teaching nullified me, annulled what little I had as visibility, and he, to my greatest jubilance, started refuting my existence; he butted out of this black sheep’s way.
The Fabulous School boasted of a strange faculty led by thick-mustached man with wicked eyes and zero sense of humor, Mr. Poudel, who began the assembly with broken English. “Let me to tell you should have to pay the due by the weekend. We cannot able to go further than that,” he said. The male teachers wallowed backbiting female counterparts and students, chattered tirelessly about who the girls were in love with, and even eavesdropped them. The lady teachers were even weirder. They hardly talked to male teachers, nor did they mingle heartily with each other as if each had a clandestine closet of their own, and they feared words would suddenly demystify everything.
I found myself even much lonelier, an outcast, being ostracized by my colleagues thanks to my inability to go for the backbiting spree. I went to school, buttonholed the Poudels (Mr. Poudel had an entourage there including his spouse, and his son and daughter), and taught English, not the things that was specified as the course of study, and when I was not teaching, I sat in the frosty in the sun of the Fall all day long, sifting the sense of still not belonging, with the Republica at hands, quasi-reading with my caprices drifting off and on- a more banal, fallow, and uncomfortable indulgence!
That should have been one of the warmer afternoons because I was not draped in the coat that was mandatory, and I was sitting on the floor of the other corner of the cemented ground after I had finished with 10 graders, wondering why I was so finicky, if I wanted to quit and telling myself that they had been paying fair for the good-for-nothing. Two girls of about ten approached, accosted me and asked what my name was and what I taught.
I scrutinized them, seemingly amused by their volubility. The girl who called herself Smirti was slightly dark and tall, with her bright and curious eyes, and the other, Shristi, with one of her teeth beautifully protruding and flat forehead was rather talkative. Once I had introduced, we prattled about hobbies, families and nothing.
Then suddenly the bell rang, and they rushed into their class, leaving me happily bowled-over.
Next afternoon, they good-afternooned me and stood by my side (students are not allowed to sit with teachers at Fabulous) while I was flipping through the pages of the newspaper. Shristi asked what I was reading and if there was any ‘zodiac fruit’. Yes, there was. I read their signs and restated in simpler terms. Shristi then said that she was talking to her sister about me.
“She says you are a funny man,” she said.
Suddenly I wanted to explore about her sister, who, it seemed, was of my age.
These talks soon became part of my schedule before very long. It was the only time when I had the sense of life. They seemed to like the stories I cooked, while I, as I now realize, was more inclined to aggrandize myself in the groggy thought that what I would tell them would be related to the sister, and who, by some chance, would nudge me. These thoughts tinged me more than anything else.
These girls were indispensible, with their camaraderie and joie de vivre so relative to each other’s presence that if one was absent to school for a day, the other would be zealless like the hen fed on salt.
“Why were you silent yesterday?” I asked Shristi one day, with Smirti beside.
She widened her eyes and smiled, pointing at her friend who was biting her nails. “She did not come yesterday.”
As the days elapsed, I thought I had probably started belonging. I enjoyed teaching, I slipped up on ‘to-be’s brazenness. They were still incomplete individually, staid and unfeeling. Everybody had started to take note of us. The teachers-to-be, and the ones-would-be ran tirades about us though they showered us with glitzy smiles in our face. Some were even heard to tag them the young lovers and me a beau. Oh the fabulous school! On the other side, we no longer talked about a particular thing nor about the sister, who had lost the closet allure for me, and when we talked, we lacked time. First time in life, the sense of time’s velocity thumped on me; every break time I went short of hearing and telling.
I was very happy because of their presence in my life. their presence, which had not been very present! However, I felt it. It may be that some presences can gladden you to the nines. Or true friends can change the way we live, redefine our idiosyncrasies, brainstorm and brainwash us and restore completely new sense of life, and then everything becomes natty. But it is equally relative, mutual. An absence, on the other hand, can rift a bottomless pit within us. Suddenly we start not enjoying anything, and in a way abominating the things which had earlier got us engrossed.
The session ended. The fifteen days vacation was the Hades to pull through.
When the spring was falling, and failing gradually, when the sky advertised the advent of the warm summer, I went to school, with my head turned on, only to ferret out Shristi was never coming to school.
“She is never coming,” Smirti said, leaning herself lazily against the brick wall.
“Why?” I was equally afflicted, lolling about on the red Dolphin chair.
“Her father has got her admitted to a better school. She was crying when I saw her the other evening.” I stayed numb, unable to find the words. I looked at her. Her eyes were welled up. Then she said that she had told her friend not to worry because they were the best friends forever and would go to the same college when we had passed the SLC.
“I am proud of you,” I said, ruminating over the lost gem, the curious eyes and the lovingly vociferous company.
Suddenly the time was the biggest con, recalcitrant to budge. We tried to forget her, and bear the usual guise. I ruthlessly tried to gladden her with the jokes we had laughed together, the prose we have mused upon, and the poems we had written eulogizing our trinity. Shristi had written in her diary which they showed to me, “I dreamt of Smirti, I and sir seeing the stars together.” But the jokes now sounded vapid, the prose terse and the poems prosaic. I always ended up remembering the died-hard buddy.
“You know she would double up at the joke of Sarura-Jwai,” Smirti said, her eyes glued to the brick wall.
I wanted her to forget Shristi, but I didn’t have heart to say that. We pulled through a couple of weeks that way.
The afternoon was rather scalding. I sat at the corner of the basketball court, which was an addition to the school’s flamboyance. The ten graders ogling the new-fangled game, waiting for their turns were planning to go swimming the following Saturday. “We’d better go to the Balaju pool. Many chicks come there,” a boy in glasses said, unmindful of my presence (my presence is as such), and immediately his friend shushed him and the entourage sided away to another corner while the chick ogler hid his red face behind his friends.
Now I was alone despite the raucous kids who scurried around. Now came Smirti, started sobbing initially and burst into bouts of cry. Nobody seemed to notice her cry as she was so minuscule that her friends enjoyed unseeing her.
“Why, cutie?” I said.
“Tek sir beat me up for not doing the homework.”
“Oh.” I did not have words to console her.
“What shall I do? I just cannot concentrate after she’s gone.”
She leaned her head down on me and cried. It was excruciating for me. There are people who don’t even look back what they have missed for their kind of achievement and there was this girl…I was proud of her and took her to the office.
I don’t want to study without her, she said, averted her eyes away from Tek sir who was reposing in front of her, without a taint of guilt in his eyes. Then she cried as if bridled by something ethereal.
“OK, OK. Let us to take you home. Your friend will joins in tomorrow. I fetch her,” the principal said twitching his mustache, with his wicked eyes fixed on her.
Then, they took her away. She did not come to school at all. I already knew she would never come. She was heard to have joined the better school. I was again lonely; I started not belonging even though I managed to be happy for them. And I hated Tek sir.
Twelve months from then, I was drinking tea in the canteen owned by the Parajulis, with a resignation letter in my front pocket, that is due to ‘very grave predicament’ and an appointment letter to the better school in my wallet. Tek sir was also drinking tea in front of me, griping the Parajulis about taste of grams and intermittently looking and smiling at me, unwary of the hatred I have saved all the months.
I walked out to the principal’s cabin, deciding to amnesty Tek now because I am going to meet my best friends tomorrow.