“A girl’s father dies. All of her friends feel sorry for her. Everyone prays for her father’s soul. But how many actually come to her support? Let’s find out…”
One morning when I entered the class, I was taken aback with the pin drop silence and sheer discipline among my classmates. Our class teacher was sitting right there lost in deep thoughts.
Yet, I didn’t sense something wrong until I saw tears in Shruti’s eyes.
That was awkward, why would a girl cry who perhaps hadn’t cried even when she was born. Further I noticed that almost all the girls had their eyes wet and the boys were adhering to a scary discipline.
The environment of class made my smile vanish. While wondering what would’ve had happened, I kept my bag on the first bench of the isolated column and went to sit with Rohit.
He was alone on the last bench and he was lost in thoughts as well.
I murmured, “Oye, why this hell of peace around here? Something happened?”
He gave me a deep look and indicated that he’ll talk later. Well I didn’t have patience to wait. I moved to another guy, and he told me that Aisha’s father had a heart attack last night and he died.
That came unexpected. I didn’t think it would be this worse. Even after knowing that I did a quick search to confirm that Aisha is absent. It was really naive to do that.
The girls had still tears in their eyes and a girl from different class who supposed to be Aisha’s neighbour was talking to the teacher.
She was perhaps telling her how all that happened.
When she was gone, the class teacher, Mrs Sandhya Luthra addresed us, “This is an extremely sad news but you all should know. Aisha’s father expired last night due to heart attack.”
And she paused. The voidness of class began to haunt.
She again said, “She may not be able to come to school for some days. Death is unpredictable. All we can do is just pray for the deceased. Let’s keep a minute of silence for the salvation of Aisha’s father.”
We all closed our eyes and bowed down and prayed. I was confused whether we should pray for aisha’s dad or his family. It’s her family of a younger brother and mother who needs support of God.
Her younger brother he was often mocked by some of my friends. They were from Kerala, and in gurgaon between the better complexioned kids he looked like an outsider. Some thought so… though I’m not clear if that qualifies as racism.
Infact one of my friend had called that student of seventh grade, a monster. He was bulky and he was dark skinned, and also his teeth shined a lot. Hence he qualified perfectly to be a monster.
Even Aisha was talked bad on her back about her complexion. She never recieved any attention from the boys. They were afraid of even talking to her. Afterall they couldn’t put their social quo on stake.
The time of silence ended and everyone opened their eyes. Some were looking still grieved while others felt relieved already, just by a prayer of mere two minutes.
Chemistry period began, and an other teacher started teaching like any other day. For once she saw Shruti’s tears and she asked her, what happened. But shruti denied and the teacher didn’t give any further assertion. She continued teaching.
Meanwhile I remembered an incident of the last Parent-Teacher meeting.
I was asisting Sandhya mam- our class teacher in managing student’s test files and stuff.
That day I saw Aisha’s mom. She was quite tensed and wanted to meet our physics teacher. Aisha regularly failed in physics and she was wondering why her extraordinary daughter till 10th was suddenly failing tests!
I took her to our physics teacher and there they had some conversation in private. After that she came back and met Sandhya mam again. She looked extremely worried about her daughter’s future.
When she was gone and there were no other parents in the class, Ma’am told me that Aisha’s mom was really disturbed, she even had tears in her eyes. She had taken a job to teach her kids. And she wanted Aisha to become a doctor.
I was wondering what will happen now? She had to work when her husband was alive and earning… now what? I couldn’t imagine anything clearly. Everything was blank. She had her son to take care of. Will aisha have to drop school? How will she fulfill her dream.
It was difficult thinking. Even more than the question that chemistry teacher had written on the board and asked me to solve. Apparently I couldn’t solve any of the questions, not in that period at least.
Second period was of games. We all went to ground but only few went to play, rest were preparing for the test next day. I didn’t feel like playing either so I sat down under a tree. Aisha’s smile and her shrill giggle couldn’t come off my mind.
I remembered an incident when I had said that she looks like Paresh Rawal. I said that unintentionally and that had nothing to do with her appearence. She too unintentionally shouted quite loud on me. Later we both apologised to each other. She was a good girl, she still is. I just didn’t know whether she will be like this. Or if she leaves school will I be able to even meet her again.
Though I could stop her from leaving if I could deposit her fee every month. Could I afford that? Absolutely not. Could my father afford that? Obviously not.
He had to take loan during admission of we two brothers. How could he arrange for another 3600 monthly. Apparently he couldn’t.
Or perhaps he could if he really wanted to. I mean if he had three kids instead of two and his salary had to be same. Wouldn’t he be arranging for third child’s education as well.
Similarly if he thinks Aisha is his own daughter, he could manage.
But he couldn’t, I knew that. Our family would have to abandon a lot of luxuries if he did that. For example we could sell our TV and we’d not have to monthly EMIs for that. And the internet expanses and we could cut on our The Hindu subscription.
I recounted and these were the only luxuries that we had. And dumping them was not adding four thousand rupees to our balance.
I didn’t think much on this idea, it was useless. Though there were other students in my class whose parents had double or triple fold income than mine and who also happened to be closer to aisha than me.
Could they ask their parents to pay for Aisha’s education? Nah, as they say, no amount of money is enough for a middle class household.
But I thought what if everone paid a little amount? Like 100 rs per student. Our class had 32 students, that made 3200 rs per month. Short by only 400; but when 3200 were arranged that could be done as well.
The idea was fabulous, just a bit early to imply. What if some relative of Aisha was rich enough to afford her school fee? It would be better if something like that happened. Aisha will have to pay her gratitude to only one person rather than thirty two.
We could wait, actually we had to. Her neighbour had informed that she’ll not be able to attend school for atleast 2 weeks. So when she comes back we could tell her about that. Or we could keep that a secret and pay her fees every month secretly.
Before all that I had to talk to my classmate. I didn’t even know whether they would take me seriously. But I had to…
I didn’t get time during the games period and next two periods we were busy studying. I decided I’ll talk to everyone in the recess.
When recess bell rang, almost everyone was out of the class before I could blink. So I made my mind to talk to them in the ground.
But I started reconsidering it after seeing them having fun carelessly. They all were scattered here and there in tiny groups. Noone’s face expressions matched that of morning’s. Some were queing at the canteen to buy stuff while others who already bought were eating freely… without any worries.
After seeing their insensitivity I didn’t feel like talking to them about my plan. I decided to let fate decide Aisha’s fate.
I took out my lunch box and started eating parathas. Though, for one moment, after seeing Shruti roaming around in the ground alone, cheerless and lost in her own thoughts, I thought I should change my mind. Atleast Shruti still looked sad, I could go and talk to her.
But why should I go ahead when not even a single friend of Aisha is taking an initiative. Shruti was one of her best friends but she is doing nothing except being sad. Why should I do anything then!
…I continued with my Paranthas.