The class seemed to go on forever. Praveena couldn’t concentrate, but she was careful not to drift away from the lesson. She didn’t want Ms Marrie thinking she was playing the fool.
Ever since Ms Marrie had assured Praveena that she was open for discussion, Praveena had been feeling an unmistakable urge to talk to her. But she was also a bit scared of the outcome. What would Ms Marrie think of her?
As she watched Ms Marrie teaching, Praveena thought about talking to her. She had a lot of agony within her and she wanted someone to open up to. Ms Marrie was the only person who had given any indication she would listen.
Praveena decided to talk to her.
‘Are you sure?’ her inner voice peeked up. She silenced it with a definite yes.
When the class ended, Praveena trailed Ms Marrie out of the class. Spotting her, Ms Marrie said, “Hi, Praveena. How are you?”
“Not good, Miss.” she replied without looking in to Ms Marrie’s eyes.
“You want to talk about it?”
Praveena nodded. It seemed odd, asking a teacher to talk to you about personal things. But she didn’t care anymore. She missed her mother more than ever; she wanted someone to listen to her, to console her and to chide her. She wanted her mother. She wanted to tell someone that what happened to her was unfair and she wanted affirmation.
Ms Marrie nodded curtly and walked towards her room. On the way, they came across Ms Selima, Praveena’s English teacher.
“Why aren’t you in class?” She asked sternly, peering at Praveena through the top of her glasses.
“Oh, I’m borrowing her for a while, Selima. Sorry I didn’t let you know.” Marrie smiled brightly.
“OK,” Ms Selima said and went on her way without giving Praveena a second look. Praveena stood watching her with a queer expression. “She and I aren’t the best of friends,” Ms Mary mused, watching Praveena.
She looked up at Ms Marrie. Smiling, she led Praveena to her room.
Before they went inside, Ms Marrie offered Praveena a stress buster. “How about a cup of tea, Praveena?” She asked picking up the kettle that had been sitting on a table just behind the door.
“Please.” Praveena was surprised. Personal beverages within the school campus? She was sure Principal Vanitha would never hear of this.
Ms Marrie bolted the door and settled behind the desk as Praveena sat facing her. Noticing the room darker than it had been the last time she was there, Praveena saw that Ms Marrie hadn’t opened the window.
“Alright,” Ms Marrie began with an air of getting things done. “What’s bothering you, Praveena?” she asked in a more serious tone.
It surprised Praveena. Just a second ago, Ms Marrie had sounded casual and lighthearted. And now she was all serious.
“Praveena?” she repeated. Praveena looked up at her.
“Hey, look. I know you’ve had a lot of problems. But just remember, you’re not alone.”
“Everyone has problems of their own, only the degree of it differs.” She shrugged. “Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not belittling your suffering,” she paused tilting her head towards Praveen. “but I’m only saying you should be aware of others’ problems too.”
“But how could I do that? Should I just walk up to them…” Praveena trailed away thinking of Priya.
“No.” Ms Marrie replied. “you don’t need to do anything like that. Just keep in mind that people you meet every day are undergoing tough stuff. Even if they don’t show it.”
“Now, tell me. What were you upset about the other day?” Ms Marrie wanted to help, Praveena could see that. ‘She could give you a better insight, you know’ her inner voice said. ‘and another perspective’ the second voice added.
“Mr Andrew.” Praveena paused, not knowing how to open the matter. Now that she had someone to talk to, the matter seemed trivial. Maybe she was just being stupid.
Ms Marrie egged her on, “What about him?”
“He told me — ” she swallowed, “he told me he hated teaching.” She waited, expecting Ms Marrie to say something. But she showed no sign of surprise. Apparently it wasn’t news to her.
“And?” Ms Marrie urged after a while.
“He said he had wanted to be an archeologist and that he changed his mind because someone convinced him to.” Once she heard it come out of her mouth, it sounded a bit funny that such a thing had worried her so much.
“So, that’s what upset you,” Ms Marrie confirmed, nodding curtly.
“Yes.” Praveena’s voice was small.
“Good.” She nodded in approval. Praveena had not been expecting that.
“What?” she was perplexed.
“What exactly about Mr Andrew’s life bothered you?” Ms Marrie had a strange expression on her face, as if it was a perfectly ordinary matter to discuss, “Don’t worry, be honest.” she added, seeing Praveena’s unsure look.
Praveena thought. What had really upset her was, “he gave up on his dream too easily, and I couldn’t accept it.”
“Exactly,” Ms Marrie exclaimed jubilantly. “That’s good.”
“Why?” Praveena was confused.
“If you’re upset about someone else not realizing their dreams, it just means you have a passion to see others succeed in life.”
Praveena wore a quizzical look. She had no such passion at all. Perhaps Ms Marrie had misunderstood her. This conversation was becoming pointless.
“Let me explain,” Ms Marrie seemed to have read her thoughts, “You strongly believe people should realize their dreams. Right?”
Praveena nodded silently.
“So, when Andrew ended up a teacher, your belief was tested for the first time. That’s why you were upset. You couldn’t accept it because you had never heard of it happen before. Am I right?”
Praveena now saw the picture, as understanding drew on her face. She nodded.
“But don’t mistake the power of society. It will continue to test you and surprise you. You will face the same confusion every time your beliefs are questioned. It’s up to you to decide how to react. You follow?”
“Yes, Miss” Praveena sounded happier now. Her heart felt lighter. “But Miss, does it mean that my trust will always be broken?”
“Maybe,” Ms Marrie shrugged “you can never be sure.”
“Then,” Praveena was again confused. ‘’what should I do if I’m not sure?”
Ms Marrie was silent. Her eyebrows creased as she thought. “I don’t know.” she said at last. “Maybe that’s for you to find out.”
Praveena nodded in agreement. “Maybe…” she trailed away.
They were silent for a while. Then Marrie broke it.
“How’s your father, Praveena? How’s he taking your mother’s death?” Marrie wanted Praveena to talk, to open up and reveal her innermost feelings. She knew Praveena had never done that before.
“It’s really difficult for him, he can’t come out of it.” Praveena’s voice went all squashy. It was strange, talking to Ms Marrie about her mother so easily, when she had reacted so badly towards Priya.
“I see,” Ms Marrie observed, “and,” she paused now looking directly into Praveena’s eyes, “what about you?”
“I’m fine, really”
Ms Marrie smiled. ‘Did I sound convincing?’ Praveena wondered.
“You know, that’s a bit too quick to be true.”
“What’s going on, Praveena? Tell me exactly, don’t be shy and don’t be scared. Just talk.” Marrie’s voice was gentle, urging Praveena.
“I feel — ” she stopped and sniffed, “sad. Like I have no reason to live, like I’ll never be the same again.” she gulped.
“Like a part of you had died,” Marrie helped.
“That’s how you should feel, because that’s what happened.” Ms Marrie wore a smile on her lips, a content and satisfied smile.
For some odd reason, Praveena felt better.
National Blog Posting Month – Day 14