That night, Kamal returned from his business trip so tired that he had to almost dragged himself inside.
Parveena served dinner, surprising her father. “Ah, chapattis!” he exclaimed in delight. “Great!” he said as he ate. Praveena smiled, saying nothing. Kamal behaved as usual towards her. After shouting at her, she had expected him to avoid her in some way, and was surprised when he didn’t.
After a hearty dinner, Kamal took to the couch, basking lazily as he watched the daily news. Praveena sat next to him tentatively.
“You want to say something?” her father turned towards her unexpectedly.
Praveena started. “Nothing important, Pa.” She shook her head. Kamal smiled at her knowingly. He switched off the television and faced her. “What is it Praveena?”
She wrung her hands. “Well,” she hesitated. After the other day’s incident, Praveena felt uncomfortable to talk to him. It was Kamal’s temporary, yet unexpected, reaction that had unnerved her.
Kamal waited for her to speak. “I – er – was just wondering what to do next.” She paused and wet her lips, expecting her father to say something. When he didn’t, however, she continued, “I want to become a teacher.” Praveena said in a low voice.
Kamal took a deep breath. He stood up and crossed his arms across his chest. Praveena, too was about to stand up when her father gestured her to remain seated. She did. Kamal faced her, tilting his head to one side. Praveena felt a lump forming in the base of her throat.
“What’s the problem, Praveena?” he asked gently, surprising her again. He continued, “You said you wanted to begin a non-profit organization. I said no. And now, you want to become a teacher?” he finished incredulously.
Praveena crinkled her eyes in doubt. There was nothing wrong with it, was there? “Yes, Pa.” she said looking into his eyes with difficulty. She could see a flicker of doubt in them, but he said nothing. For about a whole minute, he paced up and down in front of her, his eyes on the floor, thinking. Praveena’s eyes followed him. She waited, ‘he couldn’t possibly say no to this,’ she thought.
When her father stopped pacing, he faced her with a smile on his lips. “Okay then.” He said, “you want to be a teacher,” he declared, raising his eyebrows. Praveena nodded silently. “go ahead!” he said. “Do whatever you should,” he shrugged. He smiled at the look of gratitude on Praveena’s face.
She stood up. “Thanks, Pa,” she hugged him, beaming. And he caressed her head without saying anything else.
Later that night, Praveena called Ms Marrie. “Hi, Praveena. What’s up?” Ms Marrie asked surprised. They had only met that evening.
“Hi, Miss, I hope I didn’t disturb you?” Praveena asked, unable to control her glee. She was about to do something she wanted, and the most happiest of it was that her father had agreed.
“Oh, no” Ms Marrie laughed. “not at all. Anything important?” she asked curiously.
“No, Miss,” Praveena responded, “well,” she hesitated, “actually, yes,” She heard Ms Marrie’s quiet laughter from the other side. “What is it, Praveena?” she asked lightly.
“Er – I – thought about what you said,” she paused. Why was this difficult?
“And, you decided — ?” Ms Marrie helped her that much.
“Yes,” Praveena said. “I’ve decided to agree with you. I want to teach,” she laughed. Yesterday, she wouldn’t have expected to hear herself say this.
“Can you help me, Miss?” she asked.
“What do you want to know?”
“Do I need a Masters degree to teach? Or a B.Ed?” Praveena wanted to know. The prospect of spending another couple of years as a student was discouraging, but she hoped she wouldn’t have to.
“To teach in our school?” Ms Marrie asked incredulously.
Praveena hadn’t thought of that. “Yes,” she heard herself say. ‘Better a known place,’ her inner voice supported.
“Hmm,” Ms Marrie said thoughtfully. “I don’t think you would need a PG, Praveena. But I’ll check with the principal and let you know, say tomorrow?”
Praveena smiled gleefully, “Sure, Miss. Thank you.” she added, grateful.
‘No problem, Praveena,” Ms Marrie said graciously. “It’s my pleasure.”
Praveena felt a rush of excitement as she hung up. Good, now she had to prepare herself to teach. Three years in college wasn’t a waste after all, she mused.
Ms Marrie called Praveena the next day.
“Hi,” she began enthusiastically. “I spoke to Principal Kareem. And he said you can join any day. They were looking for a class teacher, apparently. Just meet him before you join.” she said.
“Happy?” she added.
“Oh yes,” Praveena exclaimed. There was a giant balloon in her heart that swelled with pride and joy. ‘That was easy,’ her inner voice sounded amused.
Praveena smiled to herself. She had realized her dream. She was about to change someone’s life for the better. She was about to become a teacher. She thought of James. She wished she had his number. She wanted him to know that he was her role model; him and Ms Marrie. ‘I’ll tell that to Ms Marrie when I join,’ she thought.
Praveena made a promise to herself that day: she would never use her position as a teacher to mistreat her students or exploit her title. She thought of the teachers who had made her student life miserable. She would never be one of them. She would be a different kind of teacher. She would always be there for her students, reaching out whenever they needed help.