(Found this short story I must have written some 9-10 years ago… )
As usual he was late and standing at the door. This time, as his digital watch showed, only by four minutes and thirty-two seconds. Thirty-three, thirty-four… Everyone in the class turned to him. The teacher, who was standing at one of the students’ desks, did too. She looked at him seriously. He looked at her too, pleadingly, but his eyes caught his friend who was making faces at him and he smiled, stopping his laugh. The teacher wanted to show her anger but found herself unable to control her laugh. Everyone laughed aloud.
“You are really shameless. I excuse you today because you are late only by five minutes”, she said, “come in, find yourself a place to sit”. The student behind her gave dramatic expressions to her talk and everyone controlled their laugh trying to be busy something. Prussy’ smile vanished. He went in, found a place behind everyone’s desks and sat. His controlled expression disturbed the teacher, but one couldn’t blame a person for controlling his expressions just like that.
“Control”, she thought.
“Control”, Prussy thought too.
“So where were we…yes…before we get into the concept of design, let’s get to use our hands to draw. Drawing, like writing, is one of the ways of expression of your thoughts. Ability to use our wrists and fingers with proper…by the way I gave you people the wrist exercise, didn’t I?”
“Yes ma’am” almost of all of them answered.
“Did everyone finish?”
“Yes ma’am, …no myadam…only few sheets meydam,” almost all of them answered again.
“OK… OK, anyone who didn’t start yet?” she asked while searching around in the classroom.
He was the only one who raised the hand and he stood up, facing her.
“So tell me Prussy what’s the problem why didn’t you start the exercise.”
He did start the exercise. But couldn’t find the sheet the next morning. He tried to say that. But because that was the weekend and because he hadn’t finished even that sheet, he said nothing.
“You are irritating me. Why don’t you talk and tell me the reason?” she almost yelled.
“I don’t have any reason to say ma’am” he managed to say.
“What?” she was stunned by the simple acceptance of truth, “You don’t have a reason? That exercise wasn’t a part of your curriculum and you people took it to do it. And you come to the classes regularly late and then say you don’t have a reason. What do you think of yourself…hero…so hero-saab you please leave the class…and come to me only when you’re done with the exercise.”
He knew she was very angry but appreciated the she controlled her anger. So he took his bag and walked out of the class.
While he crossed her, she said, ”You are in a professional college and you should know how to talk”. The word professional was one of the few words that made Prussy laugh. This time he didn’t. “Good control”, he thought while he walked out of the class.
But only she knew that she was shivering and sweating badly even in a well-ventilated room, standing right under the ceiling fan. She knew she got really angry but “Good control”, she thought.
“Yeah professional college”, Prussy thought, “I just spoke the truth. I really donno why I didn’t do it…” he was arguing with himself for the past half-an-hour sitting on a bench somewhere in the college.
“Hey Prussy! What’s up! Didn’t go to the class”, one of his seniors asked him approaching him.
“Got kicked out” he replied with a sheepish laugh.
“Who Saraswathi Madam?”
“Don’t worry mama…chal lets have some coffee”. And they both went into the canteen.
“Center for advance studies in Fashion Design Canteen”, Prussy read the name board on the canteen entrance aloud.
An hour later, he reached the class. As he saw the table without any bag, he entered the class whistling.
As soon as he walked few yards he entered the class he saw that everyone was staring at him. “What the hell do you think of yourself?” some one asked.
“Krishna Prasad”, he replied before recognizing the voice. And then he saw her. Ms.Saraswathi standing with a few students around her and her papers and bag in her hand.
“Oops!” he said it aloud.
“You idiot. You are such a shameless creature,” she got into a quick rage. “I threw you out of the class and you come back again”, she was sweating badly. “And you don’t even have the courtesy to ask permission to come in” she was shivering with anger. She tried to control her anger closing her fists, but something in her wouldn’t let her stop shouting, “Now you come into the class whistling…”
Thud! she fell down.
Prussy took a while to realize what had happened. But he was the first one to reach her and shook her head with her chin in hands. “Ma’am, ma’am” he couldn’t help shouting, “…arey koi get some water”. The sudden hush broke and everyone was talking to everyone else.
Someone gave him a bottle. He sprinkled some on her face. Tried to read her pulse. He couldn’t find it but he knew he was shivering this time. Because she was breathing his fear vanished a bit and he shouted “arey someone help let’s take her to the hospital.”
He and another boy lifted her up and took her out of classroom. Someone had already informed the principal and the principal came out running. To everyone’s surprise he acted calmly. “OK call Farooq. Lets take her to the …CDR…put her into the car. Ask Sudha teacher to accompany me.”
Everyone came out of the other class- rooms while they took her along the corridor unto the lift. Luckily, they had to cross only, two. “What happened, what happened” everyone was asking every one else. Only the principal didn’t ask any questions and he led the way to the lift.
After they put her into the car, Ms.Sudha came from the cafeteria and asked the principal, “Sir where are you going? Director sir is going to come anytime now”, not knowing what had happened.
“Oh! I forgot” He got down. “Okay Prussy you sit in the car, take her to the CDR. I’ll send some other teacher behind you. I’ll call Dr.Mahesh there. He’ll take care OK” he ordered Prussy and handed him a credit card. “Now go.”
As the car moved Prussy heard Ms.Sudha asking the principal “what happened sir?”
“What happened miya?” the driver inquired in Urdu.
“She fell unconscious”, replied Prussy, “you drive carefully,” not showing that he was afraid what was going to happen.
It didn’t take long to reach the hospital. Dr.Mahesh was ready with his people. Seeing that he has no work to do, Farooq went to park the car.
Prussy had difficult time filling the admittance form. The cashier had called the principal to check if the credit card can be used. Prussy waited. As soon as he could, after finishing the formalities, Prussy ran towards the ward Ms.Saraswathi was placed in. When he saw Dr.Mahesh and another doctor come out of the ward, he stopped and asked, “What happened to Ms.Saraswathi sir? Is she alright now? ”
“Oh! Your teacher is pregnant”, Dr.Mahesh said, “Inform her family”.
“But…why did she fall unconscious for so long?” Prussy couldn’t help asking.
The boy’s question surprised another doctor standing beside Dr.Mahesh, “It sometimes happens, but we are looking into it, call her husband and we’ll do some tests and let’s see after that”, she said.
Prussy still didn’t understand why she had to fall unconscious and that too cursing him, and so he left them walk their way. And knowing that this was the right time, he entered the room saying,
“Congratulations Ma’am! How are you feeling now. I never knew that you were married.” She kept staring at him, her face without expression. So he said, “Actually I’m really sorry for what happened today in the class Ma’am. I didn’t know that you were in the class Ma’am, so I just came up. I didn’t mean to offend you.”
She tried to laugh a smile and failed. “You must go to college Krishna Prasad”. Prussy was surprised that she called him by his full name.
“How can I leave you like this Ma’am. I’ll stay here until your husband comes. Oh! I forgot give me your husband’s phone number I’ll call him and tell him…”, he hadn’t finished saying when she said, “I’m not married yet ..Kr…Prussy”, without an expression.
He opened his eyes, raised his eyebrows and put his lips together to form an ‘O’. Both stayed calm for a moment. He wanted to ask her “what are you going to do now”. Instead to his own surprise he asked her, “Is there anything that you want me to do?”
To her, that was a very sensible question and brought her blank mind to do some action. “Did you get my bag?” she asked Prussy.
“Yes Ma’am, it’s in the car. I’ll get it.” He left.
Farooq was standing at the entrance of the hospital, with her bag in his hand. As soon he saw Prussy, he started walking towards him.
“You went in and I didn’t know where to go. So I was waiting here. Is she alright? What happened to her?”
“I don’t know they are still doing some tests… you go bring someone else,” Prussy said.
“OK, yeh lo”, he gave the bag to Prussy and left. Prussy had another reason surprised because his knack did send the driver away. Otherwise he would have been unnecessary pain and more than that a gossip-monger.
As Prussy returned he saw his teacher being led to a laboratory by a nurse. So he went towards the lab and waited outside. He then noticed, people standing in a queue near a glassed counter to get appointments of the doctor. His teacher’s case was an emergency. He smiled in himself the way he treated his principal. Now he had to believe that his principal really has some influence. The smell of the hospital, the sight of the people walking in and out, the Malayalam speaking nurses dressed in white and rushing in and out of closed doors, and their noise-, all these entertained him for a while, until he saw a woman clad in a crumpled sari with a muffler around her head. She coughed without sound but her face showed how painful it was. The door behind him opened and his teacher came out. She smiled looking at him. He didn’t
She stretched her arm towards him. He stretched his hand instinctively as if she needed it to help herself and stopped. He gave her the bag in his hand. The nurse asked them to wait in their cabin until the results came.
“What happened after I fell?” she had to ask him to kill the silence, settling down on a chair. He explained it to her in every detail and also told her how tense he was. How worried he was. He even told her that he thought he would be kicked out of the college. She laughed. He told her how he sent the driver away. She tried to talk but silence came again.
“What are you thinking Prussy?” she asked.
“Nothing…actually many things”.
He was beginning to surprise her now. His answers in the class, his behavior, and now, his last statement all of them made sense to her.
“Like…?” she forced him to answer.
“Oh no Ma’am nothing specific…just about you…leave it …sorry I didn’t mean to offend you.”
“Oh no I’m not offended. I’m quite…well…I mean it’s nice…the way you behaved until now and for your age…well…what’s your age?” she was finding it hard to talk normally. She knew it. He understood it.
The nurse came in and told them that her results have come and she can meet the doctor.
Prussy stood outside the doctor’s cabin, waiting as he did from that morning.
Prussy thought that there was something, serious happening when he came to know that she had to be admitted in the hospital. He booked a room for her when she asked him to without a question. But a question did arise in his mind. “Why weren’t anyone from the college coming to the hospital?”
She stood in the waiting area, alone, all the time.
When Prussy was finished he found the nurse waiting beside her. They both took her to her room. As soon as the nurse went out, “I’ll call the principal. I donno why no one has come yet. Tell me if I have to call anyone else.”
“No one from our college is going to come here any more Prussy. Dr.Mahesh had called them soon after I woke up.” Prussy understood.
“You go Prussy, I’ll call my friends, I forgot completely about my cell phone in the bag,” saying this she opened her bag and began calling someone.
“No Ma’am, I’ll stay here until someone comes”, he almost pleaded.
“O.K…” she said to him with her cell phone to her ear, “Hello…! Anu…me…”.
“Where are you now?”
“Arey I am in CDR, can you come, it’s only five minutes from there right.”
“Nothing serious rey, just fell unconscious in the college”
“OK, I’m pregnant, you just come and give me a ring”, she cut the phone.
Prussy noticed her eyes, a tear dropping from her left eye. He didn’t know what to say.
“So tell me Prussy what do you think of me now?” she asked.
He got a bit angry on her self-pity and yet thought that it had to be answered, “Ma’am please…”, he said reluctantly, “ok …it doesn’t really matter to me now. I mean I’m here because I made you angry and …ok not that… I mean you are in some trouble and I think I can help you and make you feel better until someone comes. And please don’t be bothered because you become no lesser to me by becoming pregnant without marriage.”
That hit her. That she was thinking of someone else was a wrong problem that she had to be worried about. She went back to a safely dangerous area, her silence.
Prussy too thought that too much came out of his mouth. “Bad Control” he thought and sat down on the bench.
A ring tone on Ms.Saraswathi’s cell phone broke the silence. “Ha where are you?” she asked into the phone.
“Room number…?” she said aloud looking at Prussy
“104”, he said.
“Prussy did you eat anything?” she asked him, “why don’t you get us some snacks, please?” handing him a 100 rupee note.
“OK Ma’am” he said and went out.
Prussy, with a plastic bag in his hands, was going to knock at the door when he heard his teacher talking to her friend, “I donno what to do. I just feel like killing myself”, her voice choked.
He waited the door to open. He could here his teacher’s friend trying to console her. A few minutes later a ring tone disturbed the conversation. The teacher’s friend came out with her cell phone.
He put the bag on a table and said, “I’ll go Ma’am.”
“O.K.” she said. “Thank You Prussy. You’ve been very helpful” and waited a second, “why don’t you eat something and go?”
“No Ma’am I want to go” he said walking back unto the door and walked forward again.
He then said clearly and distinctly “Ma’am I donno if I should say this. But killing is the easiest solution to a problem Ma’am…and …well… I should go. Bye” He walked out of the room fast.
Prussy was late again to the college the next day. Only this time there was no teacher in the classroom. As soon as he entered the class every one fell silent looking at him. The next moment he understood that everyone around him “knew”. He sat down on his bench and the class went into conversation again.
Some tried to pull him into their conversation, and everyone looked at him in the middle of their conversation. One boy handing Prussy his bag that he left yesterday in the classroom, said that Ms.Saraswathi’s behavior was always loose. Some said that woman should be protected from exploitation and some said that the teacher didn’t deserve to be a teacher anymore. One girl suddenly shouted, “that’s none of my business”.
Prussy laughed at that statement and went out of the class. It did take him a while to know that a meeting was arranged at the college to decide if Ms.Saraswathi should be allowed to continue with her job.
That evening while he walked out of the college, he saw the college name board “Centre for Advanced Studies in Fashion Technology” painted on yellow colour in black capitals. He read it aloud and laughed. His second laugh of that day.
A week passed. Prussy never went to see his teacher.
The meeting in the college had decided that they postpone their decision to fire Ms.Saraswathi until they hear from her.
The easy going Prussy had become very less talking. He was never late to the college, never missed a class, did all his works regularly. He also never looked at the college name board.
That day when he was standing on the parapet wall of the corridor, he saw Ms.Saraswathi coming out of the lift. She tried to walk her usual short step, fast walk. Only Prussy saw that she was walking through a street of unknown people trying to avoid any eye-contact.
When she came nearer, he rose from the wall and said, “How are you feeling Ma’am?”
“Oh! Fine thanks” she said with a small voice and walked away. But Prussy didn’t notice the clarity in her voice.
They both smiled – a smile people give when they meet the person who they have been thinking about.
Prussy couldn’t concentrate on his lectures that day, his eyes kept coming back to the door and windows.
In one of those glances he saw her cross the class room.
He saw her sitting in her car, behind the steering. The car was parked right in front of the board that said, “Center for Advanced Studies in Fashion Design Canteen”.
“So done with your college”, she asked him as he neared her.
“Yes Ma’am”, his mouth answered while his frown questioned what she meant.
“Come sit, I’ll drop wherever you want to go”.
He managed a smile saying “Santosh Nagar Ma’am you don’t want to come all that long”.
“You sit and we’ll see”.
Prussy didn’t know what to speak and kept watching the road, which for some strange reason had very less traffic than usual.
“I’m leaving the college Prussy”. She answered his frown that questioned her before he sat in the car.
Prussy bent his head, brought it to normal and looked at her. She was looking at him driving carefully. She looked out again.
“You know Prussy, I’ve always like driving, like I’m driving now. And I always wanted to answer to only myself. I didn’t want to explain every single move that I made to my family. So I stayed away from them. And then there was also this issue of self-respect.” It sounded mocking when she said “Self-respect”.
“You know what self-respect to me was – to earn money and certain degree of name for myself. So I Saraswathi Nayar, independent and self-respected girl suddenly realize that all my self-respect came from the thirty k per month. And what job did I choose, the toughest and the best that I can do? Nope. I chose the easiest one that came along soon after my college. Teaching.
And you know calling students ‘useless fellows’ was my every other dialogue.” She sighed. Seeing him listening silently, she said, “How can you be so mature?”.
Prussy didn’t know what to say. “Well…”
“That’s ok. Yup so where was I… yeah teaching… so I the teacher fell for this wonderful person, who after two years of relationship comes and says that his family wants to get him married and that he said yes to them. Well not me. Fifteen days later I realize that I’m pregnant with his child. And that too after every care that I could take. The same day the doctors tell me that I have some cardiac arrhythmia. So this independent, self-respected girl was glad that she had no other choice but to abort. Abort a baby forming in my womb. Deep down I knew that even a choice wouldn’t have helped my own baby.” She closed her eyes saying, “ I had it killed.” She was very intent on driving. Prussy knew that she was trying hard not to cry.
“That night after abortion I realized that I’ve just been another person who lives someone else’s idea of independence. That’s when this word struck me, economic independence. I wish it had come to me earlier than the word self-respect. I knew it then that my idea of self-respect and independence was based on money that I earn, not on the persona I really was. Hey I’m not dead so I mean the person I am.” She looked at him and smiled.
“I think I’m boring you to death. Well actually I wanted you to know that today I’m not leaving the college because people will laugh at me. I think I’ve amused them and myself enough. But I think its time that I went home and start trying to concentrate on my designs.”
“Hey are we on the right way?” she asked him suddenly knowing that she has to leave him.
“Yes Ma’am, just one more right and we’re there.” He replied.
Prussy got down in front of a gate of an old building.
“So, that’s it then”, she said.
“Yes Ma’am. All the best.”
“Thank you Prussy. I bet you don’t have any girl friends. You talk too less”, she said not wanting to go.
“Good bye then Prussy. I think I’ll miss someone like you.”
“Good bye Ma’am”.
That night lying asleep in his bed, Prussy saw a strange ugly insect in his dream. A whitish creature with too many legs which never seemed to end when it walked. It stopped suddenly and something covered it up.
Prussy woke up he had to run to his college.