The Math Teacher

It was the spring of 2011. Raju was tense. There was a lot of activity going on in High school. He was a senior this year. He was planning on becoming an Engineer like many of his friends. At lunch time, they would all sit together, the old fashioned Indian way – cross legged, chatting. The cooks would be going around serving. Only he wasn’t in a good mood to eat. He left half of the food on the plate (the plantain leaf actually) and started walking out of the hall. He had to get out of this commotion. He scurried back from the hall. There was a flight of stairs at the very end. He soon was running to them. As he started to descend, he realized it was an endless flight of stairs. Suddenly the atmosphere turned eerie and silent. He was running down the flight to get to the end but the steps kept on coming. The darkness grew. In fact, the darkness in his mind grew. The commotion in his mind grew. He started tracing the events back to the beginning of the school year. He had started off very well. He had come in with strong grades. He knew Math was his strong point. Thus he had focused on other subjects. The Math classes didn’t start on time. No one knew where the teacher was or why he wasn’t coming to school. They only knew that once he started teaching the pace would pick up and they would get through it. Raju didn’t bother to study Math – he knew he could pace through once the classes started. And he also neglected English. There was too much to do. And English was easy, so he skipped classes. Half way into the year he had noticed that the Math classes hadn’t started. But he didn’t pay too much attention to it; nor to English. He knew his friends were attending English classes and some of them had started doing Math lessons on their own. But there was a lot of other studying to do. Moreover, he was smart. He could always pick up. He even skipped English mid-term exams. No one cared for these exams. Only the final exam mattered as that was State administered and the grades from there was all that counted to get to college. Seven months into college his concern was building up. The Math teacher was still nowhere to be seen. Once he comes in there would be a lot of lessons to catch up to. He couldn’t but help notice that his friends were getting together and studying on their own. But he was smart – he could spend four weeks straight and catch up. After eight months, he could no longer wait. Two of his friends had finished Math on their own. His close friend Sari had stacked up reams of notes on both the subjects that he was going to brush up just before the exams. Sari was a good friend. He would loan him his notes anytime. He borrowed the English notes first. There was just four weeks to the final exams. He started reading them and felt there was too much to cover in this time and moreover, he also had to catch up on Math. Maybe he can read just enough to get passing grades as the colleges didn’t care about English grades. All they cared was Physics, Chem, Math for Engineering. But he found it hard to digest just some of the lessons. They were too complex. His reasoning and memory was failing him now. The huge backlog of all of Math was always in the back of his mind. Thoughts of his friends getting great scores in 12th grade including Math and English were crossing his mind. He saw his friends working in those dream factories with cushy jobs. It was after high school exams. His results were out and he had failed. Two subjects – Math and English. He had six months now to re-take both exams and he could focus only on these two. The Math teacher still hadn’t showed up at school. He would have to buy those exam crash books and prepare for the exams. He hated them as their focus was just on passing the exams; they crammed a lot without caring to explain a lot. They were really meant for those who memorized subjects just for the exams. The thought of just him sitting at home alone preparing for the exams while his friends already in college or working made him even tense. God, this is not where I wanted to be. In fact, this is not where I am – I have a job, I am way past taking exams. Don’t I have a master’s degree. Then why am I tense about missing exams. This has never happened in my life. The sound of ticking of the clock brought back reality and also comfort. Thank God again – the time of taking exams and job hunting is over – was already over decades back. That was a real nighmare. Raju sighed a sense of relief and went back to sleep.

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