‘Mrs D’s red bangle is a reminder that I must believe in myself’

A series on true experiences

Illustrations: Samia Singh

YOUR CASUAL attitude towards life will land you in a mediocre college. You will remain a wasted genius forever.” In the past two years, I had heard this a zillion times from Mrs D, my history teacher and head of department of social sciences. I have often shrugged her comments aside, genuinely thinking of myself to be a misfit in my class.
I first met Mrs D when I was in Class X. Her looks (rather locks) had a stark resemblance to my grandmother’s. And though her small feet and oriental face (particularly the blood-red lips) had earned her the nickname ‘Manchu Princess’ among students, her raised and shapely eyebrows made me believe that she would have been a flawless beauty in her young age. Not surprisingly then, we discovered that Mrs D had a love marriage. I had been right all along. Mrs D was indeed beautiful. Beautiful enough to steal away an army officer.
In school, Mrs D had always been stern with her looks but jolly with her words. Her glare, when an incomplete notebook landed on her desk, could pierce a hole right through one’s head. Her biting anger had many a student burst into tears. Even then what she said was comic to every ear: “Incomplete work? Sit at home; grind masalas, mash potatoes and hatch eggs!” And you’d soon hear low but intense giggles from far corners of the classroom.
In January this year, we had our final pre-Boards. I got another 50 something in history, keeping in line with my entire year’s scores. Mrs D returned all the answer sheets dipped in red, writing elaborate notes so that everybody knew where exactly they had gone wrong. Mine, however, came back as it was — sheets of paper with big blue letters. I had fed Mrs D the most exciting legends (of course, not a part of syllabus!)
“Maybe she couldn’t care less,” I thought.
As soon as the answer sheets had been distributed, I was summoned to her chamber. I was all set to grind some more masalas, mash some more potatoes and hatch some more eggs, in her office. As it turned out, she was not in the mood for her ritual. I entered and grabbed a chair to sit right next to her.
“I think you take the concept of ‘wasted’ more seriously than ‘genius’, don’t you?” she remarked. I remained silent. “You must learn to walk by the lines, young lady, or else before you know, you might get sidetracked.” I had, by now, decided to avoid her gaze. “You have been a nasty kid,” a hint of smile was now playing along the edges of her lips, “but I would like to remember you as the first one who took up humanities. One who preferred to sit on the first bench in the row along the wall so that she could hold some support and doze off!” I burst into laughter, secretly marvelling at how she remembered the vivid details of my presence in the classroom. I was flattered, to say the least. Mrs D slowly removed a red bangle from her hand and slid it down my right wrist. “I believe in you and so must you,” she said. My lips fluttered in an attempt to say something, but paused before words could come out. So I chose to sit and cry instead.
Four months later, I met Mrs D at the class farewell. She came up to me and complimented me on the red saree that I had chosen to wear. I immediately lifted my right wrist, and said, “Couldn’t find anything better to match my bangle.”
That was the last I saw of her. Months later, I was awaiting my Class XII Board results with much trepidation. Looking at the red bangle during those days, Mrs D’s words echoed in my mind, “I believe in you, so must you.” On the 28 May, the results came out. I had secured 90 percent in history.
Aishwarya Gupta is 17. She is a student based in Delhi