It is my first day as a teacher
‘How will it be?’ I wonder
It takes time to set up the computers
There is no time to speculate
Then the class begins, and
Everything falls into place
I start coming to teach
Three days in a week
And as time goes by
Everything sets in more and more.

I do not ask anybody’s name
I figure it out by listening carefully
Then I begin to call them by their names
Everyone is happy that I knew the same
At first all the interaction
is only when my class is held
Then bit by bit, we start interacting
Even other times as well.

There is a night-over at school,
Just before the summer holiday
After classes are over
Most teachers and students stay
This is one time this year
Everybody is free and together
One of my students calls me and says:
‘Please come with us and play’
We all spend the night
And a bit of the next day
Then leave all in our own ways.

I go to school after a long time
‘Have the students changed?’ I wonder
Then I see them coming in a line
We all greet each other
They’ve grown so much
In these last few months
I am relieved I can recognise
Each and every one
We go to class and I can tell
They’ve all grown up in mind as well
I don’t feel the need to say:
‘You must do this and that today’
‘What shall we do?’ I instead ask
‘Suggest something’, they reply
‘We will do what you tell us’.

There is no more fighting
Not even comparing
Any issue in the past
Feels so trivial I can even laugh
Any glitches with the computer
Or even problems like scheduling a class
I just put it to them, and
With a little give and take everyone adjusts
There is nothing to worry
Everything is so perfect
Well not everything, all except…
All except… All except…

I go to the market to buy some gifts
‘What should I buy?’ I wonder
‘Will they like it?’
‘And keep it with them?’
‘Or will they thank me politely?’
‘And put it away?’
I search and search and search and search
‘Why am I so anxious?’ I can’t say.

When relating to friends and family
There is generally some form of continuity
Even if it takes a while
There is almost always a next time
When it comes to the students I teach
Very regularly, we do meet
Together we have done so many things
And yet, it’s all in school
Where these things are happening
I have not visited their homes any time
Neither have they visited mine
Months of interacting regularly
Will suddenly stop instantly
Maybe I can still say:
‘We will meet again some day’
But I certainly cannot say
‘In the same way’.

‘That explains it’, I now clarify
I am still anxious, but I know why
I want the gifts to make up
For not having a ‘next time’
I think that soon the gifts will have to be
The main connection between the students and me
I come back empty-handed, but then I see
That getting special gifts, is as simple as can be
I buy some glitter pens
From just down the road
I select some nice books
Which I already had at home.

It is the last day of September
I go to class, just as usual
They attend class, just as usual
From the outside
Everything looks so normal
From the inside
I feel completely abnormal
And yet, I have nothing to say
I just see my watch, ticking away
Then the clock strikes three
We get up, seemingly to leave
‘Wait, don’t go away’, I say
And then I hear someone whisper:
‘Make sure the teacher stays here!’
I search through my bag
To take out the gifts
When I take them out I see
The students also have gifts for me!
I had never told them
I would be on leave throughout October
They had never told me
They would leave from first November
And yet we all knew
This would be the last day together
I am surprised and happy
On receiving their gifts
They look surprised and happy
On receiving mine
We are filled with excitement and joy
Even though we are together for the last time
Then frantically, we wave farewell
When will we meet next? No one can tell
We continue to wave with all our might
But then, ‘Oh no!’, they are out of my sight!

I wonder what will happen next
Will they get a chance to progress?
From where I taught them till?
Or will months of learning
Suddenly come to a standstill
‘Will they make an effort to meet me?’
I wonder
‘Will I get a chance to meet them?
I worry
‘Will they have memories of being with me?’
‘Or will such memories fade away as one among many?’

I had no words to express my feelings
Not even just before leaving
I now look at the gifts and begin thinking
All of them have similar feelings
At the bottom of the gift
Is a message and I see
Somebody has expressed
These feelings to me
Now I realise, that it doesn’t take much
Just a bit of writing is enough
One does not need a whole page
Not even half
That’s more than enough
Just three words
Can mean so much
The message written, was:
Please remember us.

Varun lives in rural Tamil Nadu. He never studied in a school, but he has started teaching in one. He is a part time teacher in Thulir School in Sittilingi.

This poem first appeared on Varun’s blog. Read it here.

Featured image: The author with some of his students. Photo: Ramkumar