We were about to cross the street when she tugged at my hand and said over the din of passing vehicles-” Lets not head towards that auto rickshaw. The driver was my student once and he will not charge us the fare.” I grinned and changed the angle of my targeted walk. Then I also discovered the extra coconut, that came along with the rest of the veggies as the vegetable shop owner was also her student!
She retired as the principal of the local higher secondary school with 32 years at the same place. Children with limited means go to such schools and they aspire to be able to earn their living and support their families.Hence, the real working hands out here- auto rickshaw drivers, masons, plumbers,mechanics, painters, grocers and shop owners too, all are alumnus of this school. Whenever interacting with the locals, I usually caution myself to tread and treat carefully or who might turn out to be her student, heaven only knows!! While driving through the palace roads here in Trivandrum, we ventured into a no entry zone. As I readied myself to be accosted by the state police personnel at the check post, a sassily smiling lady sub inspector smartly walked up to her principal madam sitting in my car and simply waved us through after the two minutes “madam, remember me?” and the madam trying to recall the batch without any success!Such is her imprint on the local community that all over zealous behaviour by any local stranger is usually interpreted as their regard for their teacher. The joke around the house of course being “Mom’s teaching could take them only this far!”
But what a reward,this immediate recognition is! Children from humble backgrounds, made capable to take on jobs in the service industry without any fear of scorn; educated and earning their living through hard work and pride. The service agency recently sent over a cook for the stop gap period on the permanent one’s leave. A mellow ‘tears shedding session’ took place in the kitchen as the new one too was from the same…😊