Goodbyes, Keychains and Oscars

I always wondered why people cry during Oscar acceptance speeches. Why athletes tear up on the podium? How can anybody cry when they are happy?

On my last day at school, Roshan asked for my number. With teary eyes and breaking voice, he tells me that I should inform him without fail if I ever change it. I have taught him for two years. Never have I seen him cry. Once Priyanka, during a fight, stabbed his leg with a pencil. He ran with the bleeding leg to principal’s office to complain. No tears then. I had always perceived him to be strong. No one could ever get into his head. But today he broke down. And I love him more now.

The other day I was talking to Priyanka. She had come a long way from stabbing people with pencils. I asked her what she remembers about me from the last two years. I was expecting she would tell about the time when I taught her a dance. Or the time I felicitated her in front of the whole class. But she remembers that one time when I lost my temper and yelled at her for some unknown reason. I was hurt to hear that. I cannot choose what they remember. They might remember the most insignificant thing. An incident which should have never happened.

Nandini asked me what are my initials. “You know my name!”, I said. “Your full name, sir”, she replied. I was apprehensive. They might try to find me on various social networks. I did not know if I was ready for that. So I said my last name starts with ‘M’. On my last day, I get these keychains with ‘M’ on them. My name is Avinash. I would have liked an ‘A’. Now I have a story to tell everyone who sees these.

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I never thought I had left an impression on my students. But after seeing people crying and holding my hand to stop me from going, I felt they do love me. And nothing in the world can beat that feeling. I can see far away into the future when they are busy with life. They will forget this day and forget about me. It is inevitable. It’s okay. But no one can take this memory from me.

Geetha was shy and reserved. She is 10. Doesn’t talk much. Always in her shell. Not willing to express herself. I once made students perform in front the class. Geeta came up, started to sing, but stopped midway and went back. Later I asked her why. She was uncomfortable as she thought others were making fun of her. I told her even if others laugh that should not stop her. On my last day, she tried to convince me to stay. Why are you leaving Sir? Is it your own decision? I said I’ll keep in touch. Keep visiting. In the evening she called me on my phone. She asked me what I had for dinner, what I was doing, when will I go home to see my parents. In the end, she wished me luck with whatever I have decided to do with my life and hope I get what I want. At that moment I understood why Roger Federer broke down after winning the record-breaking 20th Grand Slam title. I get it. It is the culmination of years of hard work. A sense of accomplishment, fulfilment and gratitude. All squeezed into one tiny moment. I wanted to collect that memory and put it in a Pensieve. And relive it on future Sunday evenings when I question my existence.

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