English Translation: Srinivas Banda
Telugu original: Nadella Anuradha
That day the class is noisy. The reason for that is a newcomer.
Any newcomer is welcomed by the other students with befriending invitations and queries! They also try to make the newcomer understand and accept their seniority. Mostly, this is similar to the practice of ‘ragging’ which happens in any professional college, albeit without the trolling and harassment. This is just innocence.
I started taking the attendance and asked the newcomer,
“What’s your name?”
“Mahesh Babu, Teacher,” whole class responded in unison, obviating the boy’s need to respond. He simply stood, smiling.
I am amused.
Many names, mostly telugu Cinema heroes are adapted by these children.
“Teacher,” some even announce to me, “I have changed my name!” A popular hero’s name follows.
“No,” I try to explain. “You can’t change your name just like that. You have a name in school, right?”
“Fine teacher, then I will take this as my name in both school and tuition!”
The newcomer might be thirteen years old. “Which class are you studying in?”
“Five,” he replied. He has some striking features like bigger eyes and bigger mouth, nose and ears, which gives him a peculiar look. Other students already told me that he has six fingers on both hands.
I recognised him as the new student in our school. He is actively participating and winning in all the sports which are being conducted for the past week.
Yesterday, his performances were discussed even in the staff room during the lunch break. Many expected that he would win many prizes in the upcoming Districts Sports Meet too.
Someone mentioned that he is always smiling! He seems to be living blissfully in his own world.
“Can you read Telugu?” I queried and received his “Yes”.
“Can you read English?”
“Yes,” he replied again.
The smile never left his face, evoking smiles from all the other children, who are watching us.
Many students attending the classes are not able to identify Telugu or english alphabets properly, even those in eighth or ninth standard. Many admitted that they are terrified by English. Everyday, they try and write down a page or two from their textbooks into notebooks, in the name of homework given at school. When I ask them to read-out whatever they have written, they easily accept their inability to do so.
That prompted me to start teaching them alphabets, so that they could read and write Telugu and English.
Daily I start the class by dictating a few Telugu and English words. That exercise would be followed by a new lesson, tables and simple math problems.
“Let us do some dictation,” I addressed the class. “Take out your notebooks.”
“Mahesh babu, you too…” other students prompted him, taking out their own notebooks.
I saw a woman standing at the entrance of the class. I easily identified her as Mahesh Babu’s mother.
“Teacher-amma, we shifted to this hamlet recently,” she began.
“Mahesh is lagging in studies, please give him extra attention. Ever since he had lost his father in a road accident, he got very depressed. Nevertheless, he appears to be active, but is not able to learn anything. May be, he is not able to vent out his pain for missing his father! I brought him here for a change of environment” she concluded.
Her pain traversed into me, naturally.
She left, after my assurance to help him as much as I could.
I came back to the class and started giving out dictation. Generally, I begin with easier words and end with four or five difficult ones. I started walking among the students to check whether they are able to write down accurately. Only a few students picked up the pace, indicating that both me and other students have to put in more efforts.
A couple of more words, and this exercise would be over. I noticed Mahesh Babu sitting idle. Students sitting on his side are trying to grab and look into his note book, with an assumed sense of authority. He wouldn’t let them. All this while, smile never left his face.
Now I got a doubt whether Mahesh babu knows reading and writing though he assured me his ability to do so.
“Mahesh Babu,” I called him, “did you complete the dictation?”
“No, teacher. I don’t know how to write.” he said with the same smile.
When asked, he said he could read and write as well. Now he is denying the same. This naturally annoyed me.
But immediately, I remembered his mother’s words.
“Didn’t you write anything?” I demanded. May be, his smile is adding to my irritation. Why should he smile?
“Bring your notebook.”
The notebook was blank.
“I saw him, Teacher,” Kishore, who sat next to Mahesh stared off.
“He didn’t write anything.” I silenced Kishore with a stern look.
“Look at him Teacher,” Nireesha is even loud,
“He is still smiling, even without writing anything!”
Mahesh Babu turned his head silently towards Nireesha.
There is a question in his eyes, “I wrote nothing. Then, am I not supposed to smile?’’ His smile grew wider.
With Nireesha’s intrusion, my irritation was subsided. I even felt guilty, watching his innocent face. Anyway, how could his smile and blank note book be understood together?
Why should Nireesha or I be bothered about him standing still, as if untouched by any of the worldly perils?! Certainly, that smile is creating an aura of positivity around him. Immediately a thought dawned upon me. Shouldn’t we all be grateful to him, since he is silently teaching a positive demeanour to this world, which is in the midst of mayhem and chaos?
I must drag him out from his valley of depression. His smile definitely helps.
He should get ready to win the world through his innocent smile!
పుట్టి పెరిగింది విజయవాడలో. ఆకాశవాణిలో లలితసంగీతగీతాలకి వాయిద్యకారుడిగా పాల్గొంటూ పాలొంటూ సైన్యంలో చేరి, రెండు దశాబ్దాల తర్వాత మరో పదకొండేళ్లు కార్పొరేట్లో కదం తొక్కి, మూడేళ్లక్రితం దానికీ గుడ్ బై చెప్పినప్పట్నుంచీ, గాత్రధారణలు, అనువాదాలు చేస్తూ, కథలూ కవితలూ రాసుకుంటూ, సాహిత్యారాధనలో ఢిల్లీలో నివసిస్తున్నాను.