A pleasant reunion

It was 1976. I had just joined as a lecturer in a college. One day, I was teaching a junior class when a boy, in violation of all norms, without spoken or gestural permission, barged into the classroom and with a mischievous smile on his face proceeded towards his seat. I was both young and strict those days. I made him get out of the room. With a defiant smile, he marched out coolly with an air of victory against a disciplinarian. I felt slighted and confronted by an urchin.

Half an hour later, I met the Principal and had the boy suspended from the college rolls for a week. On the third day came the boy and his guardian. There was the routine written apology and assurance and consequent reinstatement of the boy. I felt that the wrongdoer had had his share of instruction. However, he perhaps believed that his act was worthy of being simply overlooked and that the public punishment meted out to him was out of proportion.

As young people often brandish false credentials, he had told me that his father owned a factory manufacturing brass valves for taps and pipes. Theoretically, I had pardoned him, but at heart, I felt that he was still hostile. When and wherever he passed by me on the streets, he would look the other way. I knew he had not liked my kind of austerity perpetrated on him. Next year, he was not to be seen in college. Maybe he had shifted to some other town. I remembered his name and had his countenance clearly etched in my memory. I tried to imagine many things. I thought he might have started a factory in some other city.

A teacher hardly remembers all those who have been his pupils. But this boy was special. I still had some place for him in my memory. However, I decided it had been a while and felt that it should be left behind.

Some two weeks ago, I visited a well-known shop selling sweets in my town. The owner of the shop had died recently. The sales manager at the counter was now in his late fifties. He told me the prices of the stuff and then instructed the boys to pack the items for me. Then, by way of an opening, though he had no doubts about it, he confronted me on whether I had taught at the local Government College. When I nodded, he said he had been my student. I asked him his name. When he said that he is Ram Pal (name changed), I asked him if he had had any trouble while in my class.

He affirmed, saying, “Sir, in those youthful years, somebody does the mischief and somebody else pays for it. I had been prompted by the boys.” I almost hugged him saying, “My long-lost Ram Pal is a pleasant discovery for me today.”

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A pleasant reunion

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