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He was the tiniest in my class. Cheeky, lively and bubbling with excitement all the time. Except when there was writing or reading to be done. He was an amazing actor, sometimes volunteering to act out parts of stories that I read out in class. I would often catch him strumming an imaginary guitar when the entire class was busy multiplying gigantic numbers or doing the “Chammak challo” act as I cleaned the black board. He could hardly read and write but loved listening to stories. Once, while the rest of the class was playing, I caught him sitting alone in class. I decided to give him company and invited him to a game of dumb charades. He was not in the mood.
Boy: Akka, I want to tell you a story.
Me: Really? Which one?
Boy: No, not from any book. I made the story in my mind.
Me: Wow! That’s nice. Would you care to write it out in your book?
Boy: No Akka. I hate writing. I don’t know any spellings.
Me: Ok. Tell me.
Boy: There was once a boy who studied in a good school. He never listened in class, never did homework and was very, very naughty.
Boy: He loved to sing, dance and act. But he hated English and Maths. His teachers always scolded him. He had no friends. Nobody liked him. His parents and sisters always punished him.
Me: Oh! That’s sad.
Boy: Yes. The boy felt very sad. He was alone all the time. One day he did not go to school. Then all his classmates missed him. But he was not at home too. His parents were worried. They searched for him everywhere. All over the earth. But they did not find him.
Me: Where did he go?
Boy: He made a rocket and flew away to another planet where nobody could find him. He was happy to be alone in that planet. Everyone on earth cried because they missed him. But the boy never came back.
Me (shocked): That is a sad story. The boy seems to be nice and maybe he WAS loved.
Boy: You know who that boy is, Akka?
I had guessed by then and enveloped by sadness, but wanted him to speak.
Me: You say.
Boy (laughing): Me!!! So easy it was. You didn’t know?!
I was shattered. The words “You didn’t know” kept echoing in my head. I had nothing to say. As a teacher, as a part of the education system, I had failed. The system has no room or time for emotions and sentiments of students. No room for diversity. Whoever heard of testing students in acting and storytelling skills when there was so much to learn in Maths, Chemistry, History and Literature? So what if a student was lonely, stressed or depressed? In the mad rush by students, parents and teachers to complete the syllabus, prepare for exams, flaunt good grades, meet deadlines and targets, there seems to be no space for such beautiful wild flowers to blossom. They perish, their beauty unnoticed among the endless fields of similar looking flowers.