Manavi had been going to school every day and it was always her practice to go to the temple and then take the local train to school. Being a teacher she was truly disciplined and never gave up this ritual except on days when she was unwell.
Reaching school at 10.30 a.m. sharp and then being a child among all the children was a thing she loved the most and that was one of the reasons for her to take up a job in the neighborhood school.
As a student she was brilliant in academics as well as sports and could have easily landed a job in any of the high profile and well paid jobs after her graduation. Her father was a Senior Police officer while her mother was a social worker in one of the local women’s organization working in helping women from slightly poor economic background to stand up on their own in the society. Her elder brother was also brilliant and was selected in IIT from where he did his Chemical Engineering. He had secured a job in a good MNC and had his career graph accelerated in the same company for more than 5 years now.
With such an encouraging background, it was no wonder that Manavi was asked by her parents whether she wanted to study abroad or in India after completing her graduation. But Manavi had already decided and was firm that she would take up job only in the school in her neighborhood, ‘Sarthak Vidyaniketan’. It was a school which had kids of the mill workers of the area. The school was once a popular name not only with the worker class but also the middle class in that area. It had to its credit many students, who had made a mark in fields like advertising, engineering, medicine.
As more schools with better infrastructure developed in the area, Sarthak Vidyaniketan was only left now with children from the slightly poor socioeconomic background. It lost all the hustle bustle of activities like interschool sports, drama activities it once used to boast of proudly. Nevertheless, Manavi loved the school and always looked forward to making an effort at her end to help the school children have a mark and place for themselves amongst all the schools.
It was during one such interschool event that she had selected two girls and three boys from Classes 5th to 8th for elocution. The topic for the competition was “Protecting Environment”. She asked the boys and girls to think and prepare notes and get the next day. Each one of them prepared the notes and got them. Manavi was impressed with the efforts each one had taken in not only pointing out about the various environmental problems but also given innovative suggestions to protect the environment. She then told them that they would have to wait after school for half an hour for practicing the speech from next day on.
Everyone prepared very well and then the day of the competition dawned. Manavi was late that day and so she did not have time to go to the temple. She barely managed to catch her train to her school. Then as if that was not enough her sandals broke as she got off the train. Manavi was angry with herself and cursing God for the delay. Somewhere in her mind, as she was waiting near the cobbler to get her sandals repaired, she was thinking it was indeed a bad day perhaps. Conflicting with her own self and in a hurry to reach, she gave a ten rupee note and without even waiting to get back the change, ran as fast as she could to the school. She was late by almost an hour!This was the last thing that was expected of her from herself. She was always punctual. All the five students had been waiting at the school gate where the competition was to be held. They informed her that the coordinator was waiting for her and was very upset at the indiscipline due to the delay. Manavi kept her calm and apologized to the coordinator and confirmed the students’ list to be participating for the elocution.
A few students from other schools had given their best and were cheering their fellow schoolmates. As students of Sarthak Vidyaniketan had been late in registering their confirmation because of Manavi, they were the last in the list of participants, last five down the line. As more and more students were getting cheers, Manavi’s heart started pounding; well she could almost hear it thumping aloud and was very upset for everything that day. The names of her students were called and she just managed to give them thumbs up for doing their best and smiled a smile which was very reluctant at that moment. The children performed, and compared to the claps and cheers other children received for their speeches, they were a bit disheartened as they were only four with Manavi their mentor, guide and teacher who clapped for them. They had done their best and now they had a break for half an hour before the results could be announced.
Manavi took all of them to a small corner at the back of the hall and asked them to open their lunch boxes and eat whatever they had got with them. They offered her some of the food they had but she politely denied and asked them to eat. The students from other schools also had snacks from their lunch boxes or the ready made food packs of chips, biscuits, cakes they had with them. Almost each one of the high profile schools was playing the guessing game as to who would be the best of them to bag the first prize and the winner’s trophy. They had already placed the number one two and three among their students and eagerly waited for them to be announced.
For Manavi, it was the longest wait and as everything had gone wrong that day since morning she just wanted to run away as soon as the names would be announced. There was a huge applause as the judges and the coordinator came on the dais. The coordinator asked everyone for a silence and after thanking all the judges and participants, requested the judges to present the results. The result was read out.
The second Runner up was a student from St.Patson School. And the crowd was already shouting, “Gracians! Gracians!”,in anticipation of the first two winners of the competition. St. Grace School was the most high profile school which had many trophies to its credit and so it was almost certain that the first two students would be from their school. Among the loud cheers the name was announced the first runner up is, “Prarthana from ‘Sarthak Vidyaniketan’” and there was almost a shriek and a yell from Manavi. She was clapping and about to jump when the Winner was announced, “Yash from ‘Sarthak Vidyaniketan’”. Manavi could hardly believe her ears and felt the tears of joy trying to rush from her eyes as she cheered and saw her student collect the trophy.
It was a moment to be proud for the students, as their efforts had paid off very well. Manavi was yelling inside while on outside she could barely speak. The judges congratulated her and so did the coordinator. The teachers from other schools also came up to her to convey their good wishes to her as well as the students. Manavi felt that the day could not be more right even with all the wrongs it had begun with.
As they cheered for themselves and left the premises to take train back to their homes, everyone had a smile which brightened their faces and made them shine like never before. Manavi was laughing at herself and all the madness she thought about since morning. Now her heart was humming the song by R.Kelly, ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ and positively looking forward, as she did always, to have her students fly high and shine in glory!