Being a 12th standard student is not easy. There is pressure from all sides. I am lucky because I don't have much pressure from my parents. In fact, just before 12th started, I had gone for a vacation with dad to Germany. There he told me not to worry and that if I performed the same way I have been performing all these years, I would have no problem getting admission in a good college. It was nice to see somebody have faith in me and gave me the strength to go to school. At school however, I am facing a lot of pressure from teachers. Somehow I managed to do well in my 11th exams and now they have a crazy notion in their head that I could be a potential state rank holder!
But its easy for me to ignore them and just listen to what my parents tell me. Getting full marks isn't the goal, the goal is to learn. As long as I score between 90-95% I will be fine and that is not something out of my reach. I have no problems with French as my second language, I have an amazing teacher and I also seem to have fallen in love with learning new languages. English is also ok because one of the teachers in the English department, my old 11th standard teacher, has taken a special interest in me and is coaching me on how to write the perfect state board english paper. Maths is also fine because I have learnt that in the case of maths, practise makes perfect. Biology is dead simple, it has a lot of basic stuff, I just need to have a good memory to memorize everything and I think that is not out of the realm of possibility. Chemistry should be a cakewalk, considering both my parents are chemists. Dad recently bought a white board and hung it in my room. Every weekend, he spends a few hours teaching me organic chemistry and quite frankly, I think its a lot of fun and quite simple once you understand it.
That leaves me with Physics. And I am scared that physics will end up ruining my overall grades. 12th std physics is tougher than I expected. And I don't seem to be the only one nervous about it. All my friends are worried too. We spend long hours fretting over the subject, it is a regular feature in our conversations during lunch break and a lot of physics-bashing has been going on. We are all scared. And I seem to be affected the worst, because I have reached levels of panic. Atleast my friends are going for tuitions and all. I don't even have that. I am relying solely on my school teacher. She is a good teacher but the problem is that I have always been weak in physics for some strange reason. It seems to take longer for me to understand concepts. What I need is not tuition, but just a special one hour session at the end of each day to be taught the basic concepts that will help me pull through.
Today, a girl came bursting into our class during the maths period, with an announcement from the principal's office. Looks like our worries have been noticed by the higher authorities! The school is taking steps to ensure that students who aren't able to keep up get special coaching at the end of the day for an hour at school in the subject they are weakest in. I signed up for physics without even giving it a second thought. What's there to think? I need help. I am pretty relieved but I wonder who will be coaching us extra time... our own school teacher or a guest lecturer? I was to find out that very evening because classes were starting with immediate effect.
I went to the classroom assigned for the hopeless in physics. I took my seat, not in the front row because I didn't want my stupidity in the subject to be noticed, not in the back row, because I wanted to listen to the teacher properly and not doze off. We all waited for our mystery teacher.
When she walked in, I almost screamed. She wasn't a stranger. She was our very own school teacher from the physics department. And she has taught me physics for two and half years! I was surprised to see her now coming as our saviour in 12th std physics! And for good reason...
I thought she had died one year back.... because of cancer...
Yet there she was, standing in front of me, just like how I remember from the first day I met her. Her hair was long, tied in a bun. But the last time I saw her, she had something like a boy cut, due to hairloss from chemotherapy. I couldn't understand what was going on. I had attended her funeral! I had walked up to her body and kept flowers by her feet. I had watched as all my school teachers tearfully paid their last respects to the greatest physics teacher my school had ever seen. I had watched as they carried her body into a van that would take her to the burial ground. Yet there she was, standing in front of me, like nothing had happened.
And she was just like how she was before she went on that long medical leave. She remembers my name. I used to be one of her favourite students. Apparently I still am. I was dazed. I was shocked. But I didn't have the courage to say anything. Not right then in front of everybody else.
So I did what I do best. I waited till class was over, then I approached her after everybody had left. She looked up at me (she's pretty short and I am quite tall, you see) and asked me if I had any doubts. I did. A very bizarre doubt. I told her, I thought you died of cancer one year ago. I was at your funeral! She looked amused and very surprised! She said she was perfectly alright and as I could see for myself, very much alive. It must have been some kind of dream, she told me.
More like a nightmare!
We talked for a while. And I asked her everything that had been nagging me. Turns out, it was all just a bad dream that I had. She doesn't actually live in that house near that sweet shop where I had gone to for her funeral. She disappeared in the middle of my 10th std not on medical leave, but more like a sabbatical. She went travelling abroad to see the world. She got 2 years off because considering the number of years she had taught in my school, the management thought it was reasonable to give her a sabbatical. And now she is back and she is going to continue teaching in my school. I was so happy to see her again! After 2 years! And I was so happy to be her student again! I told her that she is my favourite physics teacher and its good to have her back. She gave me her trademark smile... the calm and serene smile she always gave me. I knew then, that she likes me as her student just as much as I love her as my teacher.
Then from a distance, I heard my mother call my name. I thought it was strange to hear her call out for me like that when I was in school. Then I realised that I forgot to inform my parents about the special coaching class. And after the class instead of going home, I sat talking to my physics teacher. I wasn't surprised that mom was worried about my whereabouts and had come searching for me. Neither was my physics teacher! She urged me to go and that she would see me the following day during the coaching class, and every day from then on. I skipped happily out of class, towards my mother's voice.
It was really odd that when I met my mom finally at the school entrance, she was telling me its really late. I told her that I was sorry I was late but I had coaching class and I didn't tell her about it. She acted like she hadn't heard me. She wanted me to drive her in the car to the shop to buy vegetables. I was confused! I was only 16 and I didn't know how to drive a car! Then she kept urging me to get up.
Thats when I realised.
I am not 16. I am not in school. I am an adult now. I have finished my undergrad and am on my way to graduate studies.
My nightmare wasn't my physics teacher's illness and her death... that was reality.
My nightmare was waking up to reality after having spent hours talking to her and believing that she never fell sick, that she never left us, that her death was my nightmare.
I lost her once 6 years ago. I lost her again this morning. Its surprising how somethings never change, even after 6 years. Because it was just as difficult today morning to wake up to the bad news as it was 6 years ago...