Std VI C was having fun. They had recently lost a teacher when Ratna Miss retired. They had cried on her last day, said damp goodbyes to her, and decided that school without her was no fun.
There was no evidence of that now, as VI C enjoyed its freedom. The students threw paper pellets, chatted, and ate lunch. Some boys were playing Bench Catch, a game the class had invented and was proud of. It involved trying to catch each other, without touching the ground. So, they jumped from bench to bench, thumping and shouting excitedly.
Ready for fun
When someone walked into the room, the class paused its activities and looked up. There was a man in their classroom. Was he someone’s father or uncle? “I am the substitute teacher,” said the newcomer. The class exchanged delighted glances. A substitute teacher (ST) was what you got when your own teacher was away and the school hadn’t found a new one. Substitute teachers were timid, uncertain, and easily confused. They rarely stayed beyond a day and provided the students with a lot of entertainment. VI C got ready for some fun.
“Get your English books out!” announced the ST. Many students immediately put their hands up saying they hadn’t brought the textbook. That, VI C thought with satisfaction, would stump him. But the ST smiled and said, “Wonderful! That means we can have a reading circle!” This involved pulling desks and pushing chairs about. VI C plunged into this new game with enthusiasm and, for a while, the room was filled with angry screeches and hollow groans and shouted instructions and warnings. Far too soon, they were all sitting in a circle. People stole peeks at their watches and were horrified to find that only five minutes had passed.
“Forty minutes before the bell,” they whispered.
Then, the ST asked Nidhi to get up. Before the class knew what was happening, he had moved everyone around. When the shuffling of feet and scraping of chairs died down, Nidhi found herself away from her gang; Masood and Ravi, best friends since kindergarten, were far away from each other; fierce competitors Amaan and Jiya were sharing a textbook, as were sworn enemies Sheetal and Tariq. Mariam, who everyone avoided because they said she was strange, found herself with a partner for the first time. By the time the ST had parted friends, split gangs, and paired enemies, there were still 37 minutes for the bell. And this was just the first class with him.
(To be continued)