The phone rang with the familiar tone when I call an India number.
Somebody picked it up and said “Hello”
It was early in the morning. I had to clear my throat and ask gingerly “Mrs. Paulraj?”
“Speaking? Who is this?”
That was a very difficult question to answer. How do you tell the person –
“Well, there is no way in God’s green earth you will know me if I tell you my name. Okay, it is Rajib. Rajib Roy. See? It made no difference. But here is the thing… In 1973, when I was in my first grade in Benachity Junior High School, you taught music to us. You used to sit on a piano and sing songs like Do Ra Me (from Sound of Music ) and, we, the kids, used to join in with a full spirited, high toned bleat. All of us except Mukundan. He was the bully in the class. You never liked him. Neither did we. So, you used to send him out to stand outside the class. If you really insist on crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s, well, he was required to hold his ears too”
What I said was “Ma’m, you were my teacher 44 years back. I was merely 7 years then”.
And to establish my credentials, I quickly rattled off about seven other teachers from that school that I am in touch with. That seemed to gain her confidence. The more updates I gave her about her colleagues from four decades back, the more believable I became to her.
I told her about the drama we did in our second grade. We had to do a play – Cinderella it was. I was one of the princes at the ball dance. (the last time I had danced, as I recollect). My dad had bought me princely clothes for that – bell-bottoms!!! Did I mention this was early 70s? 🙂 I also told Mrs. Paulraj about the time she had pulled me and my partner – Mousumi – aside and taught us how to synchronize our steps to her notes.
In the end, she had given up and told me “Just follow Mousumi’s instructions”. And that is what I had done. If it was not for Mousumi’s eye signals that night, I would have had no idea whether to step left or right. That stage light and all that face powder on me was too confusing!!!
“Ma’m, the reason I am calling you today is to thank you. You were part of a small set of folks who had a big influence on me in my formative years. I just wanted you to know that I am happy in the way I have turned out to be. And I wanted to take the time to say Thank You to you”.
A few heart to heart words later, I am now on to another adventure. Somehow, someday, I hope to see her physically in Salem, Tamil Nadu, India to tell her Thanks to her personally!!