By Savitri Narayanan
“We are trying our best, Sir,” said Pandey Sir respectfully, “My teachers are trying to connect with all their students; we will surely submit the data in time, Sir.”
Rampal Pandey was the head of the village school. He had been teaching in and now heading the school for many years. Even though there were no students, the staff came down often to exchange notes on their online classes and help each other out.
“That’s from the education department,” he put the phone down and turned to the supervisors, “Make sure the teachers submit the students’ assessments by Friday.”
“Wish this were a bad dream and I could wake up to those days when the classrooms were alive with noisy children!” said the Hindi supervisor.
“I promise to be kind and good even to the naughtiest and the laziest,” added the Science supervisor, “Just let them be back in school!”
Pandey Sir was all sympathy for the plight of his teachers as he too was missing having the students around.
“Rest assured the day will come soon, make sure the reports are ready on time,” said Pandey Sir as he turned back to his computer.
Soon there was a knock at the door.
“Please may I come in Sir?”
Pandey Sir was shocked to see a uniformed policeman walk into his office.
‘Is this a dream?’ was the thought that crossed his mind as he rose to greet the unexpected visitor. In response the officer briskly marched forward and offered a formal salute. Then he came closer to touch the headmaster’s feet.
“I am here to seek your blessings, Sir,” he said respectfully, “I am on the way to join my duty in Sitlapur police station”.
The peon walked in with not one but two cups of tea and placed it on the table.
“Please take your seat Sir,” said Pandey Sir, “Do join me for a cup of tea.”
The officer was still on his feet. Tall and well-built, he had an air of suppressed excitement about him as he looked around the room. He went near the window and looked out into the garden. He even walked around to take a closer look at the framed photographs on the wall on the left.
Many curious eyes were on the visitor. Rarely did a policeman walk into the school. That too during this lockdown! From the garden, the corridor and the staffroom across, all eyes were on the uniformed officer.
Who was he? Why was he here? Would their school be changed into a corona hospital? Could the teachers be asked to be on duty?
“Please have a seat, Sir,” Pandey Sir reminded, “and your tea is growing cold!”
“How can I sit down with you, Sir? You are my Headmaster!”
He walked closer and said softly, “I came here only to seek your blessings, Sir. I want to be a good police officer and help the public like you help your students – the way you helped me!”
“Let me see…,” Pandey Sir took a closer look at the policeman and scanned his memory files to see which of his students had grown up into this police officer. Once in a while he did meet his old students in unexpected places like government offices, hospitals, restaurants or corporates where they were working. With some help, usually he could connect a student’s face to the adult in front of him.
“Sir, there was a time when my father was out of a job and could not pay the exam fees …,” Pandey Sir looked closely at the officer who was turning slightly emotional. Still on his feet, his cane under his arm, the officer sipped his tea and continued, “I stood here, my head bent like this, waiting for you to scold and shout at me….”
It was a common practice for the fees defaulters and naughty children to be sent to the Headmaster.
“I still remember your words, Sir! ‘Beta, it is not your fault; don’t worry, I will pay your exam fees; you promise to focus on your studies, you will go a long way!’ you said…..”
“Aren’t you that boy from that khala – from that family who went to Chamoli?” asked Pandey Sir, “There was a boy there who wanted to be a policeman!”
“That’s me, Sir – I am Aniruddh Rana.”
His joy knew no bounds, to be remembered by his Headmaster!
“After Class XII, I got a scholarship and after graduation I joined the Police academy in Chamoli. I served in many police stations, Sir. Today I am taking charge as Circle Inspector in Sitlapur.”
“Good of you to stop by, Aniruddh,” said Pandey Sir, “Youth like you are the hope for tomorrow; lots of challenges waiting for you….”
“Sir, I have a secret dream, you must help me with it!” said Aniruddh.
Pandey Sir wondered what he had to do with this police officer’s secret dream.
Aniruddh continued, “I wish to help any deserving student from this school to complete their education. Whatever they want to study, I will pay the fees! I trust you to identify the students. Also a request, please don’t tell anyone that I am paying the fees. Let this be our secret, Sir!”
Aniruddh noted down his contact details in Pandey Sir’s diary and got ready to leave.
“I appreciate your generosity; glad you’ve found a way to pay back to the community. May God bless you!” said Pandey Sir as he escorted Aniruddh out of his office, “Let’s see if any of your teachers are still around. They would be happy to meet this policeman!”
By Savitri Narayanan