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The Angel

By Aparna Bandopadhaya

Contributory Author for Spark Igniting Minds


Seven-year-old Poorva hopped and skipped with a bunch of drooping wild flowers that she had picked from the roadside on her return journey from school. She was a happy, smiling child and was proud of that wilting bunch. She washed her feet and offered her bunch to her older sister in the room waiting for her. She then narrated that she had a test today and did very well and drew a picture of a banyan tree in her art class. Her mother called out to her to bring in two buckets of water from the tap that the family shared with three more families. She had prepared the food and was leaving for the construction site to work for half a day beside her husband.


The next day, Seema Tikait, her class teacher, asked her to stay back after class and told Poorva that she had submitted a blank paper. She needed to concentrate more to turn in her work regularly. Poorva said her sister would help her. However, after three months of school, there was still no improvement in Poorva's schoolwork. So Seema said she wanted to meet her parents. Most parents of these children are daily labourers and can never come to school to discuss about their children. So her teacher thought of making a special effort to go to them as they did not make any effort to come to her. For them, school is a place where their children spend some time in their absence, and after primary school, they never go back to the middle school in the next village. The safety of that long walk and the time that it entailed were not convenient for most of the villagers. The children get a midmorning snack, so they don't give them breakfast at home. In this way primary school was a pastime for them.


Seema told Poorva that she would visit her home the next day and meet her mother. The teacher had another purpose; to visit her student's homes. She wanted to modify her teaching methods after knowing the home situations of those children. Poorva smiled and said she would tell her mother about her teacher's intent to visit the next day.


Reaching home, Poorva mentioned her teacher's visit the next day. Her mother told her to take care of it as she hurried off for work. The next day, Poorva was all smiles as she held her teacher's hand to lead her home. The happy child was full of smiles and joy to take her madam to her home.


After 20 minutes of walking across fields, they reached a cluster of huts at some distance from the main village. Upon reaching Poorva's house, they removed their slippers and went in. Poorva's mother hurried out and greeted her teacher, looking harrowed, and said she had to leave immediately for work; otherwise, the supervisor would deduct half of her half-day's salary. She rushed out, leaving Poorva and Seema in a room separated by cardboard. Poorva, forever a happy child, washed her hands with a mug of water outside the door. She then put a mat on the floor and, on a tin plate, offered a handful of peanuts and jaggery, all the while smiling.


Seema felt helpless to help Poorva. After having a glass of water, she told her student that she had better leave. But Poorva told her that her sister was waiting to meet her class teacher. She led Seema into the next room, and there was a tattered mattress on the floor. A tiny figure, all curled up in a sheet, was immobile on the bed. The hair was spiny and sticking out, and round, vacant eyes were looking up at the ceiling with mouth-drooling spit. Poorva went running to the bed and said, with twinkling eyes and a joyful smile, 'This is my sister, and she will help me learn'. This was Ruby, Poorva's eleven-year-old sister, bedridden due to trauma during birth and suspended in time forever.


Two hours went by as Seema sat and watched with wonder and awe as a little girl of seven started cleaning the tiny figure on the bed, feeding mashed rice and water, wiping her face, and talking about her day at school, introducing her teacher to her cherished differently abled sibling with no sense of regret or complaint.


Seema had much to learn from that little angel, who, at a tender age, has become an adult in a house of struggle. There was much to learn from life's lesson, and she decided she would start Poorva's literacy from a different perspective the very next day. Lessons are different for an angel, after all.


About the Author

Ms. Aparna Bandyopadhyay

Aparna has been a physics teacher in various Air Force Stations and Private schools in civilian areas, whenever stationed at a place. She has written articles and poems in Air Force magazines and regional publications.


She is now focusing on methods to make the environment green and safe. Her motto is to keep learning from young and old alike, there being no end date to learning.



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