My First Student in the Asylum

My First Student in the Asylum

And he taught me maturity.

I was pseudo-mature. I was the first girl in my school to declare that I would not ever miss my childhood, and many took it in with a chill pill. And now I know how kind they had been to me.

When I told Mum the same, I was duped ‘emotionless’. “Thanks,” I went ahead, “I wanted a validation.”

What’s more, I was excessively proud of my pseudo-maturity. Maybe ‘cause I was too immature to seek any true realization.

These are some useless facts about me. Now, let’s get real, right to the story.

I became a teacher before I became a student. Sigh. The auntie of the colony would get me clients on monthly basis and I was supposed to teach those wimpy kids. Let me be honest. I don’t think I love kids. Okay, I love them. Every man with a red pump does. And I too do. But I find them so annoying. So utterly annoying that teaching them is like a well-crafted headache brought unto me by myself. Yet it is something I thoroughly enjoy. I miss the little brown girl in my bus, and her petal-faced brother. Oh, how I would be knocked at my leg by those screamy smartypants every time I clambered the bus! So thirsty for knowledge! And how greedily would the duo assemble around the vast corpus of books I laid before them!

My teachers had been quite opulent with mercy when I was young, an immature bud. But I was so helplessly unable to treat my pupils the same way. And why did I detest them so strongly when I commenced teaching them? I didn’t know. But it did make me averse to my own childhood. All those photo boots, those cute pics of our school tour to Kashmir were deleted from a folder named ‘Me and my memories’. All those text messages we would send friends became my object of abuse when I was supposed to just laugh them away. Somehow, I came to detest immature people, not just kids, and this went on to such an extent that I came to detest my own immature self.

Finally, I consulted a psychopath. I chose to meet her at night. She welcomed me in the most favourable of fashions with the gentlest of embraces. Our convo went about this way-

I hate the immature now. Even the immature me.

For how long have you been hating your past?

It has been a month. I could take it no more. It was a heavy month. But it didn’t take a heavy toll ‘cause I wasn’t emotionally attached to my past either. I never have been. And I never will be.

Do you love animals?

Absolutely. (I showed her my PETA certified member card placed inside my purse. There is something so soothing about carrying the PETA card as an identity card.)

This is the first case of its type. Most animal lovers love babies too. But you need not worry. You’ll be fine, dear. (She spoke with a smile so eloquent. May I dare say, the smile of a doctor is his most appealing apparatus? I seldom smile back except when it’s a doctor or if it’s a stray. There is something mysterious about their smile.)

Did you ever teach a physically challenged child or a mentally challenged one?

No, Ma’am. Never.

Would you like to?


Here you go.

She asked a co-worker dressed in a simple cotton saree to let me know about her only son.

Miss Cotton: Ma’am, he is in standard fifth.

(Oh, I didn’t exactly know how that mattered to me.)

He studies right here. I want him to learn English.

(I didn’t know how I could teach English to her son. But the inner me howled. She was teary-eyed. I could not urge myself not to share her grief. A poor mother of a poor son. A widow at that. With the end of my skirt, I wiped my tears. Oh, how I wish I had curbed those tears!)

Me (stammering): I will. Yes, I will.

(An easy decision to make, a tough one to speak out.)

Doctor: So, you may visit us between 10 am to 3 pm whenever you want.

I left but not without agony. I didn’t quite understand why God in His right mind would want to see His children so unhappy.

I reached home and had my share of meals thinking about the asylum all the while. How was I supposed to teach there? What if…? It was a hard nut to crack, even harder than the JEE.

After all those thoughts and nightmares came the most awaited time of the day. I dressed up hurriedly (in a record three minutes) and took an auto to reach the building. Let’s not call it an asylum now. The sense of renaissance forbade me from beating my face and ruffling the wardrobe for clothes. Perhaps, my life was changing. But not exactly in the way I had anticipated. And then I felt I was being silly. How could I expect the fruit of my labour without even doing my part?

Now as I look back to those days, I feel so guilty. I long the farishtey to forgive me.

Did I just weep crocodile tears?

As I met Ma’am, she introduced me to the staff of the asylum. It was not like the staff of my school. They were far more sober. Maybe due to the mood. Maybe.

After the welcome ceremony, I was taken to Miss Cotton’s room. Her son lay on the right corner of a seat, one that seemed to have been brought from a bus that had seen some very bad days. The colour combination of the room and the furniture immediately repelled my eyes. As I felt giddy, I scurried out and went to a shop that stood at hundred metres from the area. I didn’t quite understand why the already sober place had been deprived of an even soberer shed.

I bought a packet of glucose tablets and pampered myself. Three tablets popped right into my mouth. I started back.

I sat at a distance from the boy. I had been taught the basic constitution. I asked him to raise his chin and see me squarely in the eye. He would not do that. I myself raised his chin. I felt that brown fleck in the eye of the boy. Instantly, I knew I had to make someone out of him, someone people would admire for proficiency, revere for intellect. Slowly, I fell in pitiful love with the work I’d been so blessedly declared to complete, a mother’s wish I’d been so blissfully assigned to fulfil. For the very first time in life, I devoted my heart, my soul and both my ovaries to what I considered an order of the fairies of paradise.

He was also my first case in the asylum and is doing much better now.

Chetanya Pandey
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