Anna Chandy, who used to teach at Anand Niketan School, in Ahmedabad, remembers a special friendship.
Where is your son?” I was startled out of my wits by this unexpected query. I looked around and saw Bhaskar sitting next to me.
Unbelievable! Bhaskar sitting beside me and speaking! For three months we had travelled together on the same school bus. During this time I had neither seen this child speak nor sit. The most persistent of efforts had failed to make him sit.
Morning and evening he would silently stand behind the driver’s seat. At most, he would rest his backside on the gearbox for a few seconds. Today was a miracle!
“My son hurt himself on his head, so he is at home,” I replied, vainly trying to make eye contact. But Bhaskar kept looking ahead. There was silence once again.
The bus hurtled past green fields and monstrous farmhouses. But one sentence in three months was a good beginning, I thought to myself.
“Is his father there with him?”
Oh, great! This was more than I had bargained for.
“No, his nani (grandmother) is there,” I said.
“With him?” he asked. The bus sped along for a kilometre or so. The gates at the level crossing were shut and we joined the long queue of vehicles waiting for it to open.
“I have a nani too.”
“Does she tell you stories?” I asked. My impatience had got the better of me. More silence. There, I’ve messed it up. I’ve crossed the lakshmanrekha, gone beyond the limits. Now he’ll never speak to me again, I thought. The Trivandrum-Rajkot Express rushed past and the waiting vehicles revved up to move on.
“My nani tells me lots of stories.”
This time our eyes met. There was a flicker of a smile in those large soulful eyes.
Two weeks later, school closed for summer.
Last Friday, I saw Bhaskar outside his class. It was parent-teacher meeting day. He had come with his father.
“Hi, Bhaskar!” I said, ruffling his hair as I passed by. This time the smile was wider — almost a grin. As I moved on I heard him tell his father, “Anna didi hain (that’s Anna didi).
Five-and-a-half-year-old Bhaskar studies in senior KG in our school. Three-and-a-half-months after I joined the school, he spoke to me. It was worth the wait, for I think I have made a friend.