Story-14 years of Notre Dame

Why don’t you write the thing down? Whatever you feel, jot it down in some good English and have something written up.

This line took the 26 year old office goer 14 years back.

Bro, what does this mean? She planted a question mark in middle of my essay and added 5 extra marks beside that.

Well maybe she likes your essay but does not know why she likes it. – Hearing this Arindam looked up to KC. Both burst out laughing. – She is genuinely mad bro. – Yeah, but do you know what she did with my essay? She wrote extra plus 6 and extra minus 3. I think she does not know 6 minus 3 is 3. – Yeah bro she is an English teacher, how would she know maths. Anyways what did you write about?

KC paused. He can’t say what he wrote about. They have never heard of Hunchback of Notre dame. They would just make fun. – I wrote about some old book from my parents’ collection.

Hey lets do onething lets ask her when she comes to teach, whats 6 minus 3, lets see what she says – Yeah that will be rich. – They all laughed. But each one knew in heart, no one would dare prank her. They generally pranked teachers, but everybody was damn afraid of her personality. They called her Baba Yaga, cause her hair was like flames of Holika. She carried a scale like a gladiatorial dagger. Her vision pierced through skin and lies alike.

14 years later KC could not keep his tears to himself while talking to this Baba Yaga.

Madam, you had retired by the time I left school. I heard you live alone and talk to no one. I was so afraid. I felt like I was going to disturb your years old meditation.

She laughed. Heartily. – But why did you want to talk to me after so many years, and how did you get my number?

Madam did you see the news, Notre Dame is burning to ash for last two days. KC went back 14 years in flashback. Flashback, but he could remember each detail in colour.

Chandana madam’s class. She sat on the chair as if its her throne, or so it seemed. – I liked quite a few essays, but I loved to read particularly one of them. I don’t remember the name though, of the boy or girl who wrote it. But it felt like as if I myself am writing it up as I went through it. It felt very moving.

KC was playing stone paper scissors with another kid beside him. Silently. He half heard the terrifying teacher. Someone must have written something good. There are always people who write something good. He thought up. He was losing the game and that was much more a serious concern.

Who all wrote about a book? And had a terrible handwriting? The handwriting was so bad I wanted to throw the sheet down the river. I added some marks for good essay and then had to subtract a few for bad handwriting.

Oh great , Now I gotta stand till the great writer is identified and then clap. It takes all the concentration away from the game. – KC leaned over the desk and stood up. He can still play from this position. – Nobody ever praises kids like us, just another farce.

As quite a few people stood up, She had to narrow down the filter. – Who wrote about Hunchback of Notre Dame.

KC stood up with an erect backbone.

Six years later when he took a prize for being a school topper in boards, he looked around. He did not know Baba Yaga had left the school few days back. Always Isolationist, with not many having her contacts, she almost vanished. He could remember how she taught them how to identify the flow of a poem by reading it backwards. Or how she tried to teach more about respect, courage, and activity than academics. How she would push every kid to wrestle with their insecurity and inertia, and produce something, always, good or bad. He would remember, but not see her or hear her for about a decade. The age of global connectivity was just starting. Internet , mobiles and technology had just started to become the focal point of civic existence, but just. A living person could still vanish in those days from social life, quite easily so.

He desperately wanted to meet her once. He could never tell her how that day in Sixth Standard has been a part of his memory all these years, how greatly had it impacted him. He has something to be praised in public. He is not just an existence, but he does matter, and attimes maybe dramatically so.

So madam, for your number I started searching, for days months and years. I reached out to present school faculty – it did not help. To most ex faculties, it did not help either. Then I crashed into the home of one of our ex principals, very old person, but very strong in health and mind. She would have it I knew, she was the one who took your interview years back, when we were maybe not even born. But neither did she have any of your contact details.

She could help. She asked us to visit a memorial service of someone we did not know. There, one of the speakers would know Chandana. Ask them. That’s how I got it. Even then I dared not to call, for I still was terrified of you.

But when I saw Notre Dame burning I could not stop myself. Time is, attimes, cruel enough to burn all memories madam. I wanted you to know how much you have impacted me. Before, before Notre Dame is no more.

Well this brings tears to my eyes too KC. But, write it down, Whatever you feel, jot it down in some good English and have something written up.

KC knew only their Baba Yaga could say such a thing. Instead of basking in glory and joy, her first instinct would be to drive her students to action, an action of productivity, whenever she saw any spark.

I would remind you regularly till you write it down. Mind you I don’t seem to grow old , so I will disturb you for a long time if you don’t write it down and create something out of it.

I would expect nothing less from you madam.

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