This time around, when Anirudh was back at the campus, he felt more waves of homesickness than before. As he turned around a corner, he almost collided with three familiar faces. Anirudh mentally groaned.
It was Amrita Dasgupta, Avik Sen and Aditya Pal. Again. These three were probably among the most hyperactive students. It wasn’t that he didn’t like them. They were very good students. Straightforward and even well-behaved. But these three took him way too lightly, making him feel like his friendliness as a teacher was being used.
“Hello Roy Chowdhury sir!”, Avik said. Of course. The most vocal among the three.
“Good morning sir! Long time, no see. Nice to see you, though”, Amrita chirped in.
“Enjoyed your short vacation, sir? Everything alright at home?”, Aditya piped in.
Anirudh looked at them warily. “Good morning students. Nice to meet you too. Yes, everything’s alright at home”, he said, in the most monotonous and unfriendly voice he could manage. The trio looked at him, slightly taken aback, at his suddenly cold tone.
Oh, how fun it was to see the shocked faces of these kids! The corners of his mouth twitched in a smile. “Well, how have you been, this weekend? Done all your assignments?”, he asked, his tone lighter now.
“Oh yes! We did, sir”, Amrita replied.
“And yes! On that note, we would like to thank you for lessening our load of homework”, Avik grinned.
“Yeah. We forgot to thank you, I guess”, Amrita added, and Aditya nodded his affirmation.
“And you explain everything really well. We don’t have to put much effort to understand things”, they said.
These comments from his students caused a little burst of pride in his heart. Well, now he was sure that some improvement had certainly taken place.
The day had been going all well and fine. However, something constantly nagged Anirudh’s mind. It was Bondita Das’s absence in the class. Why was SHE absent? Bondita was an attentive student, who never missed any classes. Was she unwell?
Putting the thoughts out of his mind, Anirudh exited the classroom, when he bumped into David Dixon. “Oh! Good afternoon, sir!”, David wished politely.
“Very good afternoon to you too, sir”, Anirudh wished back, smiling. David however, returned a nervous, uneasy smile.
“What’s wrong, David? Is there something you wanted to say?”, Anirudh asked in concern.
“Well, sir, err… Do you remember, I told you about my parents? That they…”.
“Oh yes. Did you contact them? Have they finally understood your point?”, Anirudh asked kindly.
David sighed. “No sir. They don’t want to extend the matter. They don’t even want to talk to me”.
“But that won’t do!”, Anirudh burst out. “This isn’t right. Lack of communication between parents and children is the worst hindrance to someone’s bright future!”.
“Yes, sir. I know. But they aren’t ready to hear my point of view. They don’t… don’t want to support my ambition. They…”, David mumbled, breaking off. He didn’t know what to say further.
Anirudh fumed in exasperation and anger.
“Sir, if you don’t mind, there was something I wanted to say. May I?”, David asked hastily, fervently wishing for his anger to pacify.
Anirudh took a deep breath. “Yes, you may”.
“Sir, about Bondita…”
“What’s wrong with her?”, Anirudh asked, frowning.
“Everything. She’s actually in trouble, sir. Please make her understand”.
“Make her understand what? Ok, let it be. I’ll talk to her. Where’s she, though?”, Anirudh asked.
“Near the exit gate area”.
Anirudh nodded and made his way towards the exit gate area. When he reached there, he felt a pang of sorrow in his heart, when he saw Bondita sitting there alone, quiet and dull, looking totally miserable. He walked to her and sat beside her, on the ground. Anirudh Roy Chowdhury would never let any of his students suffer like that. And Bondita was a student with whom he had formed kind of a bond.
As soon as he sat, Bondita turned around to look at him and her eyes shone brightly.
“You’re back?”, she asked, as though wonderstruck.
“Yes. And you would have known this, had you attended your classes. You do know, right, that you may face dire consequences if you don’t attend classes regularly?”, Anirudh asked, frowning.
“Yes. I do. But the warden himself excused me for two days”, she replied nonchalantly.
Bondita looked at him, confused as to how she would explain to him, that the warden most certainly thought that she might be mentally unstable. Who else would break a washroom mirror for no reason? But he was Shikshak Babu. He was Rakshak Babu. And if her suspicion proved right, he was her own Sakha Babu! She knew he would understand. For some reason, Bondita felt that hiding anything from him was the wrong thing to do.
But she felt too overwhelmed to say it directly. Oh yes! She had a solution! The perfect solution.
“Please wait here, for me! I’ll be back in a minute!”, Bondita said standing up, and then promptly ran off into the campus, making Anirudh blink in surprise. He shook his head at her zestful behaviour. Some things never changed. Bondita was as lively and vibrant as ever.
Bondita ran into her dormitory room. Judging by the looks on Kusum and Kajal’s faces, they received quite a shock, when Bondita bounded in, looking so jovial.
Bondita ignored them and rummaged through the drawers, searching for something. She sifted through the contents of the drawer, and finally stopped. Here it was! She held out two colourful paper cups in both her hands, with a cheeky smile.
Keeping the paper cups on the bedside table, she once again started hunting for something. Turning around towards the girls, she asked, “Anyone of you have a long string?”.
Kajal merely pointed towards her own bag. Bondita had nearly forgot that Kajal was most likely to have a string. She was the craftsman of this dormitory. Shortly thanking her, Bondita plopped on her cot, and fiddled with the two paper cups and the string.
In a matter of few minutes, her creation was complete. She held it in front of herself, smiling proudly.
Her own paper cup telephone was ready!
She ran down to the exit gate and found Shikshak Babu sitting there, staring off into the distance. If Bondita was honest with herself, she was quite surprised that he had been actually waiting for so much time.
Bondita tiptoed forward and threw one end of her paper cup phone towards him. Anirudh was startled out of his trance and looked towards his side. His brows furrowed in confusion, he picked up the paper cup and noticed the string. His eyes followed the direction of the string and he looked behind himself, to find Bondita standing at a little distance, holding the other end of her hand-made phone.
She spoke into the paper cup. “Tring! Tring! Tring!”. Anirudh stared at her, utterly confused. When he looked like he didn’t know what to do, Bondita gestured for him to pick up the paper cup.
Finally getting the message, Anirudh picked it up and held it to his ear.
“Hello! Good afternoon Mr. Roy Chowdhury. Bondita’s Maa speaking”, Bondita spoke into the paper cup.
“Oh? Then where’s Bondita?”, Anirudh asked. He was still as confused as ever. But this thing was interesting too; he had to admit.
“Bondita?”, she continued, but her smile vanished suddenly and she looked down. “Well, actually Bondita made a mistake and she thinks that you are going to hate her for that. So she’s afraid of directly talking to you”.
“But madam, a teacher can never hate their student. Anyways, it’s Bondita’s choice if she doesn’t want to say something directly to me. So, please tell me. What was it that you wanted to talk about?”, Anirudh asked. Anirudh was facing the opposite direction and Bondita couldn’t see his face. But she could realise it only from his voice, that he was concerned and confused.
Bondita gulped nervously. Gathering all her courage, she started explaining to him, everything that Junior Dutta had put her through. Starting from the time when he first threatened her, to the last time when he crossed the limit, and physically hurt her. She could sense him seething in anger. When she told him about the broken mirror incident in the washroom, his tolerance was at its breaking point.
So much had happened and none of the teachers knew?! How could a student hurt a fellow student like this?! Anirudh flared up and stood up abruptly. The paper cup fell out of his hand and he turned around to see Bondita looking mildly nervous.
“Why, may I know, did you not inform about this to the warden himself? You HAD seen Mr. Chakraborty, hadn’t you?! THEN WHY?!”, he yelled.
“Because I couldn’t muster up the confidence to do so!”, Bondita burst out. “I thought of asking for your opinion. I thought of informing you first. But you weren’t there”.
Anirudh sighed. He couldn’t really blame her. Had he been in her place, he would have been terrified too.
“I’m sorry I yelled at you”, he said. And he really was. It wasn’t her fault that she didn’t tell anyone. She didn’t, because she COULDN’T.
“It’s okay. This matter will be looked into. But remember, never hide such things from anyone. Immediately inform some higher authority. Okay?”, he gently explained.
Bondita nodded in response. She looked better than before, now that she had opened up about it properly. Her face reflected relief. Amd he was quite happy that he could help her in some way.
Door hai par tera saaya hai mujhpe,
Jaane kyun bharosa hai tujhpe
Main naasamajh, gyaani hai tu,
Main dhool hun aasmaan tu
Main hun iss mitti se,
Vilayati babu hai tu…
Phir bhi mil jaayenge mile jaise saanjh aur savera,
Tu paraya hoke bhi lagta apnaa saa…
Rishta Tera Mera
Rishta Tera Mera
But now he was compelled to wonder about the surveillance facilities of the hostel. How could all this happen, right under everyone’s noses? This matter HAD to be looked into.
He stomped into the campus and Bondita followed him inside, apprehensive of what he was about to do.
Anirudh stalked towards the warden’s cabin. He was beyond angry. He needed to clear this up. Mr. Chakraborty needed to know the kind of things students were upto.
“Sir, what’s happening?”, asked a junior student, who had noticed Anirudh fuming and stalking towards Mr, Chakraborty’s cabin.
“GET OUT OF MY WAY!”, Anirudh bellowed. The boy lurched out of the way, frightened.
Anirudh thought he should have followed his suspicions about Dutta. He had never liked the arrogant way he behaved; or the rude, brash way that he treated others. And that day, when he had seen Bondita talking to him, he had noticed that she definitely looked troubled. But he hadn’t paid regard to any of these things.
Then, another thought struck him. What if Dutta did any such thing with any other student? Bondita had the guts to tell him. She was frank and comfortable with him, which enabled her to open up. But what if there was another student tormented by Dutta, but didn’t have the courage to open up about it? How could a young boy like him, do such things?! This was despicable. It was time for Debjit Ashish Dutta to learn his lesson.