Monday, August 13, 2012

My First Words

I was meeting her after 5 years. I was filled with more trepidation than excitement. She was
flying to the States where her daughter and scientist-son live, in 5 days from then. And, I worked in
Bangalore. So, my best chance to meet her was that Saturday. I was supposed to meet her at five but
arrived an hour later. She seemed the same to me. Age and time had done her no damage. She was just as I remembered, although I suspect she had changed her glasses for a sleeker frame.

She fussed over the flowers I had brought for her. But, she didn't know that once I saw her I
wasn't living anymore on a little place people call Earth. We got chatting slowly at first and the pace
caught on. She enquired what I had done with my life until then and what I intended to do. I asked her about her notorious knee. She replied that she had had them done and I hoped it was as good as new. My wristwatch was chipping away the hour but time moved backwards rewinding nine years.

We start ruminating over memories and anecdotes I hold dear to my heart. We vacillate
between the current and the past. She talks about RTE with the same vigour I remember from her
classroom lectures. She then tells me what becomes my revelation of the day (or possibly forever) –
“You know, I don’t buy this thing that students from Tamil medium will find it difficult. I studied in Tamil medium until class 12 (called SSLC back then) and went to Stella Maris of all colleges. I didn't find the ride insurmountable although there were hiccups”.

My jaw dropped. She noticed and I launch into an explanation. I had picked up a huge amount
of words from casual interactions with her. I had built such a large part of my vocabulary from her so
much so it seemed I had learnt my first English words from her. ‘Niche’ from her comment in my report card, ‘conspicuous’ and ‘melancholy’ from her encouraging feedback when I was down and ‘camouflage’ from one of her stories that she always had handy. And, now after all these years, she still has managed to astound me. Wow, life does have a way of packing in pleasant surprises – sometimes!

The spotlight is back on me. I tell her I am engineer who works for a consulting firm. But,
very soon, I will be investigating electromagnetics for my Master’s thesis. I also tell her my summer
adventures – as an RA (Research Associate) studying the wave equation and blackholes in Canada, as
a journalist with The Times of India, as a volunteer for the National PDS Survey in the villages of HP
and TN. She is visibly happy and calls herself an empty talker. I beg to differ. I then chime away what I wanted to tell her all my life – She believed in me more than I did. And, that has been my impetus for all the things that I have done.

The time comes for me to take leave. She is worried it’s getting dark. I reassure her that I stay
close enough. I touch her feet involuntarily. She blesses me and asks me to keep in touch. I promise
myself I will as I memorise her email address. I walk out through her wooden door. A strange sensation comes over me. I try defining it but I conclude that it’s beyond my rational recognition. I make my way back home wading through the traffic realizing that I will carry a piece of her wonderful warmth and encouragement wherever I go; whatever I do.