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Part 2: The Apple of Our Eyes
Principal: Good morning students. Be seated. You know why I am here. Please welcome your new class teacher who will be here in a moment.
The students waited with bated breath looking towards the entrance. Peehu stretched her neck till it ached; she still did not see anyone.
The next moment, the Principal said "Yes Ms. Rukmani" and she walked in. The class fell into a mournful silence. They were disapponted since most students were not fond of Ms. Rukmani Mazumdar, despite her being a senior faculty. The class was in disbelief - she, of all, replaced their favorite Jaya Ma'am!
The students stood up and greeted her but Miss Rukmani did not even acknowledge. She went up the dais and whispered something into the Principal's ears. It was evident from her body language that she was unhappy about something and he was trying to convince her. This went on for a few minutes. The class was clueless at first, now they got restless. They were not even sure if they could sit down. Some sat, others continued to stand. Peehu sat down saying to herself "God save 8th B."
At Vikram's House
Neha was trying to reach Priya. She wanted Priya to accompany her for shopping. But Priya's cell phone was switched off. She called on the landline but didn't get a response. Even Ram's number was busy. She finally called Vikram to check if everything was fine with Priya and Ram. During their conversation, Vikram reveald Priya's decision to Neha and explained the possible reason for her phone to be turned off. Neha was shocked. She ended the call saying "Baby, I guess Priya pagal ho gayi hai".
At 8th B - Peehu's classroom
After 5 more minutes of frantic talking with the Principal, Ms. Rukmani stormed out of the room. He went out soon after. The students were more confused. Five more minutes passed. The Principal came in again. This time he entered the room with someone else. Once again the class stood up.
The 'someone else' was this woman clad in a dark green sari with zari border. The spark in her eyes and the kick in her feet caught everyone's attention. There was a rare charm and grace in her as she glanced across the length and breadth of the classroom, flashing a million-watt smile. The woman followed the Principal onto the dais and stood with her arms crossed. Everyone identified her. Most had seen her. Few had met her. One of them knew her too well.
The Principal noticed students smiling at her with dropped jaws. After letting a few seconds pass, the teacher looked at him expecting him to speak up. He announced "I can see that there is no need to introduce her. Seems like you liked the surprise, don't you?" The answer came in chorus "Yes Sir". The lady looked down and smiled. The Principal extended his hand for a hand-shake (she acknowledged) "On everybody's behalf, I welcome you to this classroom, Mrs. PRIYA RAM KAPOOR. Hope you will enjoy your new stint as a Physics and Mathematics teacher. I assure you that these students will extend their support to you. Over to you."
Priya smiled: "Thank you, Sir."
The Principal took leave and Priya took over.
Priya: "Very Good Afternoon students, please take your seats."
The students settled down. Some of them looked at Peehu with a 'you-never-told-us' expression. Peehu looked back at them with a 'mom-never-told-me' expression. She was lost, she was stunned, she was thrilled, and she was smiling in disbelief. It was a big deal. Peehu slowly sat down, unsure of whether Priya had spotted her yet.
Priya took a deep breath, scanning all the anxious faces. Her eyes were prying to spot her princess. There she was - the 5th bencher, middle row. Peehu flashed a huge smile at her mom but Priya intentionally and immediately looked elsewhere!
Priya (walked to her table and put her purse down, talking to herself): "Arre Peehu, hadd hai. Kya smile kar rahi ho mujhe dekh ke. Classroom hai. Chaahe jo bhi ho, I cant smile at you. What will other kids think? Teacher hun yaha par, mother nahi."
Peehu (talking to herself): "Arre maa, hadd hai. Kya smile bhi nahi karenge mujhe dekh ke. Classroom hi tho hai. Chaahe jo bhi ho, I will make you smile. I damn care about what others think. Aap teacher baad me, pehle mother."
Ram (in Delhi, seeing Priya's photo on his phone and talking to himself): "Arre Priya hadd hai. Kya smile kar rahi ho mujhe dekh ke. School me hi tho ho, space shuttle mein nahi. Ek message tho bhej do na.. Kaam baad me, pehle Ram."
Back in 8th B, Priya could see from the edge of her eyes that Peehu was still trying to grab her attention.
Priya: "Since this is the first day, please introduce yourselves. Tell me your name and also tell me who or what you like. I mean, it can be a thing, a place, or a person. Just curious. Let's start from you here.."
Student1: "I am Rohit Kulkarni. I love sports cars."
Priya acknowledged: "Ah, nice. Next.."
Student2: "I'm Ajay Ahluwalia. I like spending time with my pet dog Jefrey"
...Soon it was Peehu's turn. Priya didn't react. She had decided not to.
Peehu smiled: "I am Peehu Ram Kapoor. I like getting surprises, and the one I have just got from my mother is AMAAAZING."
Priya had to grin. It was involuntary and hence unstoppable. It was only later that she realized that she lost the silent 'smile challenge' to her daugher. But this defeat was sweet, it was acceptable. Actually, it was expected.
The intro session ended after a few more minutes.
Priya: "Now I know I am in front of an interesting bunch of students. Let me tell you what I like. I like to make a positive mark in your lives. Do I have each of your support me get what I like?
The students seemed impressed. No teacher had told them such lines, even if they had meant to say. They all replied "Yes Ma'am".
Priya (crossing her arms): "Thanks; let me set expectations. I expect that you behave well, work hard, score better grades and enjoy student life. I am a fan of perseverence. So I'm fine if you do your best and still fall short of success. But I cant excuse anyone you doesn't try hard enough'.(Peehu had heard this before, but the rest of 8th B listened to their teacher with utmost attention.)
The bell rang and Priya walked out wishing her students. On her way back to the staff room, she messaged Ram "First hour done. Beti ki class teacher hun! Loved it."
Ram replied "Lucky u. Boarding the flight in a bit, c u soon."
Meanwhile Peehu tried hard to focus on the subsequent lectures but she had a sea of questions in mind about Why..How...What next..she wanted answers sooner than later.
5:30PM, close of school hours
Peehu headed out of her class. She peeped into the staff room and saw Priya, and waited for her. Priya came to her with her bag and smiled "Hi'I know you have many questions for me, but abhi ghar jao, refresh karlo and watch TV. I'll to you later ok..bye" and walked past her. Peehu nodded and left.
Shipra was watching TV. She was channel-surfing and stopped suddenly to read the FLASH NEWS. She immediately called Sudheer. He rushed there, read it and could not believe his eyes. "KYA!" was his reaction. Sudheer called up other family members. In no time, the Kapoors and Sharmas were glued to their TV sets.
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