|Image courtesy: Google|
It was a new academic year in school and I was excited in going back. I loved my job, more so because I loved the little children, with all their innocence. They made me believe that the world is a better place. Even though they would have to grow up one day and refuse to believe otherwise. Maybe, I was the deluded one. But today, nothing could dampen my spirits.
After two months of idling away my time with books and assignments, I was ready to greet the new class and students. This year, I would be handling grade one, kids who are still struggling to grow up. But no more awkward or scared to come to school. They are the ones who had a great zest for life, their enthusiasm was contagious. I grabbed my books and drove to school.
As I entered the classroom once the assembly was over and called out the attendance, I took my time in getting to know each one of those twenty five kids that were in my class. Some were shy, others a bit fidgety but on the whole, a pleasant bunch. I saw eyes that looked up at me with so much of hope, so much of confidence, I could feel a smile breaking on my face each time I spoke to one of them.
And that was when I noticed him. The boy with the curly hair who sat at the back. Ishaan. Obstinate and stubborn, he looked cross, unlike the other kids. Maybe, he was having a hard time coming back to school after the summer vacations. I smiled at him and was greeted back with a scowl. I was a bit taken back, I was yet to encounter such hostility for a six year old.
Though I tried to talk to him, he seemed determined not to talk to me or his classmates. He sat there, clutching his bag, not caring about what went on in the class. Few days passed and the ice was yet to break between us. The only time I saw him get animated was when it was drawing class. While most kids loved drawing, I saw in his eyes a passion, one that was rare to see in a child his age.
He squinted his eyes and continued drawing, unaware about what went on around him, so engrossed was he in his drawings. I would walk around and try to catch glimpses of what he drew- toy trains, teddy bears, mountains. Though he was yet to warm up to me, he was no longer bothered when I tried to talk to him.
It was after a couple of weeks that he finally mustered up and managed to speak to me. He showed me his drawings and I was enthralled. His drawings were mature for his age. Each picture told me a story. This boy was truly gifted. The family that he drew, presumably his mother and father, they seemed to sit apart across a table looking sad. Was he having problems at home? Why was he determined to dodge my questions? The only way I got to know anything about his life was through his drawings.
But what stuck me was this, all his sketches were in shade of grey. They were devoid of any color, whatsoever. He used his pencils to draw and while the rest of the children in my class seemed to run out of colors to enhance their drawings, Ishaan was more than happy to continue his artworks using the mere normal pencils.
At first, it didn't bother me much. Maybe, he just liked to experiment with pencils first. But that was before I saw it. The one painting that he drew so carefully. With extra care, as if perfecting every little detail before showing it to me. I was disturbed by what he drew. How could this be the drawing of a six year old? He looked at me with his innocent smile. I didn't know how to react, I simply smiled and told the class that I would be back soon and stepped out.
I had to tell someone. This child, obviously needed help. We would have to call in his parents for sure. I hurried to the principal's office, Mr. Dev would have to help me with this one. This was not something that I could handle on my own. I went to his room and showed him the drawing and told what had happened. For a moment, he seemed not to hear what I was saying, all he did was stare at the sheet of paper in front of him. Ishaan's drawing.
"Where did you find this?" he asked, a look of bewilderment on his face.
"This was drawn by Ishaan, the boy in my class," I replied, equally puzzled.
"Ishaan, you said? What is his full name?"
I gave it to him.
"Are you sure? Let me check my records. I don't recall enrolling an Ishaan in Class 1 B," he told me.
I was confused. What was happening here? If there was no Ishaan, then who was the curly haired boy in my class?
"I was right, Miss. There is no Ishaan in your class. None of the twenty four kids in your class are named Ishaan."
Twenty four? I had twenty five kids in my class. Ishaan was the twenty fifth.
My face must have gone ashen white, because he asked me to sit down and got me a glass of water. And that was when he told me. About the bus crash one year back. How the kids in grade one were taken on a picnic on that cursed day in the school bus. The bus that met with the accident. A lot of kids were injured. But one had died, along with the driver.
I looked at the drawing in my hand, the one that Ishaan had drawn so carefully. The bus filled with children crashing. And then I understood. Why he had not used any colors in his drawings. Because he had drawn what he had seen around him. For him, the place he was trapped in was grey. There were no colors in his life. Not anymore. Not for the past one year.
I felt a chill go down my spine as I looked outside the window. The last bell had gone while I was sitting in Mr. Dev's office. Children had boarded the buses that had started going, one by one. That was when I saw him. Ishaan. Waving at me from the window seat of one of the buses. A giggle on his face when he saw me. His beautiful curls bouncing with him. The sunlight glinted on the bus window casting a rainbow for my eyes and then, he was gone. Just like that.
P.S. I had missed blogging for the past few days as I was busy celebrating Onam. Wishing all of you a very happy happy Onam!
P.P.S. This story has been running around my head for quite some time. It refused to go away till I penned it down. Pardon me if it's a bit rusty.