“I know what you are doing, I am as media-savvy as you,” I growl. It is insulting to my intelligence when girls think I don’t know what they are doing when I catch them staring at the insides of their bag with sudden interest or worse, smiling at their crotches. These days one cannot bear the urge to respond to a funny text. Everyone is silently texting and not jabbering loudly, sparing teachers from comparing them to ‘fish markets’, like they have done since time immemorial.
What is it like to be a teacher in this era of media explosion? Grey clouds hover over the Bangalore sky and a mild rain wets the windowpanes. Just as I cuddle further into the folds of my comforter, I am woken up by a string of beeps. Not the chiming of my alarm that I expect to hear but texts that read, ”Hello ma’am, do we have college today?” and “Maaaaa’am, the road outside my house is flooded.” One kind soul throws in a “Good Morning”.
The husband stirs in his covers as he sees me furiously typing away. “If the government declares a holiday, it is,” I write. An expected answer and yet they believe badgering their 30-year-old mentor while she is in her pyjamas will trigger some kind of divine intervention.
The more tech-savvy you are, the more accessible you are and therefore, the cooler you are considered. With the death of text messaging, WhatsApp has changed the student-teacher dynamic. Classes have WhatsApp groups and now, instead of labouriously texting every sleepy girl, I post on the group. They respond with beaming smileys or crying yellow faces. Now they catch me ‘online’ and clarify their doubts. Virtual tutor to the rescue.
Writing notes has now become passé. I am either asked to mail the PPT or let them take pictures of my notes, to be posted on the group. While sitting in the library the other day, I caught one of the class nerds roaming around with an iPad. She was busy leafing through a book and clicking photos. Bigger images and better resolution, you see. Well, I am just happy she was visiting the library.
As exams draw closer, the WhatsApp messages become more frantic. Photos of the exam timetable are now circulated. As the clock ticks, answer papers are anxiously filled with feverish scribbles that I have to play detective to decipher. Acronyms go on a rampage. ‘Sry mam no time’. ‘Hv to rite ASAP’.
Facebook cannot be far behind. Everyone waits for that one girl to test the waters and send you a request. I quickly scan my profile, hunting for any unsavoury photo or tawdry conversation and contemplate if my dress could be a few inches longer in the display picture. Because once you press ‘accept’, the floodgates open and there is no looking back. I get a sneak peek into their colourful lives, their vociferous rants and interesting alter egos, just as they do. The stalking becomes mutual.
Internet connects and reconnects, especially after a class graduates. Come Teachers’ Day, my Facebook wall is splattered with messages of love and fond memories, which reaffirm my love for the job. Students from various batches say hello from different corners of the world. Lines blur as we chat and exchange stories. It is always nice to hear the ping of an email, especially when it is from an old student writing to say that she is studying journalism at Columbia University. Strangely, seeing her fulfil dreams I couldn’t invokes maternal feelings. Sentiments overload, computer crashes.
As I revel in the euphoria, I receive a tiny envelope by post that reads ‘Dear Shakti Ma’am’ in beautiful calligraphic handwriting. From Shreya, it says. Shreya was one of the quietest girls in class. She sat in the left corner, made eye contact at times and rarely smiled. But her assignments oozed creativity. She hardly spoke in class and I barely interacted with her.
A little handmade card emerges. It reads, “Dear Shakti Ma’am, thank you very much for your classes. I really miss them.”
Media be damned. This feeling is unparalleled.
— The author blogs at www.awakening-thelotuseater.blogpost.in.