And so his life rolled along the years and as he reached the last bit of his middle aged career, he realized that he had devoted everything to his profession. He had won the ‘Best Teacher Award’ around five times and held this distinction very sacred and felt it was the only thing of most importance in his life. Yet, there was this sense of being incomplete, there was this feeling of regret that in his lonely journey of life, his footprints would not sustain their presence on the sands of time.
It was a bleak and cloudy morning, when he awoke with tears in his eyes. It was only the previous day that he had left the school, never to go back again. He had retired. It was not easy for him, and there had been a lump in his throat, as the children sang in his honour. He felt like bursting out and crying, but he had maintained his composure, he had been the silent, good teacher to the last.
As the days rolled by eventlessly, Mahadevan realized the futility of his life. He had nothing to do, other than eat, sleep and read. He was tired and felt he was living a life, just for the sake of living it. He had been a strict disciplinarian and had no concerns with his health. He tried to seek solace in spirituality, but all the years having contributed and having been a part of the society, he found the ways of detachment of the spiritual life a bit too harsh upon himself. But, still his mind was not at rest.
After a few weeks of intense thought and grief, he decided that there was nothing else much to do, than end his life. He did not have the riches to roam the world and enjoy life nor did his principles allow him to spend lavishly. It wasn’t a cowardly decision, he assured himself. He was doing this so that he wouldn’t be a burden to the society later. He had planned to kill himself and was merely speculating how..
On a cloudy evening, as Mahadevan sipped his coffee and kept thinking, there was suddenly a knock on the door. On opening the door, he found it was none other than his old favourite student Seetharaman. He wore a deserted look, unshaven and unkempt. Seetharaman had always been a bright student, and it was with great pride that both student and teacher had rejoiced, when he had got the job of a government clerk.
“Good Morning Sir! “, he quipped.
“Good Morning.”, replied Mahadevan, noticing the sarcasm in the tone of his favourite student.
As Mahadevan, seated his student and prepared coffee for him, he recollected how Seetharaman`s marriage had been an unhappy affair. His wife, unlike him had great ambitions and had winning ways due to which conflicts arose too often. One thing had led to another and his wife had recently filed for divorce, leaving Seetharaman, alone, poorer and unhappy, and dejected with life. He had taken to smoking and was losing his life, something Mahadevan had all the while felt very dejected about.
As, he poured the coffee, he made a resolution in his mind, that he would speak to this fine young man and make him realize that he needed to live a better life, fight and win against all hardship life, had put in front of his path.
“Rama, the problem with you is that you give up too soon. It was like that when you were at school also. Life is long, it is not a bed of roses. You have your entire useful years of your life in front of you, and here you are looking like, you are the only survivor of some earthquake”, stressed mahadevan.
“Sir, unlike you I hadn’t decided on practicing celibacy. I had dreams of having a family, loving children, a life of harmony. Today all my dreams are shattered. I have even contemplated suicide…”.
Seetharaman, hung his head and rotated the coffee cup.
“What ?, Rama, are you going mad. What is a marriage after all in life. It is just a phase when you shoulder more responsibilities. You could still go and compromise, adjust and live with your wife. Or you could even meet another person, who has the same outlook as you have, of life. Why suicide? You depress me..!! “. Mahadevan spoke angrily.
Seetharaman was red faced. He hadn’t been admonished before by his teacher and he was not in his right state of mind.
“Sir, What would you know about love or marriage ?”, he muttered.
Mahadevan was hurt on hearing this. He knew that he should not lose his temper as well and after all he had a point. What did he know about love or marriage, he thought to himself.
“Sir, I’m sorry! I..” , seetharaman started to say, feeling sorry about his sudden remark.
“Rama, don’t feel sorry. What you said was right”, interrupted Mahadevan.
“Rama, when I was a child, I had this problem in my school that I was never able to learn mathematics. I always failed in it and was always scared of the subject. Once my teacher asked me to solve a particular problem on the blackboard and as I blinked and stuttered before him, he realized that I did not know to do it. He sent me back.
That night, the teacher came to my house and told me to solve it and he guided me slowly as I solved the problem effortlessly. He told me that day, to never have fear of a subject, fear of any situation, because we then get afraid of our lives. “
“Rama, in your case this is again what is happening, you are losing your courage, you are afraid of your situation, you are afraid of your life and haven’t spared a moment, a moment when you were not haunted by your misery, to think about your life. “
Mahadevan stood up and walked towards the window. He pointed outside and spoke to Seetharaman, “Rama, when our minds are clouded with misery, when we have assumed that we are defeated, often our brains don’t work properly. When we are haunted by our past, we do not have clear visions of the future. Your life is a gift from god and if you do not cherish it, you shall not fulfill the very purpose of this existence. The world awaits you outside and you still have a lot to give back to your soil, people and land.”
Seetharaman was by now, in tears…
“Sir, I understand sir, I understand. But unlike you I had not devoted my entire life to my profession. I had dreamt of a normal simple life. I never thought about anything else and when all my dreams have shattered, I thought there is no more meaning in life. I am sorry, sir. I’m sorry. It was wrong of me to think about marriage in the first place. Perhaps, like you, I must have devoted my life to a single cause“
Tears now welled up in Mahadevan`s eyes. “Rama, no you were not wrong and neither was I right. Life is to be lived as given. Take whatever comes as it is. It is the best for you. When causes vanish, you should be prepared to take up new assignments. I thought that there is a single cause in life, but life is full of causes. You too shall find them..”, after a pause, he continued “In fact they will find you..”
“Like how you found me “, thought Mahadevan to himself.
Seetharaman, was by now more sober and clear at mind. He thanked his teacher profusely.
“Sir, I was a fool. Life is truly a gift and there are people waiting for me, waiting outside in this world, in whose lives I can really make a difference.”, cried out seetharaman.
As Mahadevan bid seetharaman goodbye, there was a lump in their throats. The teacher is always sad about his students bidding farewell, but life has to move on. Though a teacher shall remain a teacher, and a student, always a student.
Mahadevan slowly walked to his bedroom, looked at the mirror and smiled at his reflection and spoke “ What a fool you were, Mahadeva!. What a Fool!”.