Journey of Teaching Lifelines #3

Avanthika knocked on the door, “Ray! Just got off the phone with the Board. The union is going on strike. Pack your bags.”

I looked at my students and they expected me to speak something.

I said, ‘Uh! I am sorry, you people! I’d love to get you through this somehow. But it’s like the Union says. Don’t do your job.’

Vasu — “It’s unfunny and uninspiring. Mr. Rahamat. You’re unhuman to us.”

Everyone looked at him for a brief moment.

Walter — “Vasu! It’s not unhuman. It’s non-human.”

Meena replied, “Both wrong. I guess we can learn ourselves. Better if they go on strike as well.”

Pooja knocked on the door and walked in, “Ray! I think it is time.”

Breathed out and I looked at everyone, ‘I will find a way.’

At the Cafe-Bar

Avanthika, “Since we’re on strike, we can’t sit in the faculty lounge and chatter. That means Kiran can cancel us. Sorry, dismiss our jobs. So, I guess our regular catchup place is the only hope. No alcohol during work times!”

Maaran — “Wait, what about the other teachers?”

Pooja — “Oh, they left yesterday. Who even came to school apart from the four of us. And Coach Jacob. Why is he even there for the summer school?”

Me — ‘Speaking of summer school, Kiran has appointed the guy who reduced the lunch hour by 40 minutes to teach my class while we’re on strike.’

Maaran — “Oh, Francis! Your students wanna unlearn everything you taught them. More like unlearning their entire life” and took a pause, “Yeah, your kids are gonna be dumber when you get back.”

Me — ‘Avi! I gotta be there for my kids. Francis. NO! Kiran? Ah, almost okay. She’s not been teaching for 3 years she’s been a Principal.’

Avanthika called me aside and said, “Look, Ray! I know you’re destined to teach young people like your kids. You care for them, I understand. So!”

I continued, ‘So, you’ve authorized to break strike?’

Avanthika — “Not so fast Barry Allen. You don’t need the school to teach the kids. You need kids. The rulebook says that if teachers are on indefinite strike, there’s not going to be attendance.”

Me — ‘I’ll get my kids here.’

Ms. Leia who co-owns the Cafe-Bar with her brother and also sometimes serves food when we’re there was also with us to keep company. She said, “Mr. Ray! You can take the conference hall behind the door. Just don’t mind the loose monkey.”

Maaran and I stared at each other and he asked, “Monkey?”

Avanthika — “Pooja!”

Pooja got mad at the timing and yelled at Avanthika. She replied, “Hey Pooj! I was just calling you to go for a walk. It’s your bad if you think I called you a monkey. Not like it’s not true.”

Few hours later, I got my kids to the cafe for the summer classes. I let them slide with the dress code but Walter decided to come in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts. He thought we were going on a trip to the beach.

Leia walks through Avanthika’s table while she was reading something and asks, “Do you wanna order something?”

Walter from behind her table, “Yeah, I’ll have a Bloody Mary. Thank you very much.”

Me — ‘Walter! You know why we’re here?’

Walter — “Yeah! Not for beach. It’s okay then, make it a mocktail. I know you’ll make it a banger.”

Avanthika — “Yeah, it is a banger. And Walter, find your true calling man. Hitting on girls where they can get arrested is not one.”

Vasu — “Mr. Rahamat! Unless we know we’re getting into a college and man knows who, how re-assuring would we have to prepare?”

Me — ‘Look, you people! College is not a cakewalk, I agree. But you start somewhere to go into the next phase of your life. Start baking banana bread, then get into the frosting.’

Michael suddenly woke up from the nap with a jerk— “My aunt makes a great upside-down cake.”

Meena — “You should stop napping in the class.”

Me — ‘Wow! Good morning Mike. Leia! Get me a slice of Red velvet, please. Talking to my kids made me crave for a cake.’

Francis suddenly walks into the conference hall and says, “Wow! Now I understand why Leia always talks about a loose monkey. It seems she’s wrong. There are many here. Ray! This is outrageous. How could you ask them not to come to school?”

Meena — “Mr. Francis! It is I, Meenatchi of the Science Department; requesting you to kindly refer to the Rulebook’s chapter 6. If there is an event of a strike among teachers, it is recommended to not include attendance for the students and allow them to leave the school at any time with the consent of parents. This can be authorized by the Principal or the Department Head. In our case, Ms. Avanthika is our Department head.”

Michael — “Bam! That’s my girl.”

Meena kept one hand on his shoulder and kept the other index finger on her lips to shush him. “This is a serious moment, Mike!”

Francis — “Look you people, I come here bearing news. I don’t mean to interrupt your lessons. You may continue and I can actually pass on the info when you return to school.”

With questionable nods from the kids, I asked what kind of news he had.

Francis— “I know you are having summer classes. I take so much pride in that. But it’s actually kind of surprising you agreed to…”

The door opened with a gush of air hitting me and the door almost hitting Francis.

It was my brother Sangeet.

Sangeet opened his mouth to talk and he looked at Francis and said, “Hello Stranger! Leave the room.”

Vasu — “Mr. Sangeet Hasan! He’s our Vice-Principal. Came here bearing news. Basically to brag about a weird new rule he has come up with.”

Sangeet — “Oh! I’m sorry I didn’t know you’re the VP” and Francis showed his hand as if he forgave him.

Sangeet continued, “Please! Get out.”

Francis — “I wish you worked in our school so I can dismiss you.” And he walked out.

Sangeet — “Hey everyone!” and he looked at me to talk, “It’s good that your students are here. I am here to talk about a murder mystery. And you would be the perfect candidate to help me out.”

Bent and held my face out of exhaustion, put my spectacles on the table, and replied, ‘Very poor choice of words. But anyway, how can I help?’

Sangeet swiftly looked left and right, pulled an Ottoman from behind, and sat on it. “Let me cut straight to the victim. It’s Jeffrey!”

Me — ‘What? What happened to Jeff?’ and everyone gasped and leaned forward in sync.

Sangeet — “He is missing! May or may not be, actually”

Vasu — “May or may not? Then it is just a mystery. Not murder mystery.”

Sangeet — “You’re right, it is not. But the point is, Kiran went missing too. I believe if we find Jeff, we may also find Kiran and stop anyone else from going missing.”

Avanthika stormed in, “Ray! Kiran wen..” she immediately noticed Sangeet and smiled looking down, “oh, you didn’t mention Sangeet coming down… Um! I mean coming here.”

The students looked at each other with the awkwardness of our Department Head.

Avanthika — “Sorry! I heard Kiran..”

Sangeet continued, “went missing?”

Avanthika grinned and walked near him. She spoke softly, “How do you know?”

Sangeet also replied in a softer but deeper tone, “My associate Jeff also went missing. I found that they have a commonality somehow. I am here to…”

I stood up and pointed both my hands at them and said, ‘Guys! Flirt later. Sangeet, more details please.’

Sangeet — “Yeah about that! I also think Jeffrey took Kiran.”

Me — ‘Wait what?’

~to be continued

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