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My Short Term Job

Ooo…la” I shrieked as I clicked down the phone after answering my uncle’s call. “At last my boring mornings and lengthy afternoons are going to come to an end” I thought. My uncle had at last had searched a job for me. Sitting idle for 6 months with an MBA degree in hand was unimaginable. Though I was shifting to New York along with fiancée, it would be impossible to spend my days dreaming about my rosy future for the next 6 months. I had to do something. But which company would give a job for six months. So the search had become a little difficult. Nevertheless my uncle made it. He had kept the ‘job opening’ as a surprise and said would tell me in person. So on Sunday we invited him for lunch.

“So uncle, what job have you searched for me?” I asked eagerly, as we sat at the lunch table.” You will be very happy to know, and excited to work” he said” It’s a teacher’s job” .Resting his gaze on me he continued “at an orphanage” My mother’s was the first reaction” what will she do their Ramu” she chuckled. “Sangha sevaki preethi!” My brother said and gave a short laugh .My father frowned at him and there was silence.

It took me some time to come out of the jerk. All my enthusiasm drained out I asked” Ramu mama, is this job suitable for an MBA graduate?”  From the day my search for my short term job had begun, I had chalked out the most suitable and convenient jobs for me. I had dreamt to sit in a call centre and talk in a foreign accent-I thought it would make my life easier in New York.

Had hoped, I shall become a short term Research Assistant, and help my boss come out with a thesis. A consultant job would not be bad, I thought. At least a personal secretary job in a leading firm would do.  I know I was demanding too much. But tell me, do dreams have an end and greed a limit? My retrospection ended and I came back to the present .All were looking at my uncle .He had begun to speak” what do you think? It’s a right job for any and every human being” he emphasized.
 

I opened my mouth to defend, but he disapproved it with a wave of hand and continued” Before you’re an MBA graduate, you are a human being. And helping a person to mould into a better human being is the greatest job you can ever do “At this point my father looked at me, as though he was reading my mind. As an approval to his guess I said” But mama, what will I teach them? Marketing? Finance? Stats?” I laughed within myself.

“That’s up to you” my uncle began. “You teach them anything. The authorities of the orphanage had requested me to find a volunteer who can spend time at their school and groom their children. I thought you would be interested. If you’re not, then forget it. We will search for another job, where you will know what to do” This time his voice was grim. Silence enveloped the scene and all were waiting for my answer. Not to dishearten my uncle and break my father’s IDEALISTIC DAUGHTER image, I resolved to take it as an experience albeit resenting this queer venture.

The first day of my job dawned. All through the way to the orphanage with my uncle, I was enveloped in thoughts and doubts…”what shall I talk to them? What can I teach them? Would they know English? How do I react? 

My introspection halted as we reached the destination. We were greeted by madam shyamala. After a little tête-à-tête, I was briefed about the children at orphanage. There, we were told, children ranged across various ages. From 5 to 15.They were either abandoned by their relatives or were born orphans. So dramatic was her narration, that I actually imagined all the children sitting in a room and brooding over their lives.

Quite contrary to my imagination, as I entered the hall, the gossiping and murmuring stopped .All the children got up and greeted me in one tone” Good morning teacher” Madame shyamala who was standing beside me whispered “They were expecting you” I nodded back and gestured the children to sit. When she left, I still had no clue as to what to speak. The children as madam shyamala had noted ranged from kids to teenagers-Tanned skins, oiled hair, cleanly washed faded clothes-these were my first observations.

As I was still contemplating on what to speak, a girl from the group asked “didi, what is your name?” Surprised and quite pleased by her uninhibited gesture, I replied “preethi” and asked back “what yours?” “Kamala” came the reply. When I smiled and nodded to her, a boy from the group shot “won’t you ask my name?” This time truly surprised by his demand, I giggled and asked his name. ”Raja” he said proudly. At this point an unexpected commotion began in the group- voices shouting “didi I will tell my name” “ mine too” “pinky” “hey you stop, I will tell first”” No me”

  Not expecting this, my reflexes took the lead. "Hey stop! Stop! Well if you don’t I shall not give you chocolates tomorrow” I didn’t expect to say this. I gave a gap, and the unrest rested. I continued” yes, I am planning to get you all 100 chocolates! If you keep quite I will get them. Do you like them?” “Yes!” they shouted. Smiling, I thought my first class has thus begun.

The next hours of the class were spent in introductions, warnings, giggles... When I went back home in the evening questions were ready to attack me. ”How was it?” “Were they naughty?” “What did you teach them?” To all I gave one answer” It was good. I enjoyed it” As I was retiring to bed, thoughts ran across my mind. I had meant the word “enjoy” more than it signified. What was it? That word...satis...Groping for the word, I stepped into sleep.

My consequent classes seemed to get on fast and short. I had begun to feel at home here. My day started with a heart full good morning from the children. Most of my time at home was spent in making color charts, dolls, recollecting grandma stories and taking suggestions from my mom. I no more had to think on what to teach them. They implicitly told me what they had to learn-Their behavior was to be disciplined, their minds had to be directed, their language had to be modified, their hygiene had to be rechecked. On the whole they had to be ‘tailored’.

I began to learn their names by heart. I began to understand what made them happy and what made them cry. Surprisingly they were never a bore to me. Their uninhibited behaviors, untainted expressions, intimate demands pulled me nearer to them. I began seeing a new identity in me. The one which I never knew had existed. I used to talk to them hours together. Tell them about the stars in the sky, the fishes in the water, the demons and the Gods.
While the teenagers shared with me their untold desires, the kiddos talked about their untold ideas. I listened to both of them and was discrete enough to react to both.

This new identity that I began to own, was different from the others which I had already owned-daughter, sister, friend, partner. This one was called ‘preethi’. I never had to pretend in front of them. No norms or rules. Just being myself -preethi My classes were no one way teaching. It was a two way. While I taught them what to do for their living. They taught me how to live. There was inextinguishable energy in them. Their power to smile under all situations made them superior to me. They had no regrets. They did things because they wanted to. To them taste didn’t matter, but food did. Clothes didn’t matter but clothing did. Beauty didn’t matter but affection did. With I had learnt t live a life that I had never lived.

When the time had come to leave, I wished I had never come here. For I never knew parting from loved ones would mean so much pain. Through the tears of each child I could see the reflection of my own sorrow. ”Didi when will you come back?” one asked. Before I could answer “you will come back na? Why are you crying then?” Said other. I had no answer for either of them. The only reply I managed to give them was a hug. As I drove back home, my thoughts were running fast “Job. That is what I had wanted. A job that was suitable for an MBA graduate. I taught them nothing I had learnt. Rather I had learnt what I had unlearned” 

Contributing Story Teller Anamika Sarvottama anamikasarvottama@gmail.com 


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