Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Signature ....

Morning office time was busy as usual at the Agency
"Sir ... signature please .... " said the office assistant.

Kannan was engrossed with a message on Whatsapp from Manoj. 

"Good work brother ... was nice meeting you"

The message had taken him back several years, not knowing that the office assistant was waiting with a blank expression on his face. Kannan drifted back to the school days. The morning school bell was a start to the new academic year. The assembly was special as everyone wore new uniforms and the air was filled with the smell of fresh new clothes. Every student was at his best for the first day at school after clearing the previous year of learning. The white shirts, red ties, with navy blue trousers and the smile on the face. The tie was crisp and did not have the ink from the previous years writing and learning. The belt was immaculate and the colors red and yellow remained so, which in due course would bleed to a dull orange mixed with the dirt of a year. The feeling in every student’s heart was just one. A new year, new class, new things to learn or was it, back to the same company as the previous year, more time to have fun and boring classes again with new subjects and new teachers. Whatever be it, the freshness was like a bright newly blossomed garden. 

The school band played the fanfare and the school flag hoisted. The excitement was in the air and prayers and national anthem ensued. Kids marched to their respective classes. Kannan ran to the band room in the basement to keep his trumpet back in the marked box and ran back to the class. The attendance was being taken and he interrupted

"Sir ... Please May I get in ..."

Classes and the breaks and recess and evening prayer and the long bells. Days passed with monthly exams and first term exams were over. After holidays school started again. It was the day when the signed black school dairy had to be checked for signatures from their father as instructed by Varghese Sir. Class Prefect, Vinod was on leave as he was down with fever. Kannan, being the vice prefect, started his official duty of checking the diaries. 62 students with a few missing, Kannan was fast enough to get the checking done before Varghese Sir would reach the class. He wrote down just three names and kept all the checked diaries on the Teachers table.

"Safeer, Bipin and Manoj" Varghese sir called out the names and they stood up.

The class had the atmosphere of interrogation and inquiry. The usual noise which was cut by the three student’s name who did not either sign their class diaries with the marks for the exam. Varghese sir walked towards the last bench where Safeer with his loosely knotted tie was standing there with a wicked smile. He knew it was coming and was ready with the reply

"Sir tomorrow"

Varghese sir nodded and moved towards Bipin. He started crying and said:

"Sir, me too ... tomorrow"

"hmmm" said Varghese sir and moved towards Manoj

Manoj was standing there silent, when Kannan stood up and raised the complaint as if he was a Public Prosecutor in a court who raises the objection. 

"Sir ... his mother signed and not his father" He said boldly

"Why..." Varghese sir asked Manoj looking stern

Manoj stood there silent. Varghese sir took the cane and tapped the desk strongly making it sound like a thunder for all the students. 

"Sir ... My father passed away when I was young"

The moment of silence had more to it. The teachers taking classes in the nearby classrooms could be heard. The open windows had sunlight falling into the class room. Kannan could not say anything. For him the day turned dark. The darkness made him shiver in his heart. 

"Sir down" said Varghese sir and looked at Kannan.

The facts of life was being passed on to him that very moment and the looks of the class teacher seemed to ask him a thousand questions. 

"Had I asked why ... but ... what have I done...?” Thoughts hunted Kannan down. His smile faded away as if ink was washed from a paper 

in water. He had a heavy heart. The whole class moved on but his heart remained at that moment. 

"Can I give him a hug" thought Kannan, but Manoj was nowhere around. That day was etched in his heart to this day.

"Sir ... signature please" Kannan heard the office assistant impatiently waiting for his signature.

Kannan looked up mechanically. The smell of chalk dust and the books were gone. The bench and desks were not anywhere to be seen. The smell of packed lunch boxes, books and bags, the familiar smell of the classroom, the sounds of the cane and the teachers were all replaced by the hum of the air conditioner, the soft music being played in the in house channel of the office and smells of a mix of perfumes. He travelled back to the present and quickly signed the paper. 

"Give it to Ali" Kannan instructed and picked the phone again.

"Sorry" he typed on a message window then deleted it and again typed "Sorry" and sent it to Manoj. It took Kannan more than two decades to say that one word, and kept the phone on the table.

bzzzzzzzzzzz ..... the phone vibrated and read

"Incoming call ...Manoj"

Kannan picked the call and with no words to say he picked the call ...

Kanna ... Did you send me a message saying Sorry ...

"Oh by mistake" Kannan said. His heart was as complex as many of us. Why is it difficult to apologize for a mistake. Why does it take long to make good for silly wrongs we do. Many questions still remains unanswered for Kannan like all others.

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