As Long As You Love Me (A Tribute)
by Fiza Pathan
Today I want to tell you dear reader about my very first student. I always wanted to be a teacher right from the 5th grade and my life was filled with a fascination for subjects like History, English literature, English Language, Geography etc. It is no wonder then that I took up History as my majoring subject at college along with Sociology, the study of society which I found pretty interesting.
I was in my second year of Degree College when Radhika Khansaheb came into my life. She was seven years younger than me and was studying in the 7th grade at the school in which I also studied when I was a kid. Radhika…I can’t tell you much about her name for we never really used to call her ‘Radhika’, she hated it. As long as I knew her, Radhika Khansaheb was always called ‘Radhi’…she loved being called that as it made her feel special.
Radhi’s mother was my Geography tutor when I was in the 10th grade at school. She was a really good Geography teacher and I owe all what I know about the subject to her. However, Radhi did not in the least like or love Geography; she found it a boring subject…she liked English Literature and English Language as she felt it was more creative…more like her.
I was made to take on Radhi to tutor her in Geography and History, her worst subjects. This meant that along with preparing endless projects for college, I had now to prepare study material and teach a student…a ‘for real’ student for the first time in my life. I was waiting for this opportunity for years and now my childhood dream of becoming a teacher was finally becoming a reality.
Radhi loved my coaching and we became very close friends. We both had a crush on a musical icon, her – Michael Jackson, me – Elvis Presley. During our teaching and learning sessions we got to know each other very well. Radhi was a radical with a feminine touch to it. She scorned at the social norms of the day and loved wearing hot shorts and tight fitting T-shirts with her belly exposed. I was more conservative in my casual Tantra branded T-shirts and jeans…Radhi loved my dark blue jeans…dark blue was her favourite colour.
Radhi hated studying and was obsessed on getting me a boyfriend from my college. We used to laugh and crack senseless jokes about boys at her school and my college and we used to yet get her homework for the week done.
I remember my first pay too…it was 2,500/- for a month and at that point of time…that kind of cash felt like Alibaba’s gold. I remember saving the whole lot in the bank and Radhi shook her head from side to side calling me a miser…she would have preferred if I had spent that money buying some hipster jeans…at least, that is what she would have done if she had got that kind of cash.
The 7th grade ended and Radhi was now contemplating on the idea of starting to like Geography and History…I was so overjoyed…my teaching had not gone all to waste.
After the exams Radhi went off with her family in a car to Pune while I, a very rich college second year student cleared out all the crap that I used to stuff under my desk at college and celebrated my first year of teaching by treating myself to a bowl full of oily chicken tandoori (yep…they sell stuff like that at my college canteen); I then went out biking around my building complex trying in vain to shed off the pounds I was putting on which later on led to me becoming terribly obese in the final year of graduation.
It was Easter vigil night and my whole family was getting ready to go and hear mass at our local church when suddenly my mother received a call on her mobile. It was one of the eldest P.T.A members on the line who wanted to inform us about a great mishap. Radhi’s car had met with a terrible accident. Both her father and mother (my Geography teacher) were already dead…burnt to ashes in no time while Radhi who during the accident was thrown out of the car and her head smashed against the ground…she had died on the way to the hospital with her body parts in pieces.
Radhi was dead…Radhi…was…dead…my student…was…dead…one of my coolest friends…was…now…dead…
I was there at the funeral and watched the bodies as they were brought into the crematorium one by one. There was nothing much to bring of my teacher and her husband as they were both burnt to ashes…but the doctors had sewed Radhi’s body parts and head together again for the funeral…they dressed her up like an Indian bride…I was the first to walk next to her body wrapped up carefully in a snow white shroud which seemed less paler than the cheeks of this little doll that lay there with her eyes closed forever…she wasn’t even 13 years old.
While I stared at her mangled head in a dazed state, Radhi’s grandmother came up to me and said,
“She always loved your classes and the way you taught her. She couldn’t wait to go to the 8th grade and study with you again.”
That did it…I wept…I wailed and cried making everyone in their fancy embroidered white salvaar kurta’s stare at me with pain written all over their faces.
Six years have come and gone and I’ve opened up my own tutorial and library. I’m an Amazon bestselling author and a hard core Theosophist. Six years…since Radhi, that beautiful and playful girl has died. She always planned on getting me done up at a beauty parlour and getting me a date with a hot college dude…all these funny dreams and wishes died with her as her body was incinerated in that crematorium at Shivaji Park.
There are dozens of stuff in my house which reminds me of my Radhi and her girly ways which were quite different from my tom boyishness. She left me rings and nail polish; silver earrings and a golden brooch; green Gujrathi bangles and a tube of peach hand wash; an old VCD of Elvis Presley’s L.A. concerts and some friendship bands which have special messages printed upon them:
‘Best Friends Forever’
‘Teachers Can be Smart Too’
‘We love Mother Earth’
‘I Want To Be Your Friend’
‘You Are Special To Me’
However, the band I like best is a blood red one which I can’t wear anymore as it does not fit my wrists because I’ve grown obese has this inscribed on it:
‘As long As You Love Me’
Whoa…Radhi was prophetic; she beat Justin Bieber to the title of his own song! Radhi was like that even in her essays which I read every time we would finish a Civics chapter. I’ve taught hundreds of kids by now, but I’m guilty…because in all my students, I try to find a trace of Radhi── my pupil and my friend. I believe in a heaven and I know Radhi is up there somewhere laughing at all the goofy stuff my students and I do at class…but I bet she too misses me just like I miss her pretty but innocent girlish face.
Copyright © 2014 Fiza Pathan
Image courtesy: Morgue File and www.dhgate.com