F_3. Lost and Found

Lost and Found

Volume 1, Issue 2, pp. 09-11

I was in the staff room to collect notebooks and what I saw was a novel kept on the table right in front of my English teacher's seat.

Ahh! My alma mater. I can't believe I am here, inside your premises. Please be nice. Please serve only mild memories, I was talking to myself and the building as I passed through the staff room. Oh yes! The staff room! My mind travelled back in time. Reminiscences had already started to act on me…. and here we go!


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Year of 2010

I was in the staff room to collect notebooks and what I saw was a novel kept on the table right in front of my English teacher's seat.

I treat every book and dog on this earth as my own. So yes, I just habitually started turning the pages and suddenly turned back like a thief when a voice called out my name followed by, “What are you doing here?”

It was my teacher, and I could do nothing better than point my finger towards the novel…no actually I didn't even do that in that awkward moment.

I'm sorry, Ma'am! I...I was just...picking...those notebooks.. I should not have...” I kept trembling, unable to complete my sentence.

You haven't committed a crime! Do you read?” she interrupted in a high pitch, coming towards her table.

Yes, I do.”

Which ones?”

The question took me by surprise. The only authors I used to read were Charles Dickens and Premchand, but the pressure to impress the teacher was now losing steam.

Ma'am, I've just read Charles Dickens and Premchand.” My replies got unusually short and undertoned.

Seriously? Never heard of R. K. Narayan?” she questioned with a pristine judgemental look.

R. K. Narayan...R. K. Laxman...I always get confused, Ma'am...” My apologetic tone was pushing me to leave the room instantly.

No! R. K. Narayan was a writer. R. K. Laxman is a cartoonist. This is unbelievable. Haven't you ever heard of Malgudi Days..?” This time, the tone was full of rebuke.

Oh yes! Malgudi Days… I have read that, Ma'am. Actually, I don't pay heed to the names of the authors I read...that's why! Otherwise, I also love its show on Doordarshan.”

Always pay heed to who you read and why, Pragya,” said she, handing over the book to me, which I received like an honour. After all, I had to return to the class and brag about it.

Pragya, I want the book back intact…and nobody should know that I've given you this. I don't lend my books much.”

Do teachers have the super-power to read our minds? I wondered.

Sure, Ma'am... thank you so much…”

Go...it's time for your next class.”

From that day onwards, we were teacherstudent inside the class, but outside, we were book dealers to each other. I used to deliver novels from my grandpa's library to her home and she used to lend me volumes from her collection.

Your grandpa seems to be too much into philosophy, right?” She asked drily, pretty much certain of the fact already.

Yes, quite a philosophical person he is, Ma'am! You also love philosophy, don’t you?”

Yes, I do. I do,” she said, letting out a long sigh.

She continued, “It's just that now I want to read something of different genres, something interesting, apart from the regulars I read, you know?”

I got it, Ma'am...I got it. I will bring one for you, which I am sure you will love,” I said, impulsively.

It was my habit to make people I loved happy.

Really! Is it that easy for you?” asked my teacher with a sardonic smile, already feeling certain of my capability.

I took this mild mortification as a challenge. I racked every cell of my brain to think of that one book for her which could make her say, “Pragya, you are my favourite student!”

Yes, she was my favourite teacher and I was eager to please her!

A day later, I delivered to her a pile of comic books including Champak, Chacha Choudhary, Nandan, Balhans, and what not. Needless to say, I was ready to see a look of reproach on her face.

Pragya,” she sighed while turning the pages of those books and pitying my common sense.

Ma'am, I know what you're going to say. But please try these books. I swear, you will ask for more,” I spouted off in one breath to defend myself.

I will read these. Thank you,” she said, trying not to laugh and moving towards her little shelf where kept all her books—works by Jane Austen and Eliot. And I could see reflections of those books in her character. As classic, ironic and esoteric as them!

What genre do you like to read? Did you decide?” she said, interrupting the process of my ongoing judgement of her.

Ma'am, I think I love fiction. I don't understand Jane Austen's books. Her language is too high-toned for me,” I said trying hard to showcase my knowledge of genres, which I knew she was going to condemn anyway.

Why did you even go for Jane Austen's books?”

And here she goes! I thought.

You are a beginner. Start with the lighter ones,” she said, pushing a book to my side. It was by R. K. Narayan.

On my way home, the thought of this practice of us making each other read books of our choice was making me euphoric. I had someone with whom I could talk on subjects I loved - books, authors, poems, etcetera. She was the best critic for my poems or whatever I wrote. Although I had grandpa for this, he was too loyal to his favourite genre to talk about other books, and too fond of me to criticise me.

I couldn't wait to go to my best friend, Shashi, and tell him that my favourite teacher had not only praised me in class but also lent me her favourite books outside the class. I couldn't wait for other students to feel jealous of that.


Our pre-boards had just got over, and I was overdue to return the book to her.

Having forgotten to carry the book with me to school for a few days, consecutively, I finally managed to take it to the staff room to return to her. As our reciprocation of books was a secret affair, I could only return that to her in the staff room. She was leaving for our class.

Finally, my book is here. Were you eating it?!”

Sarcasm! She was my Chandler Bing before Chandler Bing!

Sarcasm! She was my Chandler Bing before Chandler Bing!


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I almost ate it,” I replied with a shameless grin that probably couldn't match her level of humour.

I can read this over and over again, Ma'am!” I compensated.

Then, why don't you keep it? It's my last book to you, anyway,” she said with a smile unlike any I had seen on her face before!

This was coming from a woman who could kill you for touching her books.

Why...you have nothing left?” I asked her, casually, turning the pages of the book.

No! Remember, I had requested for a transfer? They've confirmed it. Kendriya Vidyalaya, Jodhpur it is,” she said. Now her smile was different from the earlier one, as if waiting for my iced face to react.

However, it's my last class here. The syllabus is over. I will just discuss a few possible questions for the boards today. That's it.” She said this evasively and left the staff room.

I was just standing there, inert, wondering why I didn’t want her to go, although, I knew she was really waiting for this transfer letter. But what was making me so vulnerable? What was it that made me feel attached to her? Why were tears rolling down my face, impetuously?

Like innumerable other childhood queries, I enshrouded these too somewhere inside me and came out of the room, wiping my tears. I found her and started walking a little behind her.

I remember saying just this to her,

Ma'am, thank you so much for this souvenir! Now the book will be with me forever. Can I tell Shashi, my best friend, about it?”

Yes, you can! And, by the way, 'souvenir'! My goodness...Pragya!” she replied, laughing.

Yeah...a little word I picked up from the novel,” I said, pointing towards the book in my hand, again with a grin followed by two symmetrical chuckles in harmony.

At the end, I knew what could make her laugh!

What a score!

Pragya, I think we should leave now. The classes are off already,” I got distracted by my friend.

We were at the end of the school corridor and now the chapter of reminiscences had closed too.


I came home to find the book on my old shelf. Holding it with extreme care, I caressed it exactly as a mother would on finding her lost child. Although, in this case, I had found something by getting lost!

The book is My English Teacher by R. K. Narayan. I am going to read it all over again, and this time, my dear teacher, I know why!

About the Author:

Pragya is an Information & Technology Engineer and has been writing since she was nine. She maintains a blog where she occasionally talks about social issues she comes across.


Email: [email protected]




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