‘One student wrote that it is a fundamental right to wear glass bangles’

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Illustration: Dwijith CV
Illustration: Dwijith CV

Pristine truth, I believe, comes in all shapes. Sometimes, it grabs you from the back like a grey hair does, when you stand before a mirror, grooming yourself. Some other times, it comes to you when you wake up from a dream that was showing you a way to an answer that you were trying to avoid.

To me, it came in a pair of ever-blinking eyes, in the sound of glass bangles.

Once, I found myself irritated and annoyed at a noise that I heard in a class, while I was ardently teaching. Quite coincidentally on that day , I was attempting to teach the students the six fundamental rights recognised by the Indian constitution. “They are”, I said,

“Right to equality,

Right to (and I heard the disturbing noise again) freedom,

Right against exploitation (If I remember correctly, I heard the noise again),

Right to freedom of religion,

Right to constitutional remedies

And, Cultural and Educational rights”.

It was the sound of an unceasing battering of glass bangles that bothered me while I taught. To my ever-sensitive ears, the noise was an aberration, ping-ponging on the walls of the class. Grinding my teeth, I continued, “The fundamental rights guarantee the citizens of India to lead a peaceful life.”

As a teacher, I have to indulge in lots of tedious work. This includes marking the students’ attendance in at least three different forms before it is finally uploaded to the ‘cloud’, calculating internal assessment marks, project marks, seminar marks, class tests and so on. Probably, that day, any one of these menial jobs might have triggered my undemocratic sense of behaviour.

“Who is making that noise with the bangles”, shouted I, looking exactly at the centre of a pair of ever-blinking eyes. A girl stood up hastily with an expression that I deemed ‘unsophisticated’. “Remove those bangles from your hand and keep it on my table,” I continued in the meanest tone I could surmise. Grudgingly, she walked up to my desk and removed her bangles one after the other, without uttering a single word.

In a fit, I threw the glass bangles out through the window, thinking that the decision was warranted.With that, I continued teaching ignoring the pair of eyes that were overflowing with tears. This should have ideally been the end of this memoir. But, an event that occurred months later, shook me deeply.

With the incident of the glass bangles shoved to the back of mind, I was more preoccupied with exams and evaluations that came a few weeks later. In continuum to the tasks assigned to me as a teacher, I was given a handful of bundles to evaluate.

In one of the bundles, I found a surprise awaiting me. As part of the syllabus and quite obviously, the students were asked to list down the fundamental rights of an Indian citizen. Almost, all students wrote the right answer except for one.

In that particular answer script, a pair of ever-blinking eyes had written,

“Right to equality.

Right to freedom,

Right against exploitation

Right to freedom of religion,

Right to constitutional remedies and

Right to wear glass bangles.”

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