Bugs in my Pen

Ink spots decorating white uniform shirts and some nimble fingers, smeared in blue, drawing caricatures on notebook pages and mindlessly playing tic tac toe…

Yes, school days bring back blue. Blue ink, blue skirt, blue jacket, blue sweater, blue tie, blue house, blue sky, blue water and beautiful indigo blue saris of my favourite teacher, Mrs. Banerjee. Oh and how can I forget what she lovingly called the blue bugs in my pen.

“Are there some blue bugs in your pen? I mean what crawls around and smothers the sheet each time you write? I always admire your imagination, interesting ideas but what’s with your hand-writing girl? So much cutting, so many scribblings, it’s such a mess to read!” She would say, peering anxiously at my rather unkempt notebook while I helplessly witnessed the red blood-curdling bugs in her pen crawl and scratch all over it. The red and blue now looked completely messed up like a super hero!

The spider touch of her pen turned my notebook into a super hero! Trying to make sense of her corrective notes I would be lost in dreams. Red and blue Spider man making my wild spirit fly out of the classroom into the freak universe of imagination. These journeys of the mind’s eye had vivid tales weaved into them, featuring an elaborate range of characters. Tom and Jerry, Super Man, Napoleon, Nancy Drew, Ashoka the Great, Akbar the Great, Sherlock Holmes, Hitler and Alcott’s Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy all came together scheming their way into convoluted plot structures. Some gali cricket featured too. The anorexic doll of our times, Barbie, usually played the vamp! I so thoroughly disliked her. Her bubble bath set featured definitely. It was one toy I had always pined for as a little girl.

The dramatic climax was often cut short by some teacher’s shrill voice, nudging me back into the classroom. “Put away your English work Amrita. It’s the Mathematics period.”

Well, Mrs. Banerjee was responsible for most of those characters and plots. She made them come alive in the History and English lessons. She taught me how to browse through library books making me fall in love with that space. She taught me the habit of sleeping with books and a dictionary under my pillow. I still do.

The red and blue pages always had a valuable remark at the end. Sometimes it would tell me to begin each line exactly below the previous one. Sometimes it would tell me to use ‘their’ and ‘there’ correctly. Sometimes it would tell me to frame the letters ‘b’ and ‘f’ more legibly. Sometimes she would point to the overwhelming use of conjunctions and so on. ‘Avoid those giants of letters. Let me see the Lilliputians in your notebook,’ said one of her remarks. Perhaps even Jonathan Swift couldn’t have imagined Lilliputians of Gulliver’s Travels as custodians of hand-writing!

The red and blue notebook super heroes created by my favourite teacher gave me a legible hand-writing, my love for reading, and also the bugs infested in my pen. I could barely ever use organisation ideas for my writing pieces though she tried very hard. I still mostly can’t. My pen seems to be on a trip of its own. I can sense the bugs as they take over each time I write…

One of the writing assignments Mrs. Banerjee gave us was to write a story ending with ‘…and the last I saw her was a hand waving out of the carriage window.’


15 thoughts on “Bugs in my Pen

  1. Nitin Aneja says:

    Visuals of red and green bugs fighting on notebook, red bugs surrounding some of the blue bugs whole war was live in front of my eyes just after reading first paragraph

    And messed up red blue Spiderman was amazing

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rachit says:

    U r a bundle of talent at writing.. This has been proved.. Why not get into writing professionally… Food for thought….. Well worded and well written

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dr Amrita says:

      Thanks Rachit. For now I jus hope more and more teachers and mothers read this and start seeing the world through the eyes of children. The importance of constructive feedback is the actual learning idea in this one.


  3. Nishi pNde8 says:

    An evocative piece. Your flair for the language and the felicity with which you expressed your feelings and thought is remarkable. Well done. You were always a special student . Look forward to reading your blogs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dr Amrita says:

      Thanks a ton ma’am. Coming from you it means everything and much more…. well way beyond a lot. Have learnt so much from you. Still miss the Natyagram days. Your dynamism just rubs on everyone around you… I can never thank you enough.


  4. Ashish Jaiswal says:

    Lovely writing. Each of the examples some very friendly and joyous bugs , though black but I would love to see the original blue one. Let the bugs crawl.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dr Amrita says:

      Sure, you can see the originals. Though now thanks to word processors those are black too and there’s no teacher using red to advice and correct it any more. My scribblings and editoritis is well managed by technology. All still looks neat.


  5. Animesh says:

    This piece is the best one till now. The detail is the thing which works in this piece. Your way of introducing the teacher in the piece through a string of blues ending with a blue saari is brilliant and flows effortlessly into the narrative. Keep going. This one ends rather abruptly and leaves one longing for more . All in all the detailing is brilliant for so short a piece. Ye dil maange more .

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Animesh says:

    Haha . Here is the “fiction “.

    Boys like blue and girls like pink. How and where this concept got drilled into our minds as kids is somehow lost in the mists of antiquity. My brother and I hated pink with a vengeance and so did a number of my school friends. But there was one place where pink and its close cousin red were a sign of being a rebel and that was the various cross marks and notations made by our English teacher Mrs Chatterjee in our notebooks. Before I continue there are two things I must point out . Firstly, that boys aren’t really discerning where shades of colors are concerned and secondly ,being a rebel in school directly raises the stature and respect for the person among his classmates especially in an all boys school.
    There was lively competition among us as to who had collected the most number of cross marks from Mrs Chatterjee. I for the most part was not privy to the goings on in the inner circle of red cross collectors as we called them. There were occasional stories of some braveheart who had collected more red marks than all of his competitors put together. One could only gauge such happenings by the oblique and sarcastic remarks made by Mrs Chatterjee as she handed back the exercise books after “correction”. A good remark was considered utter humiliation for the few who received them, as if they had broken ranks with their less fortunate buddies. Once feeling particularly ashamed of myself for getting extraordinarily high marks in an exam and being regularly chivvied by my classmates for being a “Bada Sahib ” followed by other such derogatory terms implying I was left behind by the British, I decided to take matters in my own hand. The plan was simple . Mess up the next exam and things would be back to normal. The essay held the maximum percentage of marks and so it became the primary target. I messed up the essay in an ingenious way. I wrote something which didn’t have anything to do with the topic as I wrote randomly whatever came to my mind. The result was I barely passed . But the comment in red ” See me after class today ” , a euphemism for a solid dressing down was the best thing that happened to me. I suddenly became normal ,somehow more acceptable to my buddies while the enemies exulted in my downfall but still treated me better. I was elated . I too had finally achieved a lot of red or pink ( what does it matter both were the same to us) on my exam paper.
    As I sat brooding over my exam paper I was rudely jolted out of my reverie with the loud voice of my maths teacher to put away my English paper and concentrate on maths. But somehow the red caricatures the only time I had collected them refused to die out and subconsciously I made figures of my favorite superheroes and cricket players out of the red marks which seemed in my imagination to weave themselves at times into a recognizable and at other times into a random kaleidoscopic pattern. My mind subconsciously recalled the words in a novel ” My red rose has turned white” to signify the passing away of a lover, a wife ,a child and somehow I wanted it to turn red again. The red of love of attention and of life. But more than red ,blue was the color of life for me . The navy blue shorts with a sky blue shirt adorned with a blue tie with black stripes that was our uniform. The blue of the Chelpark ink which earlier was called Quink . So if it was ink it had to be Quink went the ad line. The inviting blue of the deep swimming pool , the blue flag of the Blue House but the blue which I waited for was the marine blue saree worn by Mrs Chatterjee occasionally. Some of us thought they had detected a pattern in her choice of sarees ,Monday Blue, Tuesday striped yellow, Wednesday Pink with a greenish tinge and so on.The Blue off course was my favorite ,unadulterated shining pure blue of the ocean. Paradoxically the Monday blues were no longer blues but a welcome shade of blue, a happy blue. I recall the day we graduated. Mrs Chaterjee was clad in the same blue saree. We were crowding round her taking a fond farewell in the school courtyard her saree blowing in the rather strong breeze. Later we had our graduation party and in the fun and dance while we revelled in the collective company of our school friends for the last time I took a break and came out of the hall for some fresh air. I saw Mrs Chatterjee getting into the car her blue saree blowing in the wind and getting caught in the door as she shut the door. I thought probably this is my last glimpse of her but then she opened the door to pull her saree inside and carefully shut the door.

    Years passed and we completed schooling . As I passed through college and work the school became a distant memory from which as if sudden flashes would visit me randomly at times and make me relive this or that experience. I was passing by my old school and stopped for a moment in front of it and got out of my car. The old buildings still looked well kept and grand in their Gothic splendour. A car was standing some way ahead of me. In the gathering twilight a lady came out of a nearby house and got into the car. From a distant all I could see was her blue saree and it suddenly occurred to me that this could be our teacher . I made as if to walk up to the car but by then it had started moving. In the pleasant slightly windy November I caught a flash of the blue as the saree blew momentarily from the open car window and then it was gone.

    But the blue and red lines in my English exercise book have stayed a part of me , memories of an era long gone and yet as vivid and alive in the recesses of my memory as if it all happened but yesterday.


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