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.’