Sometimes, someone changes you in a way, in a glimpse, and you don't realize the importance of that moment until you are countless years in the future, sitting on a chair, lying on a bed, reminiscing the day long lost. Reminiscence opens new ends, untangles old threads, clarifies the dusts of time. And that one insignificant person, that one person you may never meet again, remains vivid in your memory all for that moment.
It was an ordinary day of fifth grade, I sat writing a test for English, scratching my mind when nothing came to me, periodically gratified when my fingers printed the paper consistently with creative justifications. It was as normal a day as any, the sun shown through the window, vivifying the dirt caught up between the fine mesh as the open window bars glimpsed into the street. Of course I was too naive to know that on the most important day of my life, I wasn't going to receive any pointers, the sky wasn't going to be pink and it definitely wouldn't revolve around a wedding dress. It would be a run-of-the-mill occurrence, and I wouldn't realize the diversity until it stared me back in the face. Even then, as I happened to live in denial, this realization didn't knock upon my door soon.
I distinctly remember finishing the test, splotching my hands with royal blue ink and handing it over. It was a typical Pakistani classroom, desks cramped next to each other, a pencil or a book falling every two seconds. The teacher set to mark our tests, sitting at her desk that maneuvered over us, while in whispers we exchanged answers. Our correspondence was so mute you could have heard the sound of a pin dropping, and the little detours it takes before finally settling at your feet.
The bell for recess rang as clear as day, was it joy that renounced amongst all? Was it the relief of a 25 minute lapse of food and play? It was as magical as it had been the day before, and the one before that, till you reached the start of a school career. I packed my bag, accumulated my stationery before zipping everything shut. It wasn't uncommon (still isn't) for every student to have the nagging fear of theft, scrounging at the back of his mind. Day dreaming, I walked down the hall, half striving to catch up with my friends. Suddenly I felt a firm hand on my left shoulder. Caught unguarded, I shifted to find my English teacher staring back at me determined. What was in her eyes, I do not remember? But as I was thrust back from the throng of students escaping to the lush school grounds, I, with my youthful image, reflecting innocence, shifted the scarf pinned under my chin.
Cowardice was one of my strongest suits back then, to be asked to be held by a teacher, a member of the faculty wasn't something that brought good news very often. The teacher who had held me back and then went on to organize the recess crowd, was the topmost feared educator. In eight grade when I was a part of the school council, the same rascals who hid in the toilets while I ran after them trying to bring some symmetry to them, only feared her. And me? I was innocent, shy, meek. From the first day of fifth grade, any moment she focused upon me, my legs shook while my vocal chords faltered. And in all the scrambling going on outside, I could still hear my heart beat, as if it would jump out of my body any minute now.