The school box beside the coffinIt is an old story but is nevertheless fresh in my mind as if it had happened just recently. I had just joined as a teacher in a school in a remote village in the North-East. Being from another corner of the country, I had the initial confusions with regard to the language, food, climate and so many other things. But luckily for me, the accommodation arranged by the authorities was near to one Mr Vihokhe who was a government contractor. He had one son and a daughter. His wife, though uneducated and a typical village lady, was also very loving and friendly. Having such a friendly family as my neighbours helped me to overcome my homesickness soon and I started feeling comfortable.
His son, Lokho, was studying in our school only and was then in Class VIII. He was a brilliant student and was very active in co-curricular activities also. I was teaching mathematics and it was the ease with which he approached the subject and the interest he exhibited to learn the nuances that made him my favourite student.
Since there was no public transport system then, one had to walk across to their destinations. Most of the time Lokho used to give me company in the stretch from my house to the school and back. He would have many questions to ask and that was never restricted to any single subject. But I never discouraged him because I had always felt that a teacher must guide and encourage his students to excel in every field. I could make out that he was looking for a friend, guide and mentor in me and I gave out my heart to ensure that he never felt disheartened.
But the good days did not last long. One day, Lokho suddenly collapsed in the classroom. We immediately arranged a vehicle and took him to the nearest hospital after informing his parents. As I was about to leave the school, our headmaster handed over a box to me and told me, 'Samuel, since you are neighbours, could you take Lokho's school box along? You may hand it over as and when they return.' I took the box and came back to my room not knowing that I would never be able to hand it over to its owner again.
I was suddenly feeling very lonely. I realized how this young friend had made my days in the village so easy. I was missing him badly. I skipped my dinner and lay down on my bed. I woke up to the wailing sound from my neighbourhood and rushed outside. I could see a crowd in front of Vihokhe's house and I knew that the most unexpected had happened. Did I curse God for a moment? I must have.
I just walked across carrying the school box which seemed to be heavier and saw the young man lying in the coffin in his last sleep, unaware of all that was happening around him, unaware that life would not be the same for his dear 'Sam' sir without him. I can never forget the peace on his face and the visibly endearing smile. I silently kept the school box beside the coffin and moved to a corner where I could let my tears flow.
This is my entry for A school box- creative writing contest.