The Song I Had Not Heard
Anonymous | Mar 19, 2018
I stood at the REC school in front of the Institute Dispensary, about to teach the first of my weekend classes there. I had finally gotten her permission last weekend, and I was intently looking forward to what would’ve been my first ever lecture and ‘the last desperate attempt to give –something back to this institute’. Having spent three years and eight months at NIT-R, and having a few months remaining, I had been occasionally looking at my student ID card, which mercilessly read ‘VALID TILL: 30 JUN 2018’, almost as if it had been beeping to explode at that given date. It was still hard for me to believe that. A few months, and I will have started my journey to becoming the corporate-sellout I had so detested.
I soon met 10 fifteen-year-old kids who had agreed to stay back and attend an extra tutorial by the infamous ‘NIT Bhaiyya’ as their teacher had sold my name as. I gave a short intro that ironically turned out to be quite different from the one that I used for placement interviews, and without further ado began the class. Fifteen minutes later, I noticed the kids were distracted because one of them was wearing a new T-shirt – with a minimalist rendition of Pink Floyd’s cult-hit Time.
(Design on the shirt)
“Where did you get that?” I asked the boy, thinking I’ll win the attention of the class by making conversations that my Profs never did.
“Someone gave it to me,” he said a little defensively.
“Arey! I’m not going to take it away. Don’t worry.”
“Someone gave it to me,” he said again, just as defensive, “I didn’t steal it.”
I laughed a little and told him, I was sure somebody gave it to him as a present. Since it was my first class, and most of the Professors who taught me, never tried to be friendly, I thought I’d be different. I pulled out my phone and played Time for them. They listened to the song and asked me to play it again. And then once more. I am still not sure if they liked the music, or were just fooling around so that I didn’t get back to teaching boring things, like unit systems.
Afterwards, I tried to explain what the lyrics meant and how important is the utilization of time in deciding their future. They nodded in a way they do when they don’t understand something but also don’t want me to repeat it. I smiled and let it be.
I went back to my class again. I explained to them why it was reasonable to measure weight of Akash, the Pink Floyd boy, in Kilograms, but his pencil’s weight in grams.
“But why is it called Kilogram? How… why does 1 Kilogram mean. 1 Kilogram?... How did someone first measure it ...”, asked a kid, struggling to find his expression. The class was puzzled. However, I knew he was trying to ask me the standard definition of 1 Kilogram and how/why it has been determined/defined so.
The definition of 1 Kilogram. I read that in class 9th. How could I have possibly forgotten that! I stood silent.
Luckily for me, just then their teacher came in and said that it was time for them to disperse. So I heaved a sigh of relief and assured them that I’d answer their question the next time we met.
...The formal vote, scheduled for 16 November 2018, is expected to be approved and the new definitions of 1Kg will come into force on 20 May 2019.
I googled immediately, with some inquisitiveness and a lot of guilt. It was, however, quite satisfying knowing that I’m not the only one who doesn’t have his life sorted altogether. The CGPM too, is yet to formally define 1 Kilogram, even after being used by scientific brains for centuries.
On my way out, I overheard the kids addressing a middle-aged man, ‘Sir’, who was probably there to pick them up. He didn’t actually strike the image of being a teacher, he was thin and short, and wore old, stained clothes. I asked the Principal, who I was thanking for allowing me to take the class, if that man was a teacher at their school. She shook her head and told me that he is the father of one of the kids. I found out that all of them belong to an underdeveloped slum-like area, deep inside Sector 1. Apparently, that man had persuaded all the families in his neighborhood to send their kids to school and had also been teaching them at a local temple every day for an hour.
I was moved by this fact. I decided to talk to him.
“Hello, do you mind telling me how you started teaching the kids at your locality?”, I asked.
“Why?”, he answered, suspicious, probably wasn’t used to hearing this question a lot.
“No reason, I just wanted to know.”, I said a bit defensively and watched him turn around and look at the Principal who told him I was an “okay” guy.
“What do you want to know?”
“Can I come and visit your class sometime?”, I said. I genuinely wanted to.
“Sure. Why don’t you come tomorrow at 7:00 PM?”
“Tomorrow? Actually, I have a farewell party to attend tomorrow and I am busy this week with my project evaluation. Can I come next Saturday?”, I asked.
He just nodded.
"But, I am really happy," I said. "We have similar thoughts, you know? I dream of opening a school for poor people one day."
He stood silent for a minute.
"I am a laborer. I dropped out of school in Class 9th, never saw more than ten thousand rupees in my bank account. I have no farewell parties to attend. I have five people at home, counting on me to put food on their plates every day. And yet, here I am, already running my school. But you are still dreaming. You may like to think so, but our thoughts are in no way similar."
He folded his hands in a namaste and walked away.
On my way back, I listened to Pink Floyd’s Time once again.
“Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
Fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way…”