The day I stepped out to head to work was a heady mix of euphoria and excitement dampened slightly by the fear of the pandemic. So, here I was with my bag of thoughts and sanity. The fresh air graced my face with the familiar smell of hot sambar and chutney (coming from the restaurant next door). I decided to flag down an autorickshaw to take me to work. But to my apprehension, not a single vehicle stopped as most were traveling to the call of clients on Ola. I took out my phone and booked an Ola, but none accepted my booking. It had been 15 minutes now and my excitement was slowly dwindling. I decided to walk, strapping my laptop bag to my back,I decided to march on (Kadam Kadam Bhadaye ja Khushi ke geet gaye ja).

It was a hot sunny morning and I soon felt my precipitation trickle down my temples. My knees buckled due to the lack of exercise. I just wanted to get to work (just 2 more kilometers left to go). Suddenly the stench of the open dustbins near the lake hit me, and my senses reeled in disgust. Covid had kept us indoors, but had not changed the ways in which people disposed of their waste (as if 1 viral outbreak wasn’t enough). Never the same, the traffic was back to normal. The sight of the people busy working was a sight of novelty, their smiles were masked and their eyes guarded. Covid had changed us all.

I got an auto finally and felt relieved (now, I would get to work on time, Hurray!). But the dancing auto shook my bones and rattled my resolve completely. I felt like I was navigating the craters on the moon (I have heard that real estate is thriving on the sale of plots on the moon!).  I was soothed back to reality when the road got better. When I reached the gate, I jumped out and thanked my stars that I was still in 1 piece.

One look at the clean and beautiful spacious uncluttered school building was a sight for my sore eyes. I felt goosebumps and nostalgia at the same time. In my mind’s eye I could see children splashing water as the coach blew the whistle and asked them to get out of the pool. The skating rink had the children bent in concentration zipping across the rink. I could hear the sweet giggling of eager children. The chorus of children in the corridors  wishing their teachers,  resonated in my ears.

It seems just like yesterday that the stairs were filled with the soft chatter of students and the pattering of their feet as they climbed up and down the stairway. The now-empty staffroom was once bursting with activity with the teachers’ preparing charts and counting the notebooks, going through planners. The chiming of the bell would bring everyone to pause before the silence was broken by the poise chanting of prayer before classes started.

I kept my laptop bag, unpacked and took out my book, took a deep breath as I walked through the silent corridor. The Butterflies in my stomach were back, I was going to enter the class with children after a year now. I felt so alive and kicking at that moment.  My heart pounded as I opened the door.  The students wished as I entered the class, they were seated away from each other keeping the social distancing in mind.

This feeling of finally being able to physically be present in front of the students and listening to their prattle was a refreshing change from the online scenario. I felt relieved to connect and revive their concepts.  My shoulders felt light, no more instructions were to be given to unmute, speak up and turn on the camera. They were here, fair and square. (High time, don’t you think!). A feeling of relief washed over me and it filled me with new energy to teach them. I always knew that physical classes would bring back the confidence of students and revive their interest in learning. And as a teacher, I am happy to be back. Potholes, garbage, and all in tow. I think it is worth every inch of my sanity.

This Pandemic has taught us that if life threw a lemon at us, we would make lemonade out of it (no Dalgona coffee for me, please). Pandemic or not, we are back. School’s 2.0 version.