Very often in life, we tend to misjudge people. The people whom we treat as our harshest enemies turn out to be our best friends. I went to address a group of school children.
I had always prided on my gift of the gab and convincing power. So I was confident that I would slip into this new role effortlessly and hit the ground running. I was supposed to be counseling a group of school children on career. ‘Easy’ I had thought. ‘A piece of cake’. After all they were no match. They were just a flock of ducklings and I a dyed –in- the wool professional. Armed with this arrogance and nothing else, I went to the venue.
The Principal a fat and stern matron introduced me to them briefly. she then turned to me and with a fake smile and a flourish handed the devils to me. They only waited till she left and then all hell broke loose. Luckily she had not gone far enough. She came back and rapped the cane on two boys and sternly warned that anyone who disturbed the class and was reported would be punished.
There was a pin drop silence. But I could feel the antagonism. I was already hated. I tried to break the ice with some corny jokes. All of them fell flat. The Principal had kept a cane. I went and kept it in the corner. No response. I smiled till I ached. But I couldn’t get them interested.
Gingerly I started the counseling. In my mind I was re-doing my resume. My career as a counselor dived before it even took off. At the end of the session, the kids had to rate me. I knew their rating.
I asked the boy who had been rapped to stand up and asked him what he wanted to be.
“Nothing.” There was a ripple. I laughed with the class.
“ Well that’s one thing you surely can’t do. You will still keep growing. So you will at least be tall.”
He had no answer. Then I asked him what he wanted as a profession.
I dug deep. Reluctantly he told he had to finally enter the family business.
I tried to get him interested in English. He simply asked me how he would benefit.
“It will help you in your business.” He looked at me as if I was on parole from the mental hospital.
“We sell oil!” Again there was a snigger.
“ Maybe you could impress your girlfriend.” He looked at me with pity now.
“Have you seen my father?” The laughter grew louder. I had clearly lost it.
“Are you new to Gwalior?”
I nodded and then asked him why. He curtly told me that one didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to conclude that.
I shrugged my shoulders in resignation. It was a nightmare. A bunch of school kids had knocked the punch out of me. I decided to end my misery by closing the session. But to appear sportive I asked him if he wanted to ask me anything.
“Do you like Porn?” The class was silent. They knew he had gone too far and now were looking at my next move. I think the kid was smart. He had read my novel. I had to decide between telling him that the porn in the title was used in an asexual way and get booed or play to the gallery. I decided to play to the gallery.
I smiled and nodded. The crowd roared. I raised my hand to silence them and asked him the inevitable question.
“Sidharth, you know I could have reported you. You could be punished.”
“I know you can. But you wouldn’t.” He smiled shyly. “You are cool.”
For the second time the applause was for me. I had received validation from their leader.
The counseling proceeded smoothly after. Sidharth my tormentor had become Sidharth my savior.