Remembering a rebellious girlAs I said this in a soft spoken voice, tears rolled down her rosy cheeks. With gentle affection I caressed her hair. She stopped crying. For almost twenty minutes, we just sat there in silence staring at the cat. No words. Sometimes words are unnecessary if the feelings are genuine. And my feelings were genuine. For all her stubbornness and rebellious manners, I had a profound affection for Tibrata. I knew she was a lonely girl and was yearning for love and affection.
Born to an aristocratic family, Tibrata Thapa had a very pampered childhood. At home, they called her ‘Rajkumari’, and she indeed lived like a princess. She had a small army of maids to ensure all her needs were taken care of. As the only child, her parents always made sure that she got everything she wanted and pampered her immensely.
Needless to say, Tibrata was a spoiled brat. She was an attention seeker. She was also known for her short temper and was called ‘Time Bomb’ by her grade ten (F) classmates. Her school teachers were also exasperated with her temper tantrums.
“What does that girl think of herself? Princess of Persia? Or was she Lady Diana in her previous incarnation?” muttered her history teacher as he entered the staff room.
“Any problem, sir?” I politely inquired. But the old veteran teacher with over thirty five years of teaching experience kept on lamenting about how today’s ‘selfie’ generation have become ‘selfish’ and that Tibatra Thapa’s the worst student he has ever seen.
As the unfortunate class teacher of group 10(F), I was used to hearing complaints from my colleagues on Tibatra. I reluctantly got up from my desk chair and proceeded to the classroom to investigate the matter. As I entered the classroom, I saw Tibrata in a heated argument with some of her classmates. Despite my presence in the classroom, she continued yelling at those girls.
“Stop it. What is the problem here?” I interrupted.
The other girls started complaining about how Tibatra misbehaved with them. One by one they told how she is evil, rude and often uses foul language.
This was all routine for me. I had heard numerous complaints from her classmates. But today, I was in for a shock.
As the girls continued complaining,
Tibrata suddenly started screaming furiously. As soon as she stopped screaming she uttered a very obscene word at the girls, all of whom were shell shocked with what had just happened. It was a very offensive word, and I couldn’t believe a grade 10 student saying it, let alone yelling it in front of her class teacher.
The visibly shocked students glanced at me, anticipating my reaction and how I would handle the situation.
Spontaneously, I gave a tight slap on Tibrata’s aristocratic cheek. This was the first time in my teaching career that I had hit a girl. And it was hard slap. Tibatra couldn’t believe that I had just slapped her. She looked at me with shock and tears welled up her big eyes.
The damsel in distress then went to her bench, covered her face and cried alone for the whole day.
Nobody came forward to console her. Deep inside my heart I felt guilty for hitting her. But at that moment I was compelled to be stern.
She remained absent for many days henceforth. As her board exam was approaching, I was compelled to make a phone inquiry about her prolonged absence. Tibrata’s father picked up the phone.
“Sir, I know very well she has an attitude problem,” he confessed to me. “Even then I wish you had not resorted to hitting her.” Apparently, Tibrata’s father had already been informed about the slap. But he was not angry. He too was just exasperated as we were with his over pampered ‘Rajkumari’ daughter. Ever since the incident, every time her parents mentioned anything about her going back to school, she shut herself in her room.
Tibrata’s father invited me to his residence in Sanepa. It was a secluded bungalow with ample garden space.
When I arrived at his house, Tibatra was sitting cross-legged in the garden, and she had a cat on her lap. Even when I stood near her, she refused to acknowledge my presence. As requested by her father, I had come to talk some sense to this rebellious girl. It already appeared like an uphill battle.
Nevertheless, I sat down beside her. After a long uncomfortable silence, I apologised. I didn’t mean it, because I believed Tibrata truly deserved that slap. But at that moment, I knew an apology was my only option.
“I am sorry I hit you, Tibrata. Please forgive me,” I said.
As I said this in a soft spoken voice, tears rolled down her rosy cheeks. With gentle affection I caressed her hair. She stopped crying. For almost twenty minutes, we just sat there in silence staring at the cat. No words. Sometimes words are unnecessary if the feelings are genuine. And my feelings were genuine. For all her stubbornness and rebellious manners, I had a profound affection for Tibrata. I knew she was a lonely girl and was yearning for love and affection.
Tibrata came back to school the next day onwards. Her hot temper was gone and so was her rebelliousness. She was a completely different girl. She also appeared more at peace with herself. The most surprising part, she had become this very hardworking and dutiful student. She ended up securing 91 percent in SLC examination. Her accomplishment was beyond anybody’s expectation. What had wrought such a legendary transformation in Tibrata? Everybody asked me that question.
Frankly, I did not know what to tell them.
After all these years, I still remember that rebellious girl. Recently, I came across her father on a busy street who proudly told me that she is pursuing her MBBS with full scholarship in New Delhi. Then Tibrata’s father also asked me the same million dollar question, “After that afternoon with you at the garden years ago, she became as serene as a flower. Her temper and tantrums—just vanished! Tell me sir, how did you manage to bring about such a drastic change in my daughter’s behaviour?”
Frankly, I still didn’t know what to tell him. I never knew that a simple apology with some affection would change a rebel like Tibrata.
But it did.