It’s long time ago but seems only yesterday. I was then a boy of about ten years, studying in class five. Our school was about a kilometer away from the house we lived in.
One day our Headmaster , Mr. Subir Roy, came to our classroom with one young Anglo Indian lady and introduced her to us. She would be hardly 22/23 years old.
‘ Boys, she is Miss Sofia Stanton, your new class teacher from tomorrow. She will take your English class.’
She smiled at us and said ‘ Hello’. All of us stood up and greeted her . We were very happy and liked her from that day itself. She was tall, slim, very pretty and smart. I can remember she was wearing a light green skirt with a matching top and a a light green scarf on her neck and she had very pointed high heeled shoes, . From her appearance alone we could make out that she was a very good person.
In those days many of the teachers carried a cane in their hands. And this used to frighten us. I can recall many occasions when we all got caned by our previous class teacher as someone made some noise and on being questioned who did it we all kept quiet. He used to take our English class but we really and truly could not follow him properly. He was an elderly person with a big moustache and heavy powered glasses which made his eyeballs look very big and he never had any smile on his face. His handwriting was horrible and so was his English pronunciation.
My difficulty was that often I could not even properly see what the teachers were writing on to the blackboard. This was because of Anjan, who sat right in front of me, was much taller than I. Raja and Sudip, who sat on his either side, were equally tall.
The next day our joy knew no bounds when Miss Stanton entered our class room . What a big difference, she did not bring any cane with her. She smiled and said Hello to us. Then she took a good look at us all from left to right , right to left and said ‘ I think your sitting arrangement should be different.
She asked me and some of the boys to sit on the first bench and to those who were very tall to take seat at the back. She came forward, made some more adjustments and thereafter stepped back, looked us all again, smiled and wanted to know whether we all could clearly see the writings on the blackboard. When we all said Yes she felt happy and said ‘ That’s it, this arrangement is fine and you must sit this way ’.
After the roll call was over she closed the register, smiled and told about herself . Then she casually tested our knowledge in English, basically spellings.
One day , after school hours, a few of us gathered outside and discussed about Miss Stanton.
Ramesh said ‘ I wonder how could she speak English so fluently and pronounce each word so clearly !’.
‘It’s because English is her mother tongue’, said Raja.
Bobby said ‘ Well that’s not as simple as that. Our mother tongue is Bengali but do we all speak the language beautifully ? Take our friends Naveen and Chandan for example, half the time we cannot make out when they talk ’.
We all laughed. Naveen and Chandan were also there and they laughed too.
‘ No doubt our new Miss speaks so nicely. But then we have to admit that we take interest to listen to each and every word she utters is because she is so pretty and has such a sweet voice.’ Anjan said with a smile.
Pintu smiled and said in a low voice ‘ Really, She is like Helen of Troy.’
‘ But what do you know about Helen of Troy ?’ Raja asked.
‘ Well I have heard that she was very beautiful.’ Pintu replied, he was still smiling.
Everyone burst out laughing . It was about to rain, we all said goodbye to one another and left for home hurriedly.
I liked Miss Stanton so much that one day I told my mother that I would marry this young lady. My mother looked at me and laughed but didn’t say a word.
One day , I remember , I was late in reaching school as I had overslept. I stood outside the classroom, Miss Stanton was busy writing something on to the blackboard. Before I could ask her permission to enter the classroom she looked at me , smiled and said ‘ Yes , Come in and take your seat , by the way why are you late ?'
When I said that I had overslept she laughed and said ' Don't worry, we all do sometimes.' Everyone laughed.
What a big difference , our previous class teacher never allowed entry to the classroom if we were late even for three four minutes !.
Next day Miss Stanton called me near her and gave me a chalk and asked me to write a few words on to the blackboard. As she called out the words. I can recall, I wrote them all spelling correctly. She patted my back and said ‘ Very Good.' This was indeed a big inspiration that did a world of good to me. I started to love the language and wanted to genuinely learn the language well. I did all the homework on time and she used to give her remark “ Good”, “Very Good”, “Excellent” and even ‘Superb”.
On return from school I used to be proud to show my copy book to my parents, brothers and sisters. I think I became Miss Stanton's most favorite student. She was very frank and easy and often she used to crack a few jokes. From time to time she would also tell us stories, if time permitted. I never missed her class.
One day, Miss Stanton told us in tears that she would have to leave us all next moth as she would be proceeding to Germany for higher studies. This came to us like a bolt from the blue. We were stunned , speechless and were in utter sadness.
Time came for her to hold the last class and before saying Goodbye she gave us all a hug and wished us all happiness. As she was leaving for her hostel after the school was over, I stopped her and wanted to know her flight details and took her address in Germany. She noted down my name and address and also date of birth and said that she would be in touch.
Her joy knew no bounds when she saw me at the airport with my elder sister to see her off. Immediate after reaching Germany she had dropped me a few lines and I had made it a habit to write to her at least one letter every month. The biggest surprise I had when I received two beautiful pens from her on my birthday all the way from Germany. She also sent a small card reading ‘ Happy Birthday Joy, wish you long life and happiness. These pens will be of use to you and remind you of me.'
I used to hide the pens from my brothers and sisters but they always found my secret places. I would not allow any one to write with those pens as they were very precious and special to me. I used to run after my sister to get the pens back if she ever got hold of them . One day my mother took custody of the pens and said ‘ Joy, these are your pens and I shall keep them in a safe place.' I felt happy.
My mother was suffering from high blood pressure and was physically very weak. Her memory also started to deteriorate. One day she could not show me the pens as she could not recall her hidden place. My father assured me that the pens were in safe place and that mother would find them out when she got better.
Mother’s health condition further deteriorated and she died in the hospital. After a few months my father found the pens inside one old trunk. The pens were put in a box on which my mother had written ' These pens belong to Joy only.' As the pens were handed over to me I could not hold my tears. I was sure that from heaven above my mother could see that the pens were in my possession and tears rolled down her eyes too in happiness.
Years gone by, I left school , left college and found myself a job in Mumbai. My communication with Miss Stanton for all these years continued unabated. There had been numerous exchange of letters, Greeting cards and photographs and also telephone calls from time to time.
One night , as I was going to bed, the telephone rang. I picked up the phone and was so happy to hear Miss Stanton's sweet voice. We chatted for sometime and thereafter I couldn't believe my ears what I heard .She told me that she was getting married to Peter Robson, a Doctor from Delhi working in a Hospital in Germany .
' I have told Peter all about you. You will like him when you meet. We both will leave Germany for good and settle down in Delhi shortly. I have found for myself a job in one Public School there , Peter is planning to start private practice. Well, you can then visit us in Delhi from time to time and stay with us. Do remember me to everyone in your family and convey my regards. Bye for now my dear, take care.”
I felt terribly lonely, could not hold my tears, sat on a chair near my bedroom window and stayed awake all night thinking about Miss Stanton and what she said. On one hand I was happy that I would be able to see her soon and on the other I was so sad to think that the dream I had nurtured for all these years to have her with me forever would never come true !. I felt weak and lost and my heart empty . I realized that I loved her really and truly from the bottom of my heart. How foolish of me I never expressed my love to her but allowed my dream to grow for too long silently…