What lies beneath

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The 5:30 AM down train that I took every morning proved to be a catalyst towards opening my eyes from my self-established conviction that wrong-doers must be hated, scorned, ridiculed, derided and all the other synonyms that go with it. However, I consciously did not want to include the word punished in that list. That’s true. While wrong-doers must be punished, they need not be hated no matter how cruel or gross the deed might be! Easier said than done. Yes, I agree, but I am working on this till date and will continue to do so. I may not like their deeds, intents, but neither do I have to hate them.

The truth hit me hard when a long episode of hatred converted to respect. I had this constant spat with the head of my department at the school where I worked as an assistant teacher for the English language. She was commonly known as EHOD. I was a new joinee and the youngest teacher on board and was tagged as ‘Miss Junior’. She was seven years my senior. Obviously she had an edge with her experience and exposure to life skills. I did not hate her for her seniority. But I had my valid reasons.

I joined the school in the middle of the academic year. Being highly qualified then (not anymore), I was mistaken for a snob. While everyone had a smile to welcome me, none offered any help to start off. The initial days were not hiccups but more of hurricanes! Few days into and I managed to make friends and even hit off well with a few. Sooner than later, the Chief Trustee recognised my work and began entrusting me with more senior responsibilities. The hurricanes seemed to subside. But my EHOD plagued me throughout. She took an objection to everything I did.

The first critical objection she took was with my work timings. The school’s policy allowed staff members to regulate their reporting hours to accommodate their corresponding work schedules, in a way offering flexibility. The school started at 6.30 AM. As I lived the farthest, I requested reaching the school at 8.15 AM before my first session that was scheduled at 9:00 AM every day. If I had to reach the school at 6.15 AM, I needed to leave home at 5:10 AM and travel by the 5.30 AM local train. None had issues with my request. But EHOD outright turned it down with no room to negotiate. After many meetings I eventually decided to give in to the 6.30 AM slot. Humiliation and resentment ruled large. With great disdain I began journeying in the 5.30 AM local. Adding injury to insult, almost every other day I ended up leaving the school not before 5 PM.

It didn’t stop there.

I proposed to computerise the school’s administration system. ‘Nope’ she voted. I recommended some good candidates for vacant positions in the school. She voted a ‘nope’ again. Instead of leading the students in idol worship, I suggested patriotic songs as a good way to start the day. The Lead Administrator and the Chief Trustee loved the logic behind my suggestion. But the EHOD was a total nopety nope. She never explained her objections. Oh…how I hated her! I wished her death…not knowing that I was the one who was dying with all that hatred in my heart. She definitely seemed to flourish alright till one day after the final examinations, I realised the truth.

During lunch break, the Administrator hurried into the staff room to make a hushed announcement. She said that the EHOD had quit her job without tendering a notice period. Boy that was music to my ears! Without providing any further explanation the Administrator came straight to the point. With the examinations just recently completed, the answer sheets needed to be evaluated, scored and recorded. Manually of course. The Administrator informed that the EHOD had handed over her bundles of answer sheets, which were pending evaluation. Now the rest of us had to pitch in to complete this work and turn it around the next day. Each of us had to pick up at least one bundle. There were six bundles of different sizes. A few small, very small, big and bigger. But there was one mammoth bundle that stood out prominently. Even before I could step out of my musical realm and decide which one to pick, all the other staff members had already picked the smaller ones. The mammoth now stared point blank, right at me. The Administrator smiled at me and I lamely picked it up mentally cussing the EHOD. This seemed like her one last ‘mammoth’, unwelcome farewell gift for me. Hopefully the last one I thought!

After reaching home, I reluctantly opened the mammoth bundle. Much to my surprise, all the sheets in the entire bundle seemed to be already evaluated. I double-checked the evaluation record. I then mapped the scores in each answer sheet with the entries in the evaluation record. It tallied perfectly! The EHOD had already evaluated this mammoth bundle. But somewhere I had my doubts. So I picked up my phone and called the EHOD to double-check. She answered my call immediately. She confirmed that the mammoth set of answer sheets were all done as these sheets belonged to students who would be promoted to their final grades in the school. She did mention that the mammoth bundle was the only one which she had completed. All other bundles were pending. Phew…what a relief! Not wanting any further discussion, I quickly thanked her and kept the call. All sorted in a minute.

Next morning in the 5.30 AM local, I was tempted to once again open the mammoth and check the kind of comments EHOD shared with her students. I gave in to my temptation and randomly peered through the answer sheets. Surprise met me on all those sheets as I gently flipped through. She had a small note in red ink, boxed out at the end of each answer sheet that read:

“Forgive me for misguiding in a number of instances where my understanding was off track. Miss Junior will help rectify your learning.”

The boxed note ended with her initials and date signed across. All the sheets had this manually written note in red ink.

My heart sank. Here’s a senior staff who headed the English department and she humbly (and almost publicly) accepted her area of improvement. She gracefully stepped down to allow correction. Beneath her cold veneer of opposition, there was brewing a volatile stream of conscientious examination. And beneath my victimised disposition, I had a volcano of hatred. I felt like a fool having harboured all that bitterness and hatred. She sure was brave and sane. Her status suddenly upgraded to my list of heroes. My respect for EHOD suddenly soared notches high.

Where was all my hatred now? I hated her only because I could not get her to agree with my terms, my ways. But now suddenly because she accepted her dips and commended my abilities, my hatred was all gone? I was a failure in realising that every human has an intricate fibre called ‘conscience’ that operates at different paces and levels. I had all my emotions and facts twined into a self-focussed mesh. I woke up to the truth and realised it was not the EHOD but I who needed a serious overhauling.

Am still at it. Now, I make a conscious effort to not hate anyone especially those who’ve wronged me, lest I become ‘difficult’ too! I pray and see difficult people as opportunities to help me outgrow living within my own terms, conditions and boxes. It sure is difficult ‘not to be difficult’, but it is not impossible!

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me – Philippians 4:13.

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