This story is by Bilquis Dairkee and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The loud sound of the school bell rang calling the children to attend to their studies. Children of all ages assembled in the unkempt yard in the shade of tall coconut palms. The few teachers stood in front of the assembly facing the children. A silence fell broken by the soft breeze blowing the palms. A song sung all out of tune by children and staff to bless the day ended and teachers led their class starting with the kindergarten to the fourth grade in absolute silence.
Each class was made up of children as per their knowledge of the vernacular alphabets (Indian language). In my class were children ranging from the age of six to the age of fourteen. I was eight plus years and physically looked even younger. Therefore I was asked by the teacher to sit in the front row.
My teacher was a young woman tall and beautiful. She had a soft voice and a kind personality to arouse the curiosity of children towards learning. I adored my teacher and always worked hard to study the Indian vernacular language. Every day I looked forward to coming to school.
She carried a large ugly looking black leather bag. One day she came to school with a new purse. It was beige colored with a design in bright green. It was more like an evening purse without straps and fitted in her hand. Oh! How I admired it! I thought to myself “How did she transfer all the things in the big black bag to a small purse?”
I thought about the purse as I watched it on the teacher’s table day after day! I wanted to tell her how beautiful her new purse was and what she carried in it as tiny as it was!
I did not have the courage to do so, because I was afraid that I would fall out of her favor.
It was the end of the school week. We were all happy that next day we would be free to rest and not attend school. I packed my books and pencils into my metal small bag. As I was leaving, I found that my teacher had walked out of the class and the purse was on the table! I looked around and found that I was alone in the room. A strong urge to feel the purse and open it to find out what she carried inside drove me to her table! As I picked up the purse I heard a sound behind me and I panicked! My instinct was to hide the purse into my metal school bag and leave for home!
As I walked home, my conscience was troubled! Should I turn around and return the purse and ask for forgiveness? “No! “ I convinced myself that I was borrowing it for only one day! I have no intention to take anything out of the purse!
As soon as I reached home, I found that my mother was busy in another room and other members of the family were away except for the cook who was preparing afternoon meal.
I quickly saw this opportunity to take out the purse from my metal bag and go to the bathroom. This was the safe place to open the purse and find out its content! The bathroom door was locked and no one could enter it.
My hands were trembling as I opened the beautiful purse of my teacher! What I found was a comb and few rubber bands; a small mirror; a pen, few notes and coins and a railway pass (she lived away from the school and came by train to teach). I looked in the mirror and smiled. I wanted to use the comb, but I was taught never to use anyone’s comb including family members. I liked the hard feel of the purse as it fit into my palm! I liked the roundness of the purse but most of all I admired the colorful design in green on it! I had to find a place to hide the purse from my parents and other people. I decided to hide it on the bathroom shelf behind boxes of soap and other knickknacks. It will be for only a short time, I thought to myself! I had every intention of returning it to the teacher, quietly leaving it on her desk. That was that. I left the bathroom quite satisfied about my curiosity.
As there was no school the next day, I returned to school the following day and forgot to take the purse with me! I realized it as soon as I saw my teacher who entered the classroom holding the ugly black bag! I felt ashamed and was confused and scared about owning up my crime! How I wanted to run home and fetch the purse! It was the hardest day for me. I avoided looking at my favorite teacher and could not concentrate on my lesson. I wanted to return the purse without being caught and punished.
In the meanwhile, all Parents were contacted and requested to ask their children regarding the lost purse. That day as I returned home from school, my parents questioned me. They were sure that I couldn’t have taken it. By this time I had gone through such anguish that I told them of what I had done! I still remember the shock on their faces! There was pin drop silence, it was an eternity and then came furious anger and some hard blows on my bottom from my mom. I felt I had let down my parents, my family, and my teacher and how will I face my friends at school. Things will never be the same for me again. I don’t want to go to the school any more.
My parents decided to take me back right then and there to the school and face the teacher and the principal. Thank God that the children had left except for the staff who was winding up their work for the day.
The principal was shocked! My teacher was called to the principal’s office and I handed her the purse. I was weeping and I was apologizing in the hope that she will not hate me. The crime, the disappointment and the anger of the elders having subsided, they turned to me and asked me as to what made me do it. It was difficult for me to speak my feelings about the purse. My teacher looked at me kindly and gently prodded me with words of encouragement that I told them that I was curious about the new purse. I had no intention of taking away anything from the purse and I had every intention of returning it to my teacher. In turn my apology was accepted specially by my teacher who always gave me equal attention for the rest of the time that I was in her class.
She became my role model and now I am a teacher. This incident in my life prepared me to not judge young children’s behavior but to see beyond it to correct with understanding and love.