The Teacher: A Story by Lalita Vaitheswaran

It had been a tough day for me. My project file which I had been preparing for the past week had been rejected. I had been removed as the project leader and was given a lesser important target to meet.

“Look at this! So many errors! What have you been up to Sukesh?”

The boss was roaring at me as he threw the file on the floor.

I knew I have never liked my work. There was no other option and that is why I had joined this company.

I remembered how during the project report writing, I listened to my favorite music, with ear-plugs which canceled surrounding noise.

I sat on my office table looking outside from the glass wall that separated the big room from the corridors. I was morose and watched intensely.

She was thin and frail carrying a mopping brush and a bucket of water, going along corridors, cleaning, mopping and removing stains.

I had seen her every day. Always with a smile on her face, she would caution us about wet floors as we crossed the corridors.

From morning till late noon, she would be seen hopping floor to floor, wing to wing with her bucket and mop.

A sudden ring on my mobile phone distracted me and I was busy talking to my friend who had called.

The next day, I got up from bed disinterested and lethargic. Office work was so monotonous. The same project files, meetings, deadlines, targets, boss……it was getting so predictable and mundane.

Black clouds had already started gathering and suggesting it would rain anytime. Suddenly there started a downpour. I parked my bike in a daze and as I got down, my shoes got caught in a mushy land.

As I walked on the corridor floor, my shoes were making muddy trails. I saw her following me slowly mopping and cleaning every mark that my shoe made.

I do not know whether it was just curiosity or guilt that made me stop and ask her,
“Why are you cleaning after me? Today is a rainy day. So many people will bring in mud and water inside. How many times are you going to clean? Are they going to give you extra money?”

She smiled as replied “Sahab, it does not matter. The corridor shouldn’t look dirty. It’s my job to keep it clean, so why should I ask for extra money? I love to do my work as it brings in food for my family. My child gets milk and can eat two meals every day. If I cheat or show carelessness in my work, how will I face God?”

I was taken aback. Today, I learned many life lessons from an illiterate woman who respected her job, and believed in professionalism- the heavy jargons which we business graduates use so often in complete hollowness.

After so many years again, I had found ‘the teacher’.