Meenu was walking past the school again that day.
“One twos are two.” She heard the usual lessons. “One threes are three” she repeated with the voice this time, a proud smile on her face as if she had won a prize. She wondered what it meant though, if only she could enter the plush building and ask.
The private school was right in the middle of her path to work. The traffic signal was just round the corner. It was a five-storied building with many small rooms. Those rooms were always filled with voices, like her own. Many times she attempted to enter, but it always ended in being thrown away.
“Get lost you filthy girl, this place is not for you. You b*****d child. How dare you even dream of stepping inside?” was the usual abuse she received. She knew exactly what the watchman meant, still her curiosity got better of her every time she passed by it. The yearning to learn something always kept her spirits high whenever she saw it.
A 8-year-old , eldest of the four sisters and a drunkard father didn’t give her enough time to go search her answers. It had been one year since her mother passed away. Work was the only option left by her father. Selling random stuff on the signal was her forte now.
It was summer time, she was getting late for her job, but she felt an unknown desire to step inside the compound.
Meenu waited at the gate, hiding behind the old tree besides the compound wall. The sun rays playing hide and seek with the leaves amused her. She desperately wanted to get in.
As if God had fulfilled her wish, she saw a way through the wall, it required her to climb the tree. She did that in no time and reached the other side.
On reaching there she fell right on her knees, she got one more laceration as a reward.
Dusting her hands she stood up, the wound was hurting her, but she was mesmerised by what she saw. The school garden was beyond her imagination. So many flowers of beautiful colours, she wanted to pluck them all and take away with her. Hesitantly, she plucked a beautiful red rose, smiling at her in its full bloom. Oh! It was so attractive.
“How lucky are the children who come here?” She thought to herself.
“Two ones are two.” The voice interrupted her thoughts. She tiptoed towards the little window from where the sound was coming, careful to not draw attention of anyone.
Peeking through the window, she was amazed to see the room. It was full of children just like her holding something in their hands. They were seated on benches one behind the other. A man was reciting the familiar words she had almost by hearted by now.
“Two fives are?” She heard him ask everyone in the room. “Ten” came her reply, thankfully not loud enough for him to hear , but her answer reached a boy at the last bench.
He turned to look at her. He gave her a smile and continued to look ahead as before.
A bell rang and the perfect silence was now disturbed by a sudden commotion. The teacher took his belongings and all the children stood up thanking him in a synchronised tone.
She panicked as she felt a hand on her shoulder, and turned to see who it was. The watchman stood fuming at her.
“You dirty girl! How dare you enter the compound?” He shouted.
“What is the matter? Why are you shouting?”
Asked a lady wearing her thick rimmed spectacles as she hurried her way to the watchman.
“Nothing Madam. This filthy slum girl entered the school without my notice and was peeking in the classroom through the window.” He replied.
“I am sure madam she must have come to steal something from the garden. These urchins take away our flowers and sell them at the signal. I know their gang. We should check her.”
The lady gave her a stern look.
She looked at the terrified face of the little girl in tattered clothes. “Is he saying the truth? Have you stolen flowers young lady?”
“See madam, she is hiding something.” The watchman snatched away the rose from her grip. “I was right. She’s a thief.”
Meenu was shocked to witness all the chaos around her. Her mother always taught her that lying and stealing are the two things one should never do to get what they want. She could feel her body shivering, she was poor but not a thief.
“No madam, I did not steal. I just came here to learn.” She replied wiping the tears rolling down her face.
“Oh is it? Now you’re a liar too.” The watchman glared at her.
“No I am not. Believe me. I had come here to know something and I found the rose beautiful so I just plucked it to take home. I will not sell it any where. I am not a thief.” She started sobbing now.
“What did you want to know?” The lady asked her with a calm voice.
“Every day I pass from here, I hear these voices coming from the windows. I just wanted to know the meaning of it.”
“Voices? What voices?”
Meenu started reciting the tables. “One ones are one. One twos are two.”
She continued till she reached the table for four. That was when she stopped, she found the lady and the watchman watching her.
They both were dumbstruck.
The woman bent down. “I think you’re not a thief or a liar. You are gifted and you need to know a lot more than this.” She smiled at Meenu.
That day changed her life forever. Meenu still remembered it clearly. If it had not been her want to know more, she would’ve still been selling stuff at the signal.
“One twos are two.” Continued the similar echoes from the school as Dr. Meenu passed by it after many years, refreshing her memories and dampening her eyes.