Teenage memories never leave us. Childhood playmates keep coming down our memory lane. Meeting old friends in dreams revives youthful emotions of pure joy. Like Wordsworth's emotions recollected in tranquillity, at such heavenly moments I feel thrilled.
God works in miraculous ways to perform His wonders. I was in Class 8. My English teacher would force us to cram what he would dictate from a cheap help book which he kept wrapped in an old crumpled notebook. Unable to cram, I would write the test in my tuti-phuti (broken) English. The angry teacher would take me to various classes, beat me and rebuke me in front of students. One night, I wrote a letter to the editor of an English daily. After some days, it got published. This was a miracle. My classmate Noori showed that letter to our English teacher. He gave me a pat on the back. This was the only time he was that kind. Now he told everyone that I was his favourite pupil! Even Noori started showing interest in me. This was another miracle.
Purely out of innocence, the figure of the beautiful, slim Noori, her plump, fair face, her left cheek having three enticing moles, would come to my mind even at night. It encouraged me to draw her portrait, clearly delineating the moles and her pointed nose. As a result, she developed a soft corner for me. My classmates would envy me. They, too, started drawing her sketches. But Noori always stood by me. Alas, her parents married her at that tender age, even without seeking her consent!
Another wonder came in 1966 when I was at Government Barjindra College, Faridkot. Luckily, I was enrolled in the English section being taught by Dr Amarjeet Singh Hayer, a popular teacher, who sincerely guided us how to write correct English. He was the one who recommended to us an English-to-English dictionary. That considerably improved my writing skills. And I stood first in the class.
Having post-graduated in English and psychology I jumped into a well-paid job. My research in neuro-linguistics with a specialisation in career counselling fetched me wonderful job offers from far and wide. While others ran after jobs, these ran after me.
Working as the head of department and vice-principal at DAV College, Kangra, was a rare bliss. In the early 1970s, the town of Kangra was like a small village, having a countable few shops. Getting quality milk was a big problem. I being the son of a farmer and my wife the daughter of a flourishing zamindar of Punjab, we bred rare quality cows of our own, adding Punjab-like look to our house.
Pilgrims visit Kangra thrice a year. The biggest rush of Punjabis is here during the monsoon. Every year, I would observe faces of Punjabi women, hoping Noori, too, would turn up. Years passed, but my hope to see Noori never ended. One day, I saw a plump woman, wearing rustic clothes, having three moles on her left cheek. Her pointed nose confirmed she must be Noori. Now she was no more slim, graceful and elegant.
I kept looking at her face. Her husband told me: "You fool, why stare that way... are you mad?" I pleaded: "Not mad, Sir, I'm simply sad... is this the face of Noori...!" The man wondered: "Noori!... you...Dharam...!..." Though he took me in his arms, I felt a tinge of pessimism, like Marlowe's Faustus, who saw the unexpected face of Helen of Troy. Really, this was yet another wonder.