Mes fées françaises
My French Fairies
I always marvel at Life’s wonderful sense of humour. It loves playing pranks on us poor unsuspecting mortals and if you listen carefully, you can sometimes hear it wickedly sniggering away at our haplessness. Sometimes Life assumes the role of a very strict teacher who challenges us, comes up with various ways of testing our patience and grit, and makes sure to drill some extremely difficult lessons into our head. There are times when it frightens us, makes us weep, and question it’s intentions and purpose. It’s a hard taskmaster, this Life; and sometimes one can’t help but hate it.
But then… once in a while, it brings us unexpected gifts.
One such gift came my way last May when my enthusiasm was ebbing fast, the word “hope” was fading away from my dictionary and I’d begun questioning the very existence of goodness in today’s world.
One day, out of the blue, my sister asked if I’d like to learn French. The teacher at the college she was working with was starting a new summer batch, and my sister assured me that this was the kind of dream teacher we’d always wished we had at school.
Now, truth be told, I’d never been very fond of French. At the same time, I knew it to be a useful language – as a History student, my zilch understanding of French often hampered my work. Since I had nothing better to do anyway, I said, “Sure, why not!” So the following day we went to learn French.
I have no recollection of what my first words were when I met the new teacher or whether I smiled or shook hands – what I do remember is how I felt on seeing her. Usually, I quiver with nervousness on meeting new people. Many times I’ve been outright rude and uptight (unintentionally, of course) and haven’t even greeted the person properly. But when I met Christine Ma’am, none of those uncomfortable emotions surfaced. I felt so at ease that I was amazed at myself! It was like I’d known her forever – like we met everyday… it was that easy.
Then I met my new classmates. It turned out to be an all-girls class with Mugdha, Shilpa, Shehla, Shirley and me. Since this was an adults’ class and we were all working, grown-up women (Shehla is a mother to an 18-year-old!), we were all well-behaved and sophisticated –
– ONLY for the first couple of weeks!
Ma’am once told us “Bring your inner child out” and we took her way too seriously.
By the end of Week 3, we were worse than the naughtiest kids imaginable!
Shedding all inhibitions and pretense of being prim and proper, we became a bunch of truly notorious kids. We became the kind of students who are found standing outside class in detention or having their parents called by the principal. We talked nonstop – “You girls can talk the spots off a leopard!” Christine Ma’am always said – we cracked jokes, kept talking out of turn when Ma’am asked questions (despite most of us being professors), made the silliest of mistakes and then giggled away uncontrollably. And we ate a lot! Every class, someone – everyone – would get something yummy and we’d shamelessly gobble it all up like 5-year old at a birthday party.
Ma’am gave us, what were obviously meant to be, stern disciplinary looks but that made us laugh so hard that Ma’am too joined in the laughter.
All us “girls” became a “gang”. Shehla was the Mummy of the group – feeding us with her excellent hand-made delicacies and the best one-liners that sent us all roaring with laughter and striking Christine Ma’am speechless. Shilpa became Shilpa Bhai – our class don. The most hardworking, straight-talking of us all, her anecdotes about how she rightly put some people in their place made our jaws drop open in sheer awe. For all her courage and bhai-giri, her heart is pure and full of love! In fact, she is the most sensitive of us all but doesn’t let it show. And Shirley! Remember how in school, the class monitor would write the name of the talkative students on the board? Well, Shirley’s name would’ve filled the entire board! Always smiling, laughing & excited about everything… Shirley meant energy, positivity and generosity personified.
As for Christine Ma’am, she was our anchor who kept us all together. We could ask her for advice on literally anything and she always knew the right solution. She read each of us like a book – knowing exactly if we were confused or sad or just preoccupied. And she always brought us back to our happy selves before we left class.
Nine months have passed and we’re all still together, eating and laughing… and learning some French too. When I look back upon the Mrunal before French class and the Mrunal now, I see a huge difference. I smile much more, laugh more easily, wake up feeling hopeful and happy. I’m not anxious and nervous anymore. Most importantly, I love myself more than ever before. And all this has happened thanks only to my French class.
In that classroom, among those people, I’m not afraid to be myself. I know that my greatest flaws are accepted without question. My little quirks are not looked down upon. My really bad jokes, my habit of doing a little dance sometimes or sticking my tongue out when I’m concentrating hard are not considered unladylike and weird. On the contrary, they are celebrated. They are loved. I am loved.
I sometimes wonder why this class came my way unannounced. Maybe it was Life’s way of telling me that it wasn’t so bad after all – that it loved me for who I was. Thank you, Christine Ma’am and my lovely, giggly, crazy fairies, – you make my days brighter and my heart lighter with your laughter. Thank you for being my sunshine always… thank you for introducing me to the real ME.
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