I need to talk about it. The chances of meeting her are remote but if I do, I have some questions to ask her. Elizabeth's laughter was contagious. She would make our class of 30 laugh at the drop of a hat. I loved her, and as a young teenager I would wonder what made her so merry. Elsy (that's what we would call her) lost her father when she was an infant. She had an elder sister and two younger brothers. A family of four was quite a responsibility for her mother Mrs. Chatterjee who was also our Math teacher. Mrs. Chatterjee did not keep good health and often she was ill. The family was given accommodation in the staff quarters of the school and I think the school had waived off her children's fees. Yet it was a struggle because in those days (mid late 60s) teachers would get a salary of Rs.50, at the lost Rs.400.

Elsy's sister Dorothy was a star student; good at everything, but Elsy was "below average". Often dressed in torn uniform and laddered socks, she would sit at the corner chair, next to the window. I would sit at the chair in front of her and we were punished for distracting the class. Nothing seemed to affect the young girl. She had that immense capacity to laugh it off. There were days she would come and tell me of their hardships and how she had to grow up soon to fend for her mother and younger brother. Her sister, after finishing Senior Cambridge (Class XIII), did her teacher's training and started teaching. Mrs. Chatterji had to give up her job because of her health, and soon she passed away.

We did our ICSE and broke for the summer vacation. After two months when I returned to school I was told that the Chatterjee family had moved out of campus and Elsy had joined some order to become a nun. It's 28 years now since the incident. I am still battling with the truth. What happened to Elsy? I had tried hard to find out about he but I couldn't.

Today, another friend has given me a reason to write something as personal as this. I desist talking when I beg forgiveness because every life is precious and I feel very incompetent for not doing anything to alleviate suffering. Amita (name changed) is another person who loved life. An extremely caring and emotional person, she never got anyone to take care of her emotions. I saw her philandering love. She would smile at everyone at work and laugh her troubles off. She would share with me most of her things. She had a bad marriage. She broke free of it to get into something worse. I knew this would not lead her anywhere but she had hopes. The relationship crashed, very painfully for her. Amita wanted a life, partner who would love her, take care of her and her child, somebody who would understand her. Her search proved futile.

Amita recently joined a spiritual order. She smiles as frequently as she did three years back. People think she has found her peace.

- BY Bala Chauhan

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