The annual examinations were going on.It was 10.45am.The headmistress was taking a round .She stopped at the hall where class 11 examinations were being held, when she saw the Ms.Mary craning her neck anxiously looking at the long corridor from the door of the hall.
The HM asked her, “What is the matter? The examination is on.Why are you at the door instead of keeping a watch in the hall?”
“Madam, one girl Shanthi has not yet come for the examination.It is already 10-45 am.I know she is a studious girl but from a poor family.I was just checking whether she was coming” replied Mary
“It is ok.Let me go to my room and telephone her house and find out,” she said and hurried her way to her office.The assistant got her home number and gave the phone to HM.
“I am HM speaking.Shanthi has not yet reached the examination hall.The examination has begun 30 minutes ago", said HM
Sorry madam, Shanthi died last night” said some voice.
“What! What are you talking? She attended the examination yesterday also.Who are you? Give the receiver to her parents or brothers.”
“I am Shanthi’s uncle.She hung herself last night.The reasons are not known to us.She was weak in mathematics and was afraid of taking the examination. Foolish girl! The cremation will take place by the evening after police gives clearance” said the voice.
It was like a sledge hammer blow to HM Her thoughts went along the lines.Why should a young girl commit suicide all of a sudden? Was there any untoward incident yesterday? Being weak in mathematics did not sound a good reason.She decided to probe into it further.She went to the examination hall and asked the girls to meet her at 1pm after the examination.
“Shanthi had committed suicide by hanging last night.What did Shanthi do after her examination yesterday?Did she tell any one of you that she was afraid of taking mathematics test/Did she accompany any one of you on her way to her house.Think carefully and tell me the truth”asked HM when the girls met her.
The girls saw one another but remained silent.The HM was annoyed.”Am I to assume that none of you saw Shanthi after the examination? How was she in Mathematics?”
One girl said”Shanthi was average in maths but good in all other subjects.She used to get 50 to 60% in maths but score above 80% in all other subjects.”
“That is good. But tell me, what did she do after writing the examination yesterday?” asked HM
There was again silence and none of the girls came up to say anything making it evident they were hiding something.
She prodded them again telling that she would not reveal their names under any circumstances. Then there was a chorus of voices telling "Suresh Sir, maths teacher, asked Shanthi to come with him to the staff room and that he would give her some last minute tips for tackling today’s examination.When she was hesitant and looked at us to accompany her Suresh sir said that he would assist only Shanthi as she was weak and that other girls need not come. Shanthi followed him reluctantly.We waited for 30 minutes and when she did not turn up we left for home.We do not know what happened subsequently.”
HM asked the girls not to speak to anyone about this and to go home.When she sent for Suresh, she was told that he had not turned up.She recollected some complaint about two years back against him for touching a girl inappropriately.She decided not to let the matter rest there.She rang up Shanthis house asking for her father to speak to her.When he came on the line, she narrated what she had learnt and that he should insist on medical examination and lodge a compalint about his suspicion that someone could have molested the girl.
The medical examination revealed attempts of a criminal assault.Suresh was rounded up from his native place.The interrogation revealed about his misbahviour with the girl when she refused to cooperate with him even when he lured her with centum in maths paper.He was arrested.
What was amazing in the whole episode was that Suresh happened to be the brother of HM and that she did not allow the relationship to cloud her decision to take matters to logical end..How many such people are there in our permissive and corrupt society??? I wonder!