A Plus B the Whole Squared

Author’s Note: Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals being spoken about.

I have a very vivid memory of my first day of higher secondary school.

All of us progressed from secondary to higher secondary with a lot of trepidation and uncertainty. We were about to learn that Mathematics was actually more complicated than it was made out to be all these years, and we now had the privilege/honor/terror of twice the Mathematics in the form of Algebra and Geometry. We were also about to experience the force of nature that Saraswati Teacher was, for the first time.

Four sisters before me had passed out from the same school. Naturally, all teachers had four times the expectations from me. Sorry the maths doesn’t add up there, including my own effort, it was five times!

It didn’t help that each of my sisters excelled in one subject or another, and invariably became the “pets” of one teacher or the other.

One of my sisters is a mathematics wizard. She has inherited the entire brilliance of mathematics that resided in my father’s genetic make-up and then some! The lowest she ever scored in these subjects was 99. Yes, you read that right. Naturally, she was Saraswati Teacher’s favourite student of all time.

This thought was uppermost in my mind when (like a blockbuster movie’s first day, first show anticipation) on the first day of 8th standard, in the very first period, Saraswati Teacher stormed into class.

I still remember that day as if it was yesterday. Without any introduction or preamble, she went to the first student in the left corner of the first row, and barked, “What is a+b the whole squared?”

She proceeded to give exactly 5 seconds per gawking student to answer, leaving them standing if they didn’t get it right. In my mind, I was elated. Yes! I remembered hearing every single of my sisters reciting these first year Algebra formulae so clearly. Sometimes it can be an advantage to have four elder sisters pass out before you from the same school, many things sound familiar before you even learn about them. It’s almost like déjà vu!

And so when my turn came, I stood up in a second and yelled at the top of my nervous squeaky voice, “a square plus 2ab plus b square!”

After what felt like an eternity, Saraswati Teacher nodded slightly, my cue to sit back down. By this time, more than half the class was standing. And when Saraswati Teacher was done with her somewhat ruthless introduction to Algebra, I was the only one left sitting in the class.

Like all memories of childhood, this one too had settled somewhere at the back of my mind, long forgotten but pleasant nevertheless to recall and recount over the years whenever talk of Mathematics or school came up.

A few months back I recalled this memory once again. I had just heard that Saraswati Teacher had passed away after a long battle with cancer. And all I could think of was that classroom and that day, and how, some people stay on forever, leaving an indelible mark on our mind and the world.

Author’s Note – This post originally appeared in SiyaWoman. The content has been slightly changed for relevance to present time. Republished with permission from SiyaWoman. Link to original post given below: http://www.siyawoman.com/unforgettable-people-plus-b-whole-squared/

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