The newcomer was middle-aged, and seemed vaguely familiar, but I could not place him. I thanked the waiter with a broad smile when he came with my order.
“Do you remember me, Sir?” my tablemate asked me. I shook my head, looking closely at him from above my spectacles.
“My name’s Joseph, Sir. I was your student.”
“Glad to hear that. When?”
He told me.
“What do you do now?”
“I’m a teacher. And, Sir, it was you who inspired me to choose that career.”
“Very interesting. How’s that?”
He told me.
The incident happened years ago when he was a seventh-class student. The school was patronized mostly by the poor. Hardly any student came well-dressed. Most of the writings were done on slates and only some important notes were taken on notebooks with pencils. Except for one Arun, whose uncle, foreign-employed, had given him a fancy pen with four refills of different colours. Joseph wanted that pen from the moment he saw it. One day he stole it from Arun’s bag and hid it in his pocket. It didn’t take much time for Arun to find the pen missing and complain to me, the teacher.
All students were asked to stand up and close their eyes while I checked. Soon I found the pen in his pocket. To his surprise, I continued the search silently without making any announcement.
“Now you can open your eyes”, I had said, “Arun, here’s your pen”.
There was no mention of the thief though every student expected it. I could have exposed him as the thief, taken him to the principal, shamed him in front of all, but had done nothing of the sort.
“That was the day I wanted to be a teacher like you. However, please don’t tell me you don’t remember me, Sir. It was from my pocket that you found the pen.”
“I remember the incident but not the culprit. I, too, had closed my eyes while searching.”
I had done nothing like that but had kept mum to give him another chance.