There was a lot of hushed whispering when Gowri Mam, their teacher, entered her class. The crunch of her footsteps seemed to break the conspiratorial commotion that the children were creating. Everyone slid back into their respective seats as Gowri Mam sat down.
‘Very interesting to note that you children have something very important to discuss early in the day,’ she said, smiling.
‘It’s nothing, Mam,’ said Rakesh. ‘we were just planning to ask you something.’
‘You may ask me anything you want as long as it doesn’t take up the whole period,’ told their teacher.
‘We were wondering if we could make certain changes in our system of running the class, Mam,’ said Sindhu feeling very important because most of her friends had selected her to talk to Gowri Mam. ‘I mean why should we have a class leader?’, Sindhu continued, ‘I know we should obey our parents, teachers and our seniors. But a leader is one among us. So what makes a leader more important than the rest of us? Why we should obey our class leader Vishnu all the time? After all he scores lesser marks than most of us, at times’. The others sniggered!
Gowri Mam looked at Vishnu. ‘Are you having any problem with the class Vishnu? Ego fights?’
‘None that I know of, Mam,’ replied Vishnu.
‘So, what is it then that the class wants to do?’ asked Gowri Mam, turning towards Sindhu.
‘I think we should do away with the leader system,’ said Sindhu. ‘We can take care of ourselves. Each one can be a leader for himself and not tell others what to do. We are not babies’. Sindhu sat down with a thump. She had never given such a long speech before.
Gowri Mam thought for a while. Then she said, ‘Alright! From tomorrow there will be no leader for this class. Vishnu, you need not be a leader any more. Just do your work. And now… let us get back to our regular class.’
The children looked around gleefully. Now they could do anything they wanted to during free hours without having to listen to Vishnu saying, ’Keep quiet…Keep quiet’ all the time.
The next morning Gowri Mam entered the class room carrying a stack of note books. ‘Students, here are your English test books. I will keep them on my table. You should all collect your test book and return to your desk. A surprise test starts in five minutes. Now...hurry..!’
There was a mad scramble as each student tried to rush to Gowri Mam’s table to collect his/her book. They pushed and shoved each other and in the process, books fell down in a flurry; hurried feet stepped over them; there was so much of shouting and confusion. Some grabbed books and ran to their desk only to find that the books were not theirs. ‘Hey, Meera this is your book!’ Meera’s hand stretched out eagerly as a book flew through the air towards her, pages fluttering madly. Within minutes the classroom looked like a small battlefield.
‘Students’, Gowri Mam’s voice rose loud in the air, ‘I gave you five minutes. But you have taken fifteen minutes and yet many of you have still not found your books. And look at the mess you have made! Now I want those who have found their books to return them to me.’
When all the books were on her table Gowri Mam turned to Vishnu and said, ‘Vishnu, now I give you five minutes to distribute these books to your classmates.’ Vishnu took the books and quietly walked around the class distributing the books among the class. When he had finished, Gowri Mam said, ‘Students, Vishnu has finished the task that I gave him in five minutes. Not just Vishnu but anybody can do this work efficiently. If only you had a class leader and had these books distributed, you could have had the time for the surprise test. But you have wasted precious minutes hunting for your books’. She then turned to Sindhu and asked, ‘Sindhu, You made your points clear yesterday. But… why did you speak? Why not somebody else?’
‘Cos they thought that I could speak loudly and clearly. That’s the reason…,’ dragged Sindhu. ‘So, to put your points clearly you need an able person to do it, don’t you?’ asked Gowri Mam. ‘If all of you had shouted, I would not have heard athing. Now, do you agree that you need a class leader?’
The class nodded silently. Gowri Mam continued, ‘Children, hereafter you shall take turns in being class leaders. If you learn from your mistakes and have the ‘Yes, I can!’ and the ‘I will never give up’ attitude, everybody is a leader!
‘He who has never learned to obey, cannot be a good commander’-Aristotle.