As soon as I entered the room, a handsome face looked up from the table. It was automatically presumable that he was the teacher. But, he motioned towards another figure. This person sat with his cell radio on. An aged man with a white beard, spectacles set neatly on nose and lips tightened. His expression wasn’t a welcoming one. The batch of ten boys looked excited upon seeing an outsider (me). I am talking about the vocational wing of GIMRC (Government Institution for Mentally Retarded Children). I had gone to the book binding room, just to gain insights into the proceedings therein.
Having taken my introduction, he seemed to have let gone of me as we throw the wrapper of a sweet. I sat there for sometime, looking around. There were old machines, thick books, a lot of paper cuttings and, more thick books. Plus, some posters pasted on wall. By now, some of the boys were smiling at me shyly, while other seemed oblivious to my presence.
Realizing the futility of sitting there, I asked leave from the teacher. He nodded. However, as I got up to go, he started talking about himself. I listened, standing. Coming from an army background, he was educated in the field of astrology and numerology. “I want to proceed on to a PhD in astrology, but, for the financial constraints.” He shared.
He had been teaching in GIMRC for past ten years, and felt proud of his boys. I noticed a stick hidden below the table. “It’s only for scaring the boys, I never use it. Mine is the most disciplined class in the vocational wing.” I smiled a bit nervously… the stick had had some impact on me, too.
A hefty boy suddenly got up and brought a glass of water for the teacher. He had been trained to offer it every three hours, the same boy had previously been the noisiest one in the class; I was told. He offered water to me as well.
We sat quietly for sometime. FM played DDLJ songs. “Shahrukh Khan is my favorite”, the teacher moved his head passionately. I smiled. And, felt encouraged in pursuing a conversation with him…
“How does the binding proceed?”
“We get books and journals from all educational institutions in Chandigarh. The first step is to remove the advertisements.” He answered.
”I align all of them.” He demonstrated. The task takes time and concentration. All the pages, however thick the book/journal might be, have to be aligned.
“Then we paste a longitudinal peace of cloth along the to-be-bound side. This is to keep the aligned pages aligned.”
“Next, we paste the cardboard on both sides and fix it with the machines. The machines are also used to print ‘GIMRC’ on the side.”
“That must be the last step?”
“No. At this stage the book/journal is bound, but, not presentable. There is a gap of level at the place where the cloth is pasted.”
“We paste another piece of cloth there.”
I was truly amazed at the entire procedure. Sitting comfortably in libraries, we never wonder where the neatly bound books come from. There is a whole story behind them…
Now, I look up to the boys… the band of boys… the so-called mentally handicapped boys… they are all working silently… tearing advertisements… cutting cloth pieces… while the radio goes on… And the teacher; he is a strict disciplinarian.
As I stood up to take leave after thanking the teacher, my eyes drifted towards the handsome face. He was busy. All of them were busy… the teacher encouraged me to go on more of such info-seeking sprees. He told me he looked up to such people. I didn’t know what to say, hence, with a smile, I walked out.
It was day for me.