Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Campus Lights


By Shelly Mary Varghese

Sunday, June 13, 2021

It was asphyxiating. It was merely impossible for us to run on two days of limited sleep. How could she do this to herself? What sense of joy would she gain after this?

Sleep deprivation was not news for my Mummy because ever since the onset of the pandemic, her life had been completely altered. I saw her pulling constant all-nighters to gather material to teach in class the next day because even sending a simple text message on her mobile phone seemed like a herculean task for her. Learning how to create countless PowerPoint presentations and handling an entire day’s online classes were nonetheless, utterly excruciating. I watched her struggle endlessly but with a look of undeniable determination etched on her pale face. I knew then, that Mummy was a staunch, go-getter.

“Ms. Zubaida, Ms. Zubaida!” I heard one of her students call out for her. Mummy’s weary face immediately brightened up. Perhaps, this was why she sacrificed her sleep. With an amusing smile, she cooed. 

“Little Sam, what are you up to now?” 

The boy who was basically the class clown giggled, mischievously. He could barely manage to reply between his chuckles. Mummy was very fond of Sam. He was an affectionate kid who was always stirring up trouble but never failed to make her laugh.

“There’s…something…funny on the screen, Ma’am.” Mummy’s heart dropped at the giggling five-year old’s words, and so did mine.

With a racing heart, she quickly minimized her Google Classroom tab to figure out what she was accidentally sharing on her screen. On the right corner of a website she had opened up this morning, there was a picture of a dancing monkey. Who knew that educational websites displayed such silly pop up advertisements!

Mummy heaved a relieved sigh when she realized that one of her worst nightmares—even in the literal sense—had not come true. She often had terrible dreams about the innumerable mishaps she was bound to encounter while conducting online classes. Be it accidentally screen sharing content that was not child-friendly or having trouble with switching on her microphone, she had been anxious about every single misfortune. 

Therefore, my desperation to comfort her was simply inexpressible through mere words. 

At the moment, she was making a record of that day’s class attendance. Putting a checkmark against each student’s name, she was delighted that all her students were in attendance. But the contentment she felt dissipated as quickly as it came. 

Her laptop screen had unexpectedly frozen and as though like the icing on a cake, she suddenly felt nauseous. Panic rapidly set in. She felt helpless, countless thoughts swirling through her mind. What do I do…what do I do?

Contemplating on whether to call my Dada for technical assistance, she gripped the edge of the table. She felt as though she would puke any moment now. In a flash, she jumped out of her chair and scurried towards the bathroom. 

On his way to the kitchen, Dada saw Mummy’s head lowered into the sink and rushed towards her. He held back her hijab and rubbed her back, soothingly. 

It was one of the rare moments where Mummy prioritized her own needs before her responsibilities as a teacher. It was solely because she was too busy throwing up, that the thought of her unsupervised class failed to cross her mind.

I really wish Mummy took more care of herself.

After a while, she cleaned up and washed her face. It suddenly dawned upon her that she had run out of class, leaving her students unattended. As her eyes widened with realization, Dada held her back and gently assured her that the Assistant Class Teacher had already taken care of her class. 

“Amidst all this chaos…Zubaida, do not forget about our little one inside you.” Dada tenderly caressed Mummy’s baby bump and I nearly felt his loving touch against my skin.