The grand city of Lugano, Switzerland
I won’t lie to you, although they were amongst the most famous on the planet, I had no idea who those people were and wouldn’t recognise them today.
A Scottish guy whom I once shared a flat with called me up. I had not spoken to him in years. Something had happened but neither of remembered what it was. Anyway, he knew I trained as a teacher. And he had a cousin who was a teacher. Right. Now she was ‘all knocked up and so’. Right. If I was looking for a job? I told him I’d rather have an eye removed than teaching in Scotland. He told me he’d fix that for me, but the job was in India. Posh private school, good pay. Right.
I didn’t like the work I was doing – office work that kept me afloat. With little ado I set off with a four month contract, extendable to eight. I’d have my room on the campus and a reasonable wage. (that turned out to be a bummer, but little I cared then).
What I thought was going to be a walk in the park turned out to be a blindfolded trip in a burning jungle. The kids were super prepared. The staff was mega serious. My colleagues didn’t sweat, joked in Latin, gossiped in Hindi, taught effortless and controlled their classes by mere staring severely. They lived in real houses. They had family. They had an actual social life.
It was clear I was under-qualified and studied constantly. I got books from the school library and read them in the shade of the trees lining the cricket field, or on a bench under the enormous fan in the ‘lounge’. When the director passed he’d slow down, observe me and walk on without saying a word. The time I could hold my breath. That man scared me.
The kids had loved their Scottish teacher. And they didn’t like me. ‘Mrs. Gillmore let us use the dictionary’ or ‘Mrs. Gillmore knew our names, our real names’. I had given them made up names.
After about a month and a half I got used to the climate. My sweating was under control and learned to appreciate the food. The word went round I was a studious kind of person. Which I from then on enhanced by always carrying a book around. Time flew by and I was even invited to some of the parties my colleagues threw now and then.
But let’s get to the famous people now. I must have met a bunch of them when we had ‘evaluation day’. Parents came over to talk to teachers. Although my subject was far from important, many booked an appointment. That freaked me out since I did not remember the student’s names. I opted for the a variation on the ‘I note a clear and steady progress ’ theme. Movie stars, politician and sports people sat down in front of me. I had no idea who they were. It may sound silly. But I had never been to India before, the only Indian film I’d seen was ‘Salaam Bombay’ and I wasn’t into sports. It was clear these people had class, money, experience. I just didn’t know them. It charmed some and upset others. One of these others sat on the school board and would vote against my contract extension.
One day the director himself came knocking on my door. He hated to ask me this but I had to do him a favour. A group of journalists and fans had gathered in front of the main entrance of the school. They had followed an actress on her way to the airport. It got rowdy and she pulled in the guarded school parking. Now I had to drive out while she hid under a blanket. Before I could tell them I had not driven a a car in years I was already sitting behind the steering wheel of a far too powerful vehicle. Reporters stormed the car and some even made pictures, although they were clearly disappointed by my appearance. After driving for ten minutes or see the actress crawled from under the blanket, drowning in sweat. We made it to the VIP parking of the airport. Her make up a disaster. She’d take care of that. There were wipes in the glove compartment, no worries. As I was getting out of the car she told me to take care. And then she said ‘call me sometimes Ian’. She knew my name!
I didn’t know her name though and couldn’t recognise her in the magazines. Thanks to the blurred make up. I considered asking the director but he scared me. I had trouble breathing when he was around. ‘Who was that woman you told me to escort’? was simply too much.
She never showed up, not in real life anyway.
I did meet mrs. Gillmore years later in Berlin, in a beer garden. She never went back to teach and regretted it. I am not sure she blamed the kid who was pulling her skirt. It surely felt that way. She promised to say hello to Ginger McThief.
Link to Quora