A hectic week
A HECTIC WEEK Seema, a senior computer teacher at a school, was not quite in the good books of her Principal, who regarded her much too young and inexperienced. Later, it was the same Seema who rescued the principal from a very difficult situation. What was that?
Seema was apprehensive when the peon told her on Monday morning that the Principal, Mrs Mushtaq wanted her to come to the office immediately. As she closed the file, she was working on, she wondered what fault Mrs Mushtaq would find this time.
Eversince Seema had joined as a senior computer teacher at the school, Mrs Mushtaq had made her displeasure obvious. Mrs Mushtaq had wanted a mature, matronly teacher, while Seema was in her 20s and looked as young as some of the girls she had to teach. Mrs Mushtaq was convinced that Seema could not control the students. When students spoke well of “Seema Ma’am”, she thought that Seema must be lenient and therefore like by the students.
The week before, after great persuasion, Seema had obtained approval for hosting an inter-school computer festival. She wanted to ensure that Mrs Mushtaq was satisfied with the festival. When Seema reached the office, she saw that Mrs Mushtaq had a visitor-- a lady in her early 30s, dressed in a stylish and expensive dress.
Ms Khan, meet Seema Noman, one of our computer teachers. She can tell you about our computer facilities,” said Mrs Mushtaq, not bothering to look at Seema.
Seema bristled because Mrs Mushtaq made no attempt to introduce the lady to her and had glossed over Seema being a senior teacher. But she forced a smile on her face and sat down.
Mrs Mushtaq gave Seema a paper. The education Ministry want us to do a special project. We need to buy a laptop for executing the project. After the project is complete, the Ministry will pay us the money that we have spent on the laptop.”
Seema picked the paper- it was a letter from the education Ministry, saying that the school was one of the 10 schools selected for this special scheme. Mrs Razia Khan the officer allocated to the scheme, would coordinate the project and certify its completeness so that the Ministry paid the school for the laptop.
Seema saw Razia Khan looking at her appraisingly.
“Why should the school buy a laptop? Why can’t we buy desktops, instead? we can get many desktops within the same budget,” Seema asked her.
“The Ministry wants the project executed using a laptop,” Said Razia with an impatient edge to her voice. Seema persisted, What is the project? what happens if the project is not completed satisfactorily? That way the school will have to reimburse it.”
“Do you feel your school will not be able to execute a computer project successfully? In that case...”Ms Khan’s face was twisted in a sarcastic smile and she turned to face Mrs Mushtaq. Mrs Mushtaq looked daggers at Seema. Ms Khan, I am sure we will meet the Ministry’s requirement. Being selected for such a scheme is an honour. Seema, Ms Khan has already said that the details of the project will be sent later.”
Ms Khan turned to Seema and gave her a condescending smile. “Anyway, first the school has to purchase the laptop of the type required for the Ministry’s project.”
Mrs Mushtaq added, “ Well, Ms Khan, if you do not need Seema, she can leave.” She then started discussing the actual purchase details with Ms Khan, Seema, realizing that she had been dismissed, got up and left.
Walking to the class she was supposed to take, Seema was furious with the shaddy way Ms khan and Mrs Mushtaq had spoken to her.
“I’ll show Mrs Mushtaq that I am worthy of respect --I’ll make the festival a big success and I’ll ensure that the education Ministry’s project is a success too,” she told herself with grim determination.
The frown on Seema’s face vanished when she reached the Class XII B classroom. She loved teaching.
Seema, an MCA topper, had taught for four years at a premier computer institute and then switched to teaching school students. Her parents had not been happy about this because they wanted her to take up a job as a software professional in USA like her elder brother. But Seema was firm that she wanted to stay in Pakistan and work with young people.
Seema smiled to herself when she remembered the first class she had taken. The previous teacher had not been clear about her concepts and had lacked confidence. The students, keen on getting a good teacher, so that they could fare well in their board examinations, were quick to expose her lack of knowledge and complain about her.
When Seema had walked into the class the first time, she had heard collective gasp as the students registered how young she was. Then they started shooting questions with ease. Within 15 minutes, the class was engrossed in the subject. By now, the students were used to Seema’s way of teaching and were responsive and interested.
After taking the class XIIB period, Seema, along with core team of five students she had selected, got busy preparing for the computer festival. Being the host school, they had to set questions for its programming competition and the and the computer quiz.
On Tuesday, as Seema sat again with her core team, a peon handed her a copy for the purchase order placed by the school for the laptop computer. She glanced through it, impressed by the configuration ordered and the brand selected. I wonder whether I’ll be a part of that project the snooty Ms Khan was talking about, thought Seema. The project worried her. In fact, the whole scheme seemed strange--why was the Ministry insisting on the school paying first and then reimbursing? Surely it would be simpler and cheaper for the Ministry to lend a laptop to the school for the project. Also,Ms khan had oddly evasive when Seema had asked questions.
“What is the matter ma’am? You look worried,” asked Farhan one of the core team students. She told the students about the project. They started plying her with questions that she could not answer. Erum was particularly excited, “ Ma’am, this must be a really new scheme. My dad is in the education Ministry and is involved with school-based projects. He never told be about it.”
“Can you give me his phone number? I’d like to find out more,” Seema asked. She noted down the number in her diary.
Later in the day, Seema surfed the websites of the Ministry. The section that listed ongoing projects at schools did not mention the scheme the letter had mentioned. Either the website has not been updated or the project is very hush hush thought she. Anyway, I’ll talk to Mr Kamal and find out the details.
When Seema reached home, she found her parents tense. Her mother hesitatingly brought up the topic.”Seema, she said in a soft tone,” I know you don’t want to talk about it, but your father and I think that this time the family is really good. The boy is abroad and is in computers like you and....”
“Ma please, “ Seema protested,” I have told you that I want to focus on my job for a few years. Besides, I just don’t want to go abroad. I like it here.”
“But why delay marriage?” her mother asked. “You’ve finished your studies, you have a nice job. You are in your mid 20s. What are you waiting for?”
Seema, a secret reader of romantic novels, wanted to give fate a chance to introduce her to a Prince Charming, but she couldn’t explain that to her parents and was running out of rational excuses.
Fortunately, she escaped further discussion because her friends,Shehla and Sofia, landed up and the three of them went out. Over coffee, they made plans to see a movie the next day.
The next day, Seema talked to Mr.Kamal What he told her was alarming.”I’ll confirm this by Monday,” he said, taking down her mobile number. Seema was worried but knew that she needed more information before she could discuss the matter with Mrs Mushtaq.
The movie that evening was great fun. It was a thriller where the hero caught serial killer before the police could.
They stopped for ice-creams after the movie.Shehla’s cousin, Salman who had accompanied them, said, Nice movie, but totally wrong, That’s not how things are done.”
“Are you a lawyer?” asked Seema.
Salman grinned. “Not quite.” He told her where he worked. His office was right next to their school. Salman was an interesting person and for the rest of the evening he regaled the girls by relating a number of cases he had handled at work.
Seema realised that he was the right person to advise her on the problem of Ms Khan’s project. She briefly explained the whole situation. Salman frowned, I’ll give you my card. Call me as soon as your hear from Mr Kamal if what you suspect is correct, I will definitely help.”
Thursday and Friday were hectic. Over 15 schools participated in the festival. Seema barely had time to eat or drink herself and was too engrossed to think about the education Ministry’s project. Fortunately, the festival went smoothly.
What thrilled Seema was that Mrs Mushtaq was not able to find anything wrong when she stopped in a couple of times. She finally said, “Well, Seema, it seems that the festival may not turn out badly, after all.”
Coming from that old dragon, it was the highest possible compliment.
On Monday morning Seema was beginning to prepare a short report on the computer festival for Mrs Mushtaq when her phone rang. It was Mr Kamal, confirming what he had told her a few days ago.
Seema was stunned to realize the magnitude of the problem and glad that she had already discussed it with Salman. She was taking out his card from her purse when she saw Mrs Mushtaq heading her way along with Ms Khan and one more person.
The man accompanying the two ladies was the computer shop owner, Ahmed, and was carrying the laptop that the school had ordered.
Seema had not realised that the delivery of the laptop was scheduled for today. Before she could react, Mrs Mushtaq turned away, along with Ahmed, saying that she needed to get the processing done for his payment.
Seema was desperate to talk to Mrs Mushtaq. She called out, “Ma’am there’s something very urgent...” Mrs Mushtaq waved her away. “Later.Take care of Ms Khan.
Seema looked at the receding backs of Mrs Mushtaq and Ahmed. Going after them would mean leaving Ms Khan alone in the lab. She turned back to the lab.
Ms Khan was already seated on the table where Ahmed had placed the new laptop. She had set down her large briefcase and taken out a checklist and a few blank forms.
“I’ll run some tests on the laptop. They will take some time,” Ms Khan said. “I don’t want to be disturbed. Maybe you should catch up with some outside work in the meantime.”
Seema shook her head. Leaning against the frame of the door, she called Salman He was expecting her call. “Good you called --I was thinking of contacting you. I checked what you told me. We had two similar cases in the last three months-- in a different part of the city of course. I’ll be there in 15 minutes-- I want to meet this Ms Khan myself.”
Inside the lab, Ms Khan was busy with the laptop, typing, making notes, and comparing the screen output with a manual she was reading. After some time she started frowning heavily and came to the door, Seemaji, I need to talk to Mr Ahmed and Mrs Mushtaq about something very important. Could you personally go to Mrs Mushtaq’s office and request both of them to come here?”
“I don’t think so, ma’am” came a stern voice. Ms Khan looked up to find herself face to face with Salman and two other police officers who had just arrived. Ms Khan’s face grew pale and her eyes darted here and there, looking for a way to escape.
The door was fully blocked. A lady police officer stepped forward and gripped Ms Khan’s forearm firmly. Mrs Mushtaq and Mr Ahmed, who were walking towards the lab, looked stunned.
“What’s going on?” demanded Mrs Mushtaq.
“This woman is Zakia Zafar,also known as Salma Karim. She is an imposter and has nothing to do with the education Ministry,” replied Salman” She has posed as a Ministry officer in two other schools. She made each school order a laptop and walked away with it when people were not watching.”
Mr Ahmed’s mouth feel open and sweat started trickling down his swarthy face. He was murmuring something, probably thanking his stars that the truth had been discovered in time.
“Fortunately, Ms Seema Noman became suspicious and contacted us. We checked the records and found that Ms Khan’s description matched the Zakia-Salma description,” said the third police officer.
Mrs Mushtaq was looking at Seema and Seema was gratified to note that for once she was not looking displeased.
“I had contacted Erum Shahid’s father--he is in the education Ministry--he confirmed this morning that there was no such scheme,” explained Seema.
Two of the police officers escorted the woman to their van. Salman stayed behind to get the details and write Mrs Mushtaq’s complaint.
As Mr Ahmed checked and packed the laptop, still muttering to himself and wiping his forehead, Salman whispered to Seema, “Coffee at 6 today?”
Seema blushed and nodded. Mrs Mushtaq ushered Salman and Mr Ahmed into her room and turned to Seema with a warm smile,”Come in for a a cup of tea, Seema.” As Seema went with her, she smiled to herself-life seemed to be looking up now.
Re: A hectic week