Trapped In The Moment

Nayanna Chakrbarty

© Copyright 2004 by Nayanna Chakrbarty


Photo of a changing and dramatic cloudscape.

In life, we all experience numerous embarrassing situations. ‘Time heals all wounds’ but is that really true? The past can develop our future and so can deeply embedded memories stored in a minuscule corner of our minds. Reminiscing on these fleeting moments in solitude makes us wonder, “How would I have reacted if it happened to me now? I should have said something then. I was such a fool.”

Pondering and combating the memories of age-old embarrassment, reminds me of this incident that I had experienced ten years ago.

To be a successful career woman was my dream and it came true when I enrolled to study post graduation in Advertising and Public Relations. The evening courses were designed to facilitate the employed professionals who wanted a career change and needed a specialized certification for an impressive bio-data. It also catered to the young graduates planning a long-term career in this field.

Fresh out of college, my new circle of friends provided me valuable information and their views on life in the advertising industry.

“The knowledge imparted to us in this course, how much are they ardently practiced in the real world?”

This was one of many questions that my inquisitive mind longed to know.

The large classroom was on the second floor equipped with long, wooden benches with attached desks that could comfortably accommodate five students at a time. My favorite seat was right in front of the teacher’s desk in the second row. One evening, I was discussing homework with some friends when a young, dashing man dressed in a T-shirt, jeans and boots entered the classroom, smiling.

“Who is he?” whispered Arnold, getting down from my desk and quickly sat in the front row.

Most of our teachers, in their late forties, came to class dressed in full-sleeved shirts, well-ironed pants and matching ties. Their corporate attire and authoritative looks commanded seriousness from students, and they were perennially in a rush to start with the lecture. This casually dressed man entered without any books or briefcase, walked stylishly to the podium, and stood in front of the blackboard. Without a word he patiently waited for everyone to settle down. Few murmurs still continued in the last rows, inquiring about his identity.

“I’m Reuben. I’ll be taking your Advertising Management lectures while Mr. Mathews is away.” He grinned.

His booming, husky voice melted the hearts of many girls and the rest were impressed with his perfect, magnetic smile.

“I won’t be following the text books; you can read them at home. I want to know your level of creativity and your practical approach to this subject.”

We obediently closed our books and gave him our undivided attention.

“Look, he is wearing a jersey like yours,” Amy said, nudging me.

Amy’s observation was accurate. He adorned his robust physique with a white, basket-weave knit T-shirt. His hairless, toned chest peeked through the crisscross interlaced draw strings that added a style to the V-neckline. My T-shirt was red in color, similar in texture but had a conservative look with a collar, a closed neckline and a zip in front.

“So tell me, what do visualize when I say ‘rugged’? What feelings do you associate with this adjective?” Reuben asked the class.

A girl sitting behind me whispered, “You.”

Amy and I struggled to keep a straight face and tried to prevent our outburst of emotions. I dropped my notebook on purpose, bent down and buried my head under the desk to release my choked giggles. Amy took a tissue pretending to sneeze, and covered her mouth to laugh silently.

“Okay, your two minutes are up. Tell me, what do you think?” asked Reuben.

He waited for the students to raise their hands to answer. When they did, he ignored them and picked a student sitting on the last bench. The surprised pupil wasn’t ready and Reuben started passing the question to his partner. Soon the students in the entire row stood up in a sequence to express their views.

“Hey, this is post grad. We shouldn’t be forced to answer,” I thought.

The question passed to the last two rows until Reuben was satisfied with the answer. Ray who worked at the cafeteria, walked in with a chilled bottle of soda. Our charismatic teacher now turned the chair and rested his folded, muscular arms on its backrest. Then he took the ice-cold soda, twirled the straw and sipped.

“Oooh,” said Amy, raising her eyebrow.

We were so engrossed in looking at him that we were unaware of the second question he had proposed to the class. Most of the students were lost in thought contemplating in writing the answers, while I wasn’t worried. It was the turn of the backbenchers on the third last row and the possibility of that question reaching me was highly unlikely.

Reuben now took out the straw and drank the soda directly from the bottle. His Adam’s apple moved in a slow, rhythmic motion until the entire contents were absorbed in his body.

“He seems thirsty,” whispered Amy.

“Shh! Quiet.” I replied, giggling.

After quenching his parched throat, he changed his posture. He stood up placing his right foot on the seat of the chair and rested his right elbow on the knee.

“What a hunk,” whispered Amy.

“Your answer,” said Reuben, pointing to the boy at the corner of the first row.

The student stood silently.

“Next,” he said looking at his partner who confidently got up to answer.

“No, that’s wrong, next.”

“What’s this? He is supposed to continue from the back rows.” I thought. “Oh God, what’s the question?”

I quickly counted the number of students who sat ahead of me and relaxed when I saw, I was tenth.

“The question will surely change,” I hoped.

“What would a copywriter do if he were given a similar byline for the product?” asked Reuben.

“This has to be a part of the previous question. Oh please God, help me. Let me give him the right answer. I don’t want to look stupid in class. Please, Please.” I prayed silently.

The girl on my left answered it correctly and Reuben went on to the next question. I could feel my pulse rate relax and wiped the sweaty palms on my jeans.

“Explain the term ‘horrid’ in your ad and your reasons to use that term to sell a product?”

I was almost ready to stand up and answer the question when he picked Amy for her response.

“Wow, I didn’t have to answer. The power of prayers worked.”

Relieved and feeling light as the heavy burden lifted, I turned to see my friends seated at the back rows, waiting in anticipation for their turn and squirming in their seats.

At last, the quiz ended and Reuben started explaining the fundamentals of the advertising world. I enjoyed his style of teaching-simple, easy to comprehend language and enthusiastically jotted down brief notes.

“If you had to start your own agency, what would be the first thing you would do?” asked Reuben. “You tell me.”

I looked up from my notebook, thinking about the answer.

“Yes, you,” he said, pointing his finger.

I turned my head to the seats behind wondering who the poor victim was.

“Yes, you, Pretty face.”

“Me?” I asked, surprised.

“Yes, in the red.” He smiled.

I could feel my ears burning; I glanced at my interlaced fingers that were gripping each other firmly as I tried to suppress an embarrassed smile. He called me ‘Pretty Face’ in a classroom packed with hundred students. My knees wobbled as I managed to stand up, taking the support of my desk. I opened my mouth but my voice seemed lost. Reuben was looking at me, waiting for the answer.

“Come on, answer him. He will think you’re stupid,” said my inner voice.

“Yes, I believe this is the exact same question which has brought me to this class,” I said, taking a deep breath, pretending to be in control. I managed to express my views. My jittery nerves relaxed when Reuben smiled and said, “Good answer.”

I sat down in euphoria thinking, Reuben appreciated my viewpoint. I was still nervous and pressed my icy-cold palms on Amy’s hand for support.

“Wow, you were this nervous?” asked Amy.

It was 9 pm and the lecture ended. The moment Reuben stepped out of the class, my friends started teasing me, “Pretty Face, Pretty Face.”

“Someone charmed Reuben, today,” said Alex, winking.

I didn’t know what to reply. I hid my blushing face in my notebooks and hurriedly left the classroom.

Ten years slipped away since I completed my post graduation but it feels like yesterday. Last week, I was at the supermarket when I heard someone call out, “Pretty Face.” Lost in thought as I read the nutrient content of a brand of high fibre cookies, a hand touched my shoulder.

“Hey, Pretty Face, don’t you remember me?”

It was Amy. We sat at a nearby coffee shop, reminiscing about the old days.

“Reuben didn’t come to our class again, did he?” said Amy.

“No, that was the last of him,” I replied.

“Aww, poor baby,” Amy teased.

“Well, you never know, I may bump into him like I did with you today.”

“I’ll drink to that.”

Our coffee mugs clicked and we giggled like teenagers.

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