My second day in the school and I was assigned to Alister. I had to work with him in the three hours that I spent there. The teacher in the class told me that Alister would be easier to handle because he was the only guy vocal ,and had a better understanding of things than the other kids in the class. So it was going to be ‘Mission Alister’ for the next month and a half.

Alister is a eleven year old boy. He is unlike any other eleven year olds I know. Alister has a cute face and his hair is cut short. He has a Konkani accent and has a smile which can make an angry teacher melt. He is mischievous and has a really small attention span. On the first day I was told to make him write the alphabet and say the letter loud as he wrote it. I took him to a corner and we started working. The first question he asked me was, ” Ti yellow colour chi teacher kuthe geli? ” ( where is the yellow colour teacher? ) ” Teacher yellow colour chi naste Alister.” I replied smiling. ( a teacher is not of the colour yellow) ” I am your new teacher, chala apan abhyaas chalu karu. ” ( let’s start studying) I would write the letter and he would copy it and say it loud when he did. After writing “a”  he asked me, ” A for Cat ka? ” He had this unique thing he did with his eyebrows and he looked so innocent and genuine I wanted to say ” yes, A for cat” .” Nahi Alister, A for apple, lal colour cha asta na te, te apple.” ( no Alister, A for apple, it’s red in colour) and so we continued.

On the first day with him I could just get to ” e”. Alister was totally distracted. He made me take him to the toilet some ten times and said “c ” when he wrote ” d” the rest of the times. After the initial wonder I felt looking at him I slowly was losing patience. Savita bai was  in the class and she must have realised my irritation. Just when I was about to leave she took me to a corner and told me this, ” You are new. He will take some time to get used to you. You don’t have to take him to pee every time. Alister is smart enough to do it himself, he is not as slow as the others. Be firm with him, don’t melt down because you pity him. He doesn’t need pity. He needs to be a little scared of you.”

The next day I got Alister a chart with alphabets and pictures showing what an apple or a cat really look like. I didn’t make him write anything. I just did things orally and then asked him to point out at an apple on the chart when I said apple aloud. Eight out of ten time he pointed at everything other than an apple . Twice he showed me an apple when I said apple. Both the times I kissed him on the cheek, both the times he pushed me away. Slowly as days passed by Alister got better. The ratio of 2/8 slowly changed to 5/5.

Alister had a ‘ straight face humor’ . He would say the funniest things with unbelievable innocence. For example for once there was pin- drop silence in the class . Alister was sitting next to Aliya and pulling her hair. Alister loved doing that, and Aliya would hate it so she would hit him. He would never hit her back, though he would never stop pulling her hair also. I was sitting next to her. Aliya farted I heard it so did Alister and in his typical way he asked me, ” ha awaaz kuthun ala? ” ( From where did the sound come from?) I bursted out laughing and Aliya giggled. Alister didn’t get the joke. He was looking at me like I was an complete idiot. I realised that the normal rules of the society don’t apply to these studs. They fart when they have to loud and clear. There is another example. Fayaz is the most violent guy in the class. He would hit people and laugh. Once I and Alister were working on the alphabet and Fayaz came and hit him. I shouted at Fayaz, while Alister was looking at me quietly. After a few seconds, he asks me with his eyebrows gone up and a finger pointing at me, ” tujha jhala ka, ata mi tyala jaun maru ka? ” ( are you finished? Can I go hit him now?) I still remember that look on his face and that Konkani accent and I just can’t stop smiling.

Alister slowly started getting used to me. By the end of my time there he could write the alphabet till ” r”. Alister though was great with shapes he could replicate the most complicated figures just by looking at them. I still struggle to draw a star, Alister can draw stars of all shapes pretty well. He always amazed me with this ability.

Alister was unable to feel emotions. Most of the autistic people are. I think it’s a blessing. It’s a cruel world out there especially for them. So in a strange way it’s good that they  neither feel pain nor happiness. I on the other hand feel everything. I slowly became really fond of Alister. When it was my last day and I was seeing off everyone. I went to Alister and asked him, ” A for…?” He took a while ,though he came through, ” Apple” . I hugged him tight he tried to push me away but I still held him and kissed him good-bye. As I looked back once before I left, Alister was pulling Aliya’s hair and she was hitting him. It was strange I felt angry at him. He didn’t say goodbye, he didn’t look back at me, nothing. He just didn’t feel anything while I was struggling to hold  back tears.  Well, such is life.

I have no doubt in my mind that Alister taught me more than I could teach him. I miss that little rascal. For me from now on it’s always going to be ,”A for Alister.”

P.S. Alister is a boy I worked with in an autistic school. I was working voluntarily and lasted for a month and a half. These are my experiences with him :):)


9 thoughts on “"Alister"

  1. It's evident that the experience touched your heart. And you write from the heart. Great your following in your Dad's footsteps. Some of his blogs are truly memorable. Keep writing…don't stop…and you skill will improve with each piece! All the very best! (Your Dad and I are friends…even as we communicate just once in a while! But always from the heart!


  2. hi,
    thank you so much for the kindness and the encouragement. I truly appreciate it. Also are you talking about Satish Mutatkar, if you are that's my uncle and not father.. 🙂 and yes Satish kaka is a great writer.. thanks again.. 🙂


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