Pen & pandemic: Classroom stories that break the stereotypes

Pen & pandemic: Classroom stories that break the stereotypes

Cover page of the book ‘The Classroom Alchemist’. Tribune photo

Neha Saini

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 19

The pandemic last year gave birth to a new genre — lockdown literature. Many people turned to penning down stories on how the pandemic affected their lives. One such experience by the city-based author Nandini Malhotra, resulted in her second book, a series of short stories titled, ‘The Classroom Alchemist’.

Released in December 2020, the book has 16 short stories about real-life incidents that Nandini, who has a teaching experience of 18 years, came across through her journey as a teacher. It broadly centers on the theme of student-teacher relationships and how both impact each others’ lives. Each story, says Nandini, would resonate with many. “In a way the book is born out of my own stressful period of quarantine that I went through when I was down with Covid-19 in August 2020. I had lost a dear friend to Covid-19. My husband and children are all doctors and remained at forefront during the pandemic. It was a deeply distressing time for me to remain locked up, isolated from others. That’s when my husband suggested me to write while I was spending time with myself,” she shares.

So she spent 16 days of quarantine, diving deep into her memories and penning down stories of her students, colleagues and her own student life. “I kept recalling these stories that stand out for me as these were milestones in my journey as a teacher and an individual.”

Calling her book a team work, she credits her success to students and her peers. “These stories tell so much about the evolving teacher-student relationship. What connects these stories is that they show how teachers can be compassionate rather than just a disciplinarian and how students can learn to trust their teachers.”

Talking about her book, she says, “One of the stories in her book is about a former student of mine, who once stole a hard drive from the school computer to sell it for money. A colleague of mine took responsibility for the incident instead of reporting him for theft. This gesture altered his life’s direction. Today, he works as an ethical hacker for many reputed agencies. Similarly, one of the stories about a student opening about the sexual abuse she was facing at home, too resulted in other girls coming out of their trauma.”

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