My morning began with me trying to gather all my things, making sure I don’t miss any and give my professor an open opportunity to humiliate me. At 8am I sat in a luxurious chemistry lab in my college with classy instruments, well arranged chemicals, and even clean sinks! It was the lab that third year students use- much different than what us first year and junior college students do. At 8.30, I stood in front of a grumpy looking, obnoxious man, on the verge of turning bald. He kept firing questions at me, real difficult ones; even after my multiple failed attempts at making him understand that this chemistry is out of my league and my basics are not clear.

Finally, he asked me ‘how do I identify if an organic compound is aromatic or aliphatic?’ And I stood there writhing my fingers, momentarily opening and closing my eyes hoping somehow I could just disappear because at the table now was an audience of three. My teacher in charge questioning me, a professor who recently joint, and a senior teacher- Pawar Sir. He had taught my class only once before and had impressed us with his calm demeanour and patience. He kept looking at me while I tried to search for the non existent answer in my now nervous brain.

Then he said, “Bachcha, you’ve done it every week for the last six weeks. Think about it, it’s got something to do with flames.”

“Through the ignition test?”, I muttered knowing I was right.

“Yes. See, with an aromatic substance, you will have a sooty flame or chars because it has high carbon content hence, difficult to burn. With an aliphatic compound, the carbon content is comparatively low so it burns giving non – sooty flames.”

“Oh”, I said dumbfounded by his gentle voice and simple logic.

He simply smiled and proceeded to move out of the room.The rest of my oral exam seems like a blur memory even though I pen this down about 15 minutes after the incident because I spent it smiling, clouded by giddiness. My teacher kept scowling, somehow managed to certify my journal and dismiss me.

Now, when I think about it, I feel like nobody influences a person more than his/her teacher. Some teachers bring out the best in you by their sheer presence, while some intimidate you so bad, you lose all of you. They can single handedly make or break you.

Pawar Sir, you might probably never read this but if you do, just know you’re awesome.