Teacher

Goats & apples !



There was a verbal volley with a definitive purpose that the ear was used to. When the marks didn’t turn up as well as they perhaps should have. When they were a marathon of a distance away from the swagger with which an extra hour with TinTin was devoured claiming that the math exam had gone off ‘beyond expectations’ .

This verbal tranche of insults and such else, were delivered all ofcourse, with the intention of somehow getting me more focused and ‘into’ the subject !

The assortment of words that made the sentence was remarkable for the sentence could masquerade as sarcasm, retort, insult, insinuation, motivation, display of anger. An extravagant paraphernalia of diverse meanings that I don’t have the patience to recount.

For that wide an array of interpretations, the sentence and its constituents were ( and still are ) remarkably pithy : “I’ll get you a few cows

It was supposed to be the ultimate insult to an average young mind. It meant, that the new depths the maths marks touched could fit the grand occupation of herding cows and goats. It was a singularly frightening thought. Completely inappropriate by a grotesque proportion to what caused this : the math paper !

For the math question paper would have had a question like ‘ A has five apples. Of which he gave one-fifth to B and another one-third to C……’ . Finally ending with some vague question like ‘So how many apples was A left with’ or something to that effect.

For the record, I have always believed that the impact of apples are best felt on the tongue. The teeth biting into fresh fruit, and the tongue swarming with tasty juice was all that mattered.

If you had five apples, you ate five apples. Obviously, Mr.B and Mr.C were non-entities once the apples were sighted. Even if the apples happened to be theirs.

To me, people featured in the question paper like Mr.A, were beyond comprehension. To subject something as tasty as a simple apple, to such a fractious assault was downright unnecessary, completely impractical and cruel to an imaginative test taking kid!

These and such thoughts would play in the mind. Before I knew, test would be over and the mark statement would have touched a new nadir.

Oftentimes holding the report card in hand with the math marks settling in a new marina trench, would send me on a imagination frenzy to see myself herding an assortment of cows and goats. Which obviously lead to serious palpitations to form on my forehead. And other parts too, but that’s besides the point.

No no. Dont get me wrong. Not for me the insult. Not for me the insinuation. At that age, I didn’t give goats horn about what people would think of me being a cowherd. Nor do I care much now. It was not that. The problem was something else.

It was keeping count of those goats and cows.


Beads of sweat transformed into enormous water streams just thinking of the proposition of losing two goats for no fault of mine. As a matter of addition and subtraction we were taught to ‘borrow’ ‘from the next digit’. Or in case of addition, ‘carry over’ to the next column was important.

After dutifully ‘carrying over’ or ‘borrowing from’ I would ofcourse gloriously forget that act of generosity and move on with life and other numbers. Until such a time, the math teacher made me write such ‘carry overs’ and ‘borrowing froms’ in such gigantic font size to enable recall.

If that was the case with random numbers, to keep track of cows and goats was a different ask, to my fertile imagination. To keep counting them and finding I was two short ( or three short, for that matter) would have had some serious explanation, I figured.

I fretted that I would lose count for no fault of mine. It would be comprehensively unfair if, say, the goats wanted to scratch themselves against a specific tree, or stayed back at the local pond, or sighted a far attractive mate and decide to have a good time!

I would be reduced to taking the blame on myself and my math skills.

Grotesquely unfair. Isnt it ?

Ofcourse this attempt at fear laced motivation, stopped getting uttered one day. One fine day, one of those ‘uncles’ was home to launch into moms cooking. Such genial uncles back then ( and these days too) have a set of questions which were simple to figure out.

Usually starting with ‘Which school do you go to and somewhere along the line leading to ‘what do you want to become when you grow up’. ( At a younger age, ‘what is your teacher name’ used to be one persistent such, which in hindsight, rises an eyebrow. Actually both my eyebrows. )

Just as he was finishing the question of ‘what do you want to become’, in a flash, my mind streamed an image of a proud me, managing an array of goats and cows without losing count of any.

Without losing a breath, I announced with a singular flourish that I wanted to become a ‘Cowherd’. Much to the blasphemous horror of all around, evidenced by the stellar silence that followed an intemperate bout of laughter from the genial uncle.

After that, the subject of ‘grazing cows’ as a default occupational choice, in case the math marks didn’t move north, made a quiet exit. I must say, the cows and goats haven’t been ever so thankful as then.

Do you have such recollections of your childhood ? Or were you the Mr.A type ?


Dear Ms.DeMonte

Dear Ms.DeMonte,

It seems you taught English in school. Its also said that you have yelled. And felled those boys and girls, sometimes with nothing else but stern looks that were as ominous as a Swine Flu warning.

Of course, at times their notebooks have been airborne in a flash, at speeds that would have delighted the Indian Air Force. Crashing into corridors and corners. Enraged. For reasons ranging from faulty punctuation to fumbling pronunciation. Incorrect past tense to imperfect future tense !

Over time your students are said to have (usually) learnt that missing an apostrophe was catastrophe ! Atleast, In your class ! Many years after they moved on into adult life, atleast in one of them, its stuck right through.

This chap that i am talking to today, has a penchant for poorly executed semantic gymnastics. And that too on, as public a forum as a blog ! “The gall”. Wont you say. Like a local weight lifter trying a Olympic ballerina act ! In your name..

But there sure are things that you must be happy about. Like for instance, if you come to know that upon spotting this store



this chap thought of you.

Thinking of the lady who taught him English in class two while his missus is besides him, can well have chaps who read Freud arching their eyebrows in interest. Much like a biology student eyeing a lab specimen.

But before your anger is airborne its important to specify that the thoughts were about English language ! And so he says. Like giving ‘different meanings’ to this notice, just like you would do.

He gave it four. Without changing anything of what was already written there. Just adding those full-stops !

1. Mans. Gift Store Woman Welcome
2. Mans Gift. Store Woman Welcome
3. Mans Gift Store. Woman Welcome
4. Mans Gift Store Woman. Welcome

And was all excited! Like an urban two year old spotting a bullock cart. Additionally he confessed that you visited him in his dream and gave him a pat on his back.

[ Of course, much to the annoyance of his missus. Any missus would be. If the husband, wakes her up in the middle of the night and asks her if she patted his back. ( He also murmurs that ‘what for’ from the missus kept his restive for the rest of the night ) ]

So you see Ms.DeMonte, to say that you have been an ‘influence’ would be a gross understatement. Perhaps a little short of the likes of an Indian film director, ripping off a Hollywood blockbuster. Frame-by-frame. In the name of ‘inspiration’ !

Teachers like you are a rarity these days. Some of them don’t subscribe to your line of thought. Many others don’t understand it. Like that apostrophe-catastrophe bit !

Missing the apostrophe is one thing. Looking up the dictionary for ‘catastrophe’ is quite another. Those stern looks and airborne notebooks indeed seem to have left a lasting impression.

A sober chap talking to another who is four drinks down. About his 2nd standard teacher called Ms. DeMonte for three full hours, says a lot. Wont you think.

Your Truly,
Four drinks down. Three hours now.

PS : I have noticed, despite a general haze in the air, that the apostrophe isn’t there in any of his four options. Am i to expect catastrophe?

Dreams of my teacher !

After a long tired day, the bed was inviting enough for a short nap. The TV with some news was on.

But, I went in for a ‘power nap’. Where i tend to sleep like a log. For 15 minutes. Today, i have a dream. Perhaps it would be far more stately to say, ‘I too have a dream’.

And in it, is Ms. Rozario. A Nursery school teacher from my school days. There she is. Bright. Beautiful. And very much the ‘Anglo Indian Miss’ of the olden days. With a gown, cut hair and an Anglo-Indian accent. She waltzes as she sings nursery rhymes.

But surprise. Surprise. In front of her, today are Television reporters. Each with microphone, camera, OB vans and a placard saying ‘Breaking News’ held aloft. Permanently.

Today, all reporters like dutiful children sucking a TRP laden lollipop, sing rhymes. In good chorus.

They all sing.

Little Jack Horner sat in a corner,
Eating a Christmas pie;
He put in his thumb and pulled out a plum,
And said, “What a good boy am I!”

[Applause].

They stop. And the natural instinct for the reporters emerges. And out come the questions : “Who are you referring to ? Is it this the new Chief Minister ? What was this Christmas Pie ? Which corner was he sitting in ? Why do you call him ‘little’ ? Is Jack Horner his operative name… ?

Ms. Rozario, with all dismissive earnestness begins another nursery rhyme. All reporters with cameras rolling, are in tow. As she leads the group, they all sing.

I’m a little teapot
Short and stout
Here is my handle
Here is my spout

When I get all steamed up
Hear me shout:
Tip me over
and pour me out!

[Laughter]. [Applause].

‘Ma’am, ma’am’ they all shout, ‘is this Mr..’ I cant hear the name, for Ms. Rozario has already begun the next rhyme.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again

‘Ma’am, is this about the other chap who quit blaming his conscience ? Or was it the chap who sent in his resignation, just in case….?’

The brave bold woman she is, she keeps on with it. ‘Quiet. Quiet’. She says.

With a wave of a hand and a dance of an expert, she continues with her rhyme ! Almost immediately, all reporters start singing rhymes into their microphone. Mesmarisingly easy. [She beats the Director General of the National Security Guard, hands down…]

They sing.

Baa, baa black sheep
Have you any wool
Yes sir, yes sir
Three bags full.

One for my master
And one for my dame
And one for the little boy
Who lives down the lane.

She stops. And commotion reigns supreme. Each reporter climbs over one another. Almost immediately i realise all channels are running ‘Breaking News’ scrolls !

“Ma’am, whats in those bags ? And three of them ? Who is the master ? And that little boy..and the dame…in that lane…? You surely are not referring to..?

I woke up at that exact moment. So. Who the reporters had in mind, i leave to my conjecture. I will have to leave it at that.

Customary Disclaimer : All characters in this dream are fictitious. Any resemblance to any character, alive or dead, in power or otherwise, are purely imaginary and coincidental.

Save, Ms. Rozario. And of course, the nursery rhymes.