Monday, April 23, 2012

The lessons I did not learn..

Monday afternoon at school, the bell rang and our Maths period came to an end. After a gruelling forty minutes of racking our brains with Binomial theorem, it was now time for some relief. In other words, time for our language class.

Our language teacher, Ms. Prateema, would usually take a good ten minutes to leisurely walk up from the staffroom located at the end of the 50 meter corridor. An epitome of lethargy, she seemed to hate the period bell as much as us, if not more. She looked quite hustled up and irritated almost always, as if someone had awakened her from a peaceful trance.   

That day she entered the classroom with a bundle of answer sheets and a victorious look on her face. Within minutes, she had called out 48 names (a feat in itself) and distributed the corrected papers. Mine was the 49th and the penultimate name she uttered. I moved swiftly towards her desk, waiting impatiently to catch a glimpse of the magical number on the answer sheet.

Shock and disbelief were the least of all emotions that followed.

A reprehensible 19 out of 50 was what I had managed after writing all of six pages. The comment along the marks said that I had failed to follow instructions by the teacher...

All students had been asked to learn a composition, word by word, from the text book and reproduce the same in the paper. Own words or creative writing in the language paper were a big no-no.
Seconds later, I could hear my name again. The failed students were to stand up and get their due of embarrassment. I was one.

The next 30 minutes of speech by Ms. Prateema outlined her disgust for us, the creative writers, in the class. Also, she described how pain-stakingly difficult it had been for her to correct our papers (we, the failures), as we had attempted to write in our own language. She christened us as being extremely lazy and spiteful for not adhering to her instructions and threatened we would never be able to clear the council exams. Later, she emphasised the importance of learning from great authors by imbibing their writing (and not writing style, mind you!) completely. She thought it crucial to learn by heart every word (mug up) of what a famous essayist had written and replicate it in our answer sheets to make our language (appear) spot free. According to her, it was futile for us to try and improve our already atrocious language by writing using our own imaginations.

I stood there teary eyed, my head bent low, feeling like a total failure.

That day, I cried ceaselessly when I reached home. Later I had a chat with my mother (who was a teacher herself), which changed my perception and taught me few important lessons. I bet these were crucial, as I wouldn’t be writing this post today (instead would be copy/pasting from famous blogs!)

Lessons I learnt:
-          Being original is not a sin, but a blessing
-          Better to stay mediocre but original, than be best but a copy-cat
-          It is important to learn from others, but plagiarism is never a good option.. who knows you might end up in a copy-right feud ;)

Lessons I did not learn:
-          Short cuts can replace hard work (It never can!)
-          If you want to be a good writer, find one and copy his work i.e. ctrl+c, ctrl+v (ha ha!)
-          All being taught in school will help you become better (it might not.. sad but true)

Reminded of Mark Twains words 'I have never let me schooling interfere with my education', applicable quite literally here!

P.S. As fate would have, I ended up with a distinction for language in my council exams. Needless to say I was ecstatic, after all, my originality had been rewarded..

Friday, April 13, 2012

My New Neighbours...

I vividly remember that Sunday morning when I sleepily looked out of my window. What a surprise. We had new neighbours ! I could see a very handsome young couple moving around frantically to shift their belongings. Suddenly I was wide awake and tried to look harder. I could see only the two of them, no helpers around. To and fro they went, without exchanging a single word, as if they were on a strict mission and had their own individual targets to complete.. but at the same time looked quite in sync. They seemed to be in a mad rush to finish off before the wider world would awake; they probably thought people around could pose a hindrance in their sacred task. I smiled to myself. This would be the second time we’d be sharing our floor with a young pair as theirs. It was always nice to have them around.  

That day, I found myself peaking outside several times. Perhaps I wanted to check if all was going well with my neighbours, in their new home. My window gave me the best view of their house. Guilty I was of my secret intrusion, but could hardly help.

I tried reaching out to them but they seemed a bit recluse and preferred staying on their own. I understood and kept my distance.

Days passed by. We were now accustomed to our next door neighbours, though had never spoken to each other. Then one fine day, I was taken aback when I saw new members in the family. Through the window, I could see two pretty little babies in their beautiful abode. When had that happenned ! I hadn’t figure out that she was expecting, always thought the lady was a little fat, that’s all..

However, the sight of the babies was truly magnificent. I guessed they were identical twins but could hardly muster the courage to find out more. By now I had realised that the couple would not welcome any intrusion into their own private world.

All four looked like a bunch of beatiful flowers, always together and close. It was moving to witness so much love. The tenderness I saw in the mother’s eyes was overwhelming. I closed my eyes and sent up a silent prayer to the ward off all evil and keep them happy and safe.

Everything seemed to be perfectly fine, when one day hell broke lose. A terrible thunderstorm struck the town, something even the MET experts could not predict. The Gods were angry and it showed. I was on my way back home from office, struggling to drive in the heavy rain, when I remembered my neighbours. All of a sudden, I felt my breath growing shorter. With no proper windows or doors, our neighbour’s house laid exposed to the unforgiving storm.

I parked my car hastily and moved towards my apartment as fast as I could. My forehead was wet with sweat and rain drops. The harried expression on my face could not escape the watchman’s scrutiny. He knew something was terribly wrong and came forward mumbling something. The pattering of heavy rain on the ground made it impossible for any sound to reach my eardrums. I had no time to explain my worried state to him, at least not now, and rushed towards the staircase. All I wanted to do was reach my window.

Having no patience for the elevator, I made an instant decision to take the staircase to the 4th floor. Panting heavily, I reached for the keys in my bag and pushed open the front door of my house. I ran towards the window and moved the curtains. My heart jumped a beat and then I felt the rush of blood pumping back into it again. They were safe. I gave out a sigh of relief !

The sight before me was relieving and touching. The mother held her two babies as close to her body as she possibly could. Her eyes were tightly shut, as if not wanting to look around and see the massive destruction caused by the angry storm. That day, I saw before me the unending love of a mother for her children. She would not allow a spec of the unruly storm harm her new borns. Her readiness to fight the evil wind and the willingness to sacrifice, even her own self, to save the little ones was so evident. She seemed so strong, so determined and yet so vulnerable holding her babies that moment.

My mind it not the same with all parents. Their love for their children knows no bounds. Ready to give away all they have, take any risk they can, to ensure the well being of their offspring. Parents take great pains to raise their children, knowing all the while that there would come a day when these very own would leave them behind and move ahead in life. An unsaid rule of life..

Coming back from my momentary trance, I looked again. Strong wind blew across their windows and house shamelessly, blowing away anything that came its way. I wanted to ask them to come inside and be warm at my place..but knew my limitations and sadly decided to stay away. I closed my eyes and sent up a silent prayer again.

After an hour the storm faded, as if giving up in its battle against the family. I came back to the window, the mother and the babies seemed alright. Just then my eyes drifted to the diagnol window sill. There stood a pigeon steady and proud. After all, his family had just survived the storm.