Marlin in Blunderland

Poornima and I were silently chit-chatting by writing on blank pages during a CY102 slot. Discussing Calvin & Hobbes easily beat listening to Dr Murthy's drone.
'What are you doing there?' came his voice suddenly. 'I've been watching you both for a long time, you are not listening here.'
We looked behind us to see whom he was addressing.
'The girl in the pink dress.'
The world stopped rotating. There was but one girl in the region of his sight.
'What are you doing there?'
'Nothing, sir,' we protested. 'Nothing.'
'You gnaw ("You know"), something was going on over there between you two, I just don't know what.'
The classroom chuckled.
'We were only taking notes, sir,' one of us said.
My heart was racing at two beats a second. Poornima and the prof now had a wild staring contest going between them. She's gonna cry, I told myself, Gosh, she's gonna cry.
But she didn't. At that moment, she told me later, she was more angry than anything else. He had us sit apart that day, but from the next class onward we intentionally shared a bench on the first row and fastened an intent gaze on him through the hour.

It was not the first time I found myself in such a situation (though, thankfully, the last). At least two of my school teachers were morality cops and I ended up gaining first-hand knowledge of their methods. And how! Allow me to relate.

Teachers vied with students in misconstruing the rather high-profile friendship I shared with Nita. When one fine X Class Biology hour she was distributing some notebooks, I was following her movements, waiting for her to make eye contact so that I could ask her if they were 'test notes' or 'classworks'. I was utterly unaware that during the entire two minutes I was doing this, the teacher had been watching me closely.

'Nirmal,' she said out loud, 'staring at Nita won't help.'

The class was stunned. Nita turned into a statue. And I... well, I don't remember what flashed in my head, in the main because nothing did -- it had gone blank. Her incredible statement astounded me so much that I couldn't string the words for a defence, I merely nodded like an ox to her command to meet her after class. And that is when she painfully preached that young boys like me were the Devil's favourite targets and that I must confine my vision to the path ahead and not be diverted by wayside attractions. I am not paraphrasing here.

This, though, was nothing in the face of what my Chemistry teacher did a year prior to it. This woman, a Brahmin-to-Christian convert, was the very limit -- she openly bullshat Astronomy lessons and promoted Genesis, banned the class from having ice-cream after school hours, instructed me and Nita not to read Agatha Christie and slapped grown-up lads on corridors in full public view. Well, the last point may overstate the case, but I've seen her do that to one chap.

All right, what the hell, it was me. For grinning at Nita across a few benches. When the teacher, while dicating notes, spelt 'dating'. And repeated 'dating'. In the context of radioactive dating. Because it was a funny word, dating. A new concept to us 13-year olds. Archie comics. Nita and I were avid fans. And had found its dating games hilarious. And had yakked about it for long hours. I had to grin.

'Donkey!' she burst out, and the inevitable 'Meet me after the class' followed.
Between the slaps, I actually explained to her in serious tones why the word 'dating' tickled me, but she wouldn't listen.

But there were times when teachorial reproaches of my entanglement with the so-called gentler sex were a bit justified. For instance, during a nap hour in my Upper Kindergarten, a certain Janani put her head on the table with her face towards me. My mother had told me that when two individuals slept side-by-side, they oughtn't face each other as one may breathe in the other's exhalation. But Janani wasn't receptive to reason. She insisted on keeping her head that way despite my pleas and threats. I couldn't face the other side either, since thither perched a fellow fast asleep with his nose in my direction.
So I gave her a tight slap.
I was expecting her to fight back tooth and nail and was ready to even break her neck if that were the only means to swivel her head the other way. But her reaction completely disarmed me. She cried. Thereby attracting the teacher's attention. And at the end of the diatribe I was not sure whom to trust, my mother or my teacher.

For purposes of dignity, I will refrain from narrating my next misadventure on the timeline featuring a me-teacher-girl triangle. Suffice it to say it involved some innocent acts of posterior-pinching. No, you need not have to drag Freud into this.
Moving on to Fifth Class, a couple of pals and I made my first crush cry by blackmailing her that we'd spill to our math teacher the comments she made on his appearance. It led to the two great Class Wars of SBOA -- my faction was four strong and the rest sided with her. Sharpeners, erasers, pencil stubs, bamboo chips, paper balls and ink drops flew freely across the battlefield of benches. Learning about the wars, our maths sir gave the four of us a good scolding for 'harassing that girl', all the while my lips itching to notify him that he was at the centre of the whole affair. I was torn between the pleasure of putting her on the accused stand and the thought of a possible reciprocation of my calf love. That alone saved her.

I may have referred to my Ninth Class self as a grown-up lad, but I wasn't quite one. There was a young woman in my class, let's call her Miss G, who did the wise thing by not ratting a damaging deed of mine to the teacher. But the matter ended up in my mother's ears and I was given an evening-long sermon on conduct in female company. All I had done was kick Miss G for getting a Thirukkural wrong. And for her insistence that she was right. I had taken great care while planting the shoe on her knees, but I was intimated that my kick 'felt like an irumbuk kambi' (bar of iron) and I was 'like a paitthiyam pidiccha kazhudha' (donkey gone cuckoo).
She had come this Saarang and we arranged to meet. I was confident that Time had healed the boot wounds of the past and ill memories had ceased to rankle. But after this briefest of rendezvous, which I'm producing here in full, I'm not so sure.
'Hi, hi'
'You have taken off your moustache'
'You are not wearing your spectacles'
'Contact lenses'
'How did your college dance?'
'We won't win'
'It was nice talking to you, Nirmal'
'Eh? Oh OK. Yeah... nice.'

Chivalry never was my forte.

4 Obiter dicta:

Blogger shalini couldn't resist being opinionated thus:

LOL..i guess u were caught red handed in the crucial moments (not that girls purposely put u in trouble)..eg. Nita's one n slapping ur bench mate in kg..
was very amusing to read :D

12:26 PM  
Blogger Full Of Life couldn't resist being opinionated thus:

What else can I do but laugh out loud! Some memories they were..!! Very very nicely written! :D

7:31 PM  
Anonymous Z couldn't resist being opinionated thus:

As far as confessing our childhood misdemeanors are concerned, even I had something akin to what happened to you with Miss N, only my teacher was more explicit.
"Stop looking at her, Mister. Look at me instead." she told me...I was, as you so well put it, "astounded" by her remark.

But, to be frank, my gaze wasn't that chivalrous either, and she wasn't really distributing books.

3:54 PM  
Blogger Antimony couldn't resist being opinionated thus:

nice one mate...well written...too bad i wasn't around to be able to actually remember the incident...but yeah...does bring back memories of school... :)

9:10 PM  

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