Friday, February 17, 2006

Where Are Your Teeth?

This is something I love about teaching in a school. I love those Class I – Class II kids running around in school, screaming, fighting with friends over the tazzos or whatever they prefer to call it, and complaining when they can’t handle their irksome friends by shouting- Ma’am, pushing, Ma’am, beating. The moment you enter the class and give them the threatening look, everyone will be quiet. You might want to laugh your gut out, yet you have to maintain the grave and serious facade.

The class monitors are the worst victims. Every time the class is over, they have to collect the copies and carry them over to the teacher’s desk in the staff room. I seriously pity these kids who have to make endless rounds in school everyday carrying the pile of copies high enough to hide their faces. So all you see from a distance is a pair of legs and a pile of copies walking down towards you.
Naah, I don’t make them carry copies. I do that myself. And build my biceps in the process.

We teachers have devised an innovative way to identify the class II kids. Just ask them to smile and you’d see the front four teeth from each jaw missing.

There is this huge weight lifter monitor of class II. He has a bulging paunch and an equally bulging butt, his school belt barely able to hold his tummy in place. He has such soft cheeks that you’d wanna keep pressing them. We call him a weight lifter ‘coz in Annual Functions Day, there was this circus show where he had been the weight lifter. Wearing black boxer shorts and a red baniyan, he was proudly showing off his biceps, white powder in his hands, making a show of trying to lift the heavy weights which were actually made of foam. He surely made a hilarious scene out of it.

Hence we call him the weight lifter. And whenever we spot him, we pinch his cheeks. The poor fellow is unable to ward off the teachers and has to put up with this bit of bullying. And trust me, he thoroughly enjoys all the attention and lionizing.

When he entered the staff room with a pile of books today, one of the teachers immediately grabbed for his cheeks.

What is your name? – DB maintained that feigned authoritative tone in her voice.

Weight lifter- he almost mewed.

Weight lifter? Tell me your real name.

The boy mewed his name softly.

Unable to control the urge anymore, we just burst out laughing. The kid suddenly realized that this was just another innocuous session of bullying and we were merely having fun at his expense. The kid finally grinned.

But DB was not to leave him in peace.

Where are your teeth?

He was tensed again. He mumbled something incoherent.

T-E-E-T-H- DB pointed at her own teeth. Where have they gone?

I don’t know ma’am.

What? You have left it at home? Whhhhhyyyyy? Go get your diary. I will write a complaint.

The boy almost fainted. Not wanting to harass him anymore, we patted his head, hugged him, pulled his cheeks again and let him go. His relief was portrayed by the speed with which he ran towards the protective shelter of his class.

The moment he was gone, all of us burst out laughing. We laughed and laughed till our stitches ached. And then we laughed some more.


5 minutes later, the kid came back with his diary, the complaint page open.......

This is why I love kids. Their innocence and simplicity more than anything.


Monday, February 06, 2006

Don’t Question Me About Questions.

Last weekend, I finally finished making all the question paper sets for all the classes I take. I teach Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics. Final exams will start pretty soon. I finally typed and got the prints of all the question paper sets. As I held them in my hands, I closed my eyes, trying to imagine myself as that omnipotent deity in whose hands lie the future of some 200 students. I know that I am exaggerating, but that is what this post is all about. The way some people have been exaggerating and overestimating my power and considering me omnipotent these days.

With the final exams coming, it seems that suddenly the children and their moms have been galvanized into action. Everyday I have some of those moms meeting me after school and trying to get hints about the questions. Considering my profession and my age (I just turned 24.5 recently), I am considered a kid here. So when the moms had initially seen a kid teaching in higher classes, they made no secrets of their skepticism (The dads were okay about it though). Allow me to digress a bit from the main content of this post. I actually had some of those pain-in-the-ass moms asking me stuff like-

Pehli naukri hai? Isse pehle kahaan padhaya hai? Educational qualification kya hai? Kaun se college se pass kiya hai? Kis year mein (that was to roughly calculate my age)? Aap to teacher lagti hi nahi hain, etc.

I have to deal with such finicky moms. So for the exams, all the necessary instructions have been given to the students. All the chapters are equally important. Numericals in physics are a must. In chemistry, equations have to be balanced. In mathematics, the entire book would be covered. Diagrams are important wherever applicable. Sums have to be with the proper units. Questions can be set from anywhere in the chapter. And so on and so forth.

Yet I have had moms coming and asking me ridiculous things like-

Kahaan se questions dengi? Chapter ke peeche se? Maths mein wahi questions aayenge ya values ghuma fira ke? Experiments padhna padega? Work book se questions aayenge? Please HEAT waala chapter include mat kijiye. Numericals kitne marks ke aayenge? Chapters ke beech mein highlighted portions important hain? Hydrochloric acid ko hydrochloric acid likhna hai ya HCl? Back questions karne se ho jaayega?

And the volley of questions continue. I’ll spare you the details (for my own sanity actually).

But I’ll share an interesting episode. One of the moms actually told me (with the son standing right in front of us, and old enough to understand everything) ..... Madam, mujhe itni tension ho rahi hai final exams ke liye, hormonal imbalance ke liye mere periods irregular ho gaye hain. Please kuch important questions bataa dijiye.

All I could do was stare stupidly at the mom, and the boy. God, couldn’t she have chosen a more apt excuse for her gynecological problems? Or for asking the questions?

I don’t understand what’s the big deal in performing well in the final exam. Just listen to the class properly, study the chapter from A to Z, practice the sums and diagrams, do the numericals, and that’s it. How does it matter whether chapter ke peeche se questions aayenge ya beech mein se? As long as the questions are relevant, how does it matter?

I wouldn’t claim that I've never been stressed during the exams. I would often ponder and wonder what questions would come. But these people have suddenly made a God out of me. If I happen to meet my children in the corridor, I would definitely know the expression in their eyes, urging me to divulge some kind of hints about the question paper. I would explain every sum from the chapter, discuss the type of questions and the expected answers, but would not give a single hint about the actual questions I've set.

So as I held those bunch of question papers in my hands, I tried to imagine how powerful I was and what amount of respect I could be commanding at that point of time.

don’t understand what is so great about exams? It is just a school final exam. What’s so powerful about these few sheets of paper that I can inspire such awe? Give sleepless nights to so many even sans my age and experience? I wish I knew the answer to this. 


Sunday, February 05, 2006

Teeth-ing Troubles- I.

If you are looking for your daily dose of laughter in this post, you’ll be thoroughly disappointed. I am in a lot of pain, and humor is the last thing I can sense now.

It so happened that I hurt my cheeks while having some popcorn. And I totally forgot about it. The next day, I woke up with tremendous toothache. Thinking that it must be the popcorn, I tried to fix things with a toothpick. The problem got worse. By the evening, my entire right jaw, right neck, and my right ear was throbbing with pain. Not to mention the fever. So I went to the doctor for the routine checkup. And then....

It’s very easy to write about funny stuff. But your pain and your insecurities, not so much.

If there is one thing that could turn me to jelly out of fear, it is the sight of blood. Doctors are a special breed of people I genuinely fear. But things you fear the most keep coming back to you again and again. Somehow, I keep having to meet my dentist every six months. I still shiver when I think of the last surgery. I’ve had some of the weirdest encounters with dentists right from age five. I could probably write a dozen posts on that alone. 

Coming to wisdom teeth, I had my first one operated at age eighteen. The dentist was a muscular, hairy man, about 6 feet tall who looked like the devilish version of Kumar Sanu. I still remember the way he had towered over me, blocking the lights from my face, had caught my wrists with his hairy hands and had pinned me down before he mercilessly punched an injection into my gums. I was so shocked by the way he had grabbed me that I could hardly protest. The toothache had seemed nothing compared to the mental trauma I’d felt on being treated that way. Of course he was the doctor and he knew what he was doing. But I never again went back to him, or to a male doctor for that matter.

My new dentist is a lovely looking Punjabi lady with smooth, hairless hands. She is barely a few years older than me and is very sweet. This time, she checked me thoroughly, and after an agonizing scrutiny for about 15 minutes and constantly gurgling and spitting blood, she decided that I needed a tooth extraction.

Me: What? But it was just popcorn.

Naah, the popcorn was in no way responsible, she found no popcorn, it was the wisdom tooth causing the pain and the fever.

Dentist: Get it extracted. Come Sunday evening. I am writing the list of antibiotics and pain killers you must take......

Me: Hey hang on, you mean this Sunday? Four days from now? But I need some time to be mentally prepared. 

Dentist: Girl, I would be with the scalpel and scissors, not you.

And this brought afresh the memories of the last time.
To add insult to the injury, mom tries to pacify me. She says- Toothache is much better than labor pains. What would you do then?

And the dentist says- Ah, with such an irregular set of dentition, problems are sure to arise. But then, you have to pay a price for having a sweet smile.

Very funny.

So Sunday evening it is then. And knowing me, I know that I am gonna worry myself sick the next four days. I am gonna behave badly with friends, am gonna be irritated and restless throughout the day, am gonna cry for no reason, and am gonna get mad at everything and everybody.

And I wonder, what would I do with so much of wisdom? This is the third one.

BTW, I just looked at the prescription and found out another reason why I could never become a doctor. I do not have an illegible handwriting.

To be continued..................