Friday, October 28, 2005
“Eda! Are you studying?" His father pops up at odd times, looms menacingly and disappears. Its study vacation and the stakes are high. The cane of justice can descend at any moment if he's not careful. On guard, his eyes drift to the novel open in his lap, "Oh God, one more chapter, and I’ll stop."

Read the rest of the anthology.

mr. lobo's healing

Thursday, October 13, 2005

St. Germains High School has got to be my favorite school. When I am old and senile, I will still be telling my grandchildren about St. Germains and the education I partook in. I missed the first day of 10th grade. I managed to get typhoid during that summer vacation and it was a while before my parents would let me out of bed. Since the first day of school was always wasted, it was decided that I didn't need to go. So off I went on the second day to school, only to find that I had ended up in 10 A. St. Germains had about hundred and fifty kids in 10th grade that year, and we were divided up into three classrooms. The 10 A class teacher was Mr. Amal Raj, also called Dubba by those in the know. which was pretty much everyone. We had nicknames for every teacher in school, and the good ones usually stuck around for years. Dubba was one of the good ones, and it had been handed down to us through the years along with the fragments of the legend. All i remember is that it had to do with his lunch box, which was this huge steel tiffin box set that he carried in a bag on his classic indian bicycle. The green one with the bent handle bars and the huge seat and steel cargo rack.
me and dubba were not really on the best of terms over an incident that happened at the end of 9th grade. you can imagine my horror when i found out he was my class teacher. the real fault i had with dubba was that he had favorites, and i was definitely not on the list. in fact, i was convinced he hated me. we both had reason... luckily for me, i managed to go home and somehow convince my father i wanted to change classes, and he actually came to school and talked to mr. toppo, the vice principal and it was all done.

In the middle of this eventful first week of school, however, mr. lobo found time to heal me of a persistent cough i had. and very effectively too. its never come back since. mr. lobo was one of the teachers who'd been around for a long time and he taught physics. he was generally looked on as a harmless old man who could be teased easily. word on the classroom aisles was that it wouldn't do to piss him off however. I still remember he used to wear short sleeved shirts which used to generally be white with vertical stripes. And he had a paunch and greyish white hair that he combed to the side and a moustache. He also used to wear grey or dark brown slim boot cut pants and brown loafers and he walked slowly. It would always take him a while to get from the staffroom to the class.

Our classrooms in 10A, 10B, and 10C were in a row on the side of the quadrangle right outside the vice principal's office and below the principal's. It was done so that we would be less tempted to goof off. It worked, because we'd end up being chased inside our classrooms a lot. All three classrooms had really low roofs and the door was towards the back of the class. When you stood in the doorway, you'd see the last rows of benches and tables. We had an aisle in the middle of the classroom and benches and tables in rows all the way to the front of the class where there was a single desk and chair for the teacher and the blackboard. Opposite the door, all across the far wall were set huge square bay windows. The far end was open except for decorative metal grating and these windows could be closed up on the near side with wooden windows that had murky glass panes. We also had a single tubelight set in the ceiling. We used to have a lot of fun taking the little starter out of the tubelight and persuading the teacher there wasn't enough light in the class for us to see anything on the board. The students would sit three to a bench, according to height, and thankfully enough, I'd end up towards the back.

It was my first class with Mr. Lobo, and a first class with a new lecturer is always a time of testing. You always want to see how much you can get away with. In this case, I was sitting near the windows, in the second bench from the back and we were writing down stuff as Mr. Lobo dictated from his notes. During the course of the dictation, he drifted back and sat down on the last bench, near the aisle. I was in the middle of the next bench, with a friend next to me, and we were all bent over writing in our 200 hundred page ruled square notebooks.

All of a sudden, Mr. Lobo coughed. Immediately a smile blossomed on a few faces. There were a few furtive looks. Suddenly, a cough sounded in the back to my right. I waited. There was another cough to the front. Then I coughed. If you thought a yawn was contagious, you have no idea what a teacher's cough can do to a classroom of boys who are just waiting for an opportunity to goof off. Suddenly, it was as if the whole class erupted in a fit of coughing. We heard all kinds of congestion clearing up, from a simple sore throat to a deep hacking cough. In a matter of seconds, it petered out, with the final cough showing up somewhere in front of me. I didnt want it to end just yet. I decided I'd cough again. So i did, only it came out staggered, so it ended up sounding singly in the silence. "ahuh, ahuhh". satisfied, a smile began to make its way to my face.

BAM. Out of nowhere, a hand had come and slapped me across my right cheek. I looked up, in growing horror. Now it was a matter of finding out exactly how bad the punishment was going to be. I look around to hear "SO YOU THINK YOU CAN MAKE A FOOL OF ME?" Now was not the time for an answer. I could catch the look of horror on the faces of my classmates and friends. This was new to them too. There was no precedent in our short history together with Mr. Lobo on how to handle this situation. So I did the only sane thing. Kept my mouth shut. "GET OUT. GET OUT OF MY CLASS RIGHT NOW. AND YOU CANT SIT IN MY CLASS TILL YOU BRING YOUR FATHER TO SEE ME"

Getting out took only a manner of seconds, excruciatingly slow though they were. Now it was even more important that I get out of 10 A and into 10C. I knew he taught physics in 10B too. So I went home and told my father again that I needed to get out of 10A because Dubba hated me. By the end of the week, it was done. But they threw me into 10B instead. I kept my mouth shut and my head down and tried to blend into the dirty brown of the desk. It didnt work. Physics class rolled around and he asked me again to bring my father in. So I went home and told him about how the new physics teacher wanted to meet him. My dad happens to have a B.S. in physics. I put the whole spin on it. Nice physics teacher, physics is important, physics is good, i love physics, my teacher wants to meet you. All that. So my dad came to school, and they talked right in front of me. All Mr. Lobo said was," your son is a smart boy, but he needs to pay attention sometimes". Then my dad went home and all was good. I never had a problem with Mr. Lobo again. Needless to say, I was eternally grateful that he did not say a word to my father and he never had a problem with me. And that cough? It never afflicted me in his class again.