“Why are you crooked?”
It was during my short-term teaching at Kalika Secondary School, Tandi, Morang, in the spring of 1993. A ‘first boy’ of my time, I was allowed/asked to teach ‘anything’ in the Lower Secondary Level — English, Maths, Nepali, Science, Moral Science, Social Studies. Classes were exciting and students somehow receptive. I was among my former teachers, and in the staff office which used to be a mystery a few years before.
Even the public schools like Kalika were strict about schedules at that time. I was also a ‘notorious’ disciplinarian at the start of my career, and being one in a public school was tougher. Half of the 45 minutes would go in shouting and I, like everybody, would not be tired of it. One day, I was teaching (probably) Moral Science in class six. I was explaining what I had never liked myself as a student — the everything-made-by-god philosophy. Not that their textbook did not have anything more interesting, but this happened to be the topic for the day. The students’ boredom, in the absence of a relevant story and activity — could there be any?– was discernible in the yawns and fidgets intensified by the fact of the class being the day’s last. I had to keep them till the last bell. Meanwhile I noticed a boy looking sideways and chatting with one of his neigbours. I told him to be straight, but he did not give any heed. So, I shouted the second time, “Oi tedhe, sit straight or I’ll straighten you myself.” He did sit straight, startled, and with a frown. I noticed immediately that he had squints. I felt odd. Worse, he burst into loud weeping to the hearing of the adjacent class, which was behind only a planked wall with large apertures.
For a while I was wordless, for it happened so fast. I was not old enough to know the adult ways of coaxing an adamant teenager. I just said, “Oh, sorry, I never knew you had such eyes and would mind so much. But it’s no good crying like a baby now. ” Luckily, the last bell rang and everyone rushed out of the room, with the urchin whose temptation for running had suddenly outweighed the desire to weep more. But I learned that day that I should know my students’ both ‘academic’ and ‘physical’ conditions.
“God Made It, Sir.”
It is an even older story. It is from my own class six, more than eight years before the aforementioned case. We had Moral Science in the fifth period, and in the sixth Social Studies. Both started with the stories on the creation of earth. The first said everything along with the earth was God’s creation (sprung from the flesh and bones of Madhu and Kaitav), the second had a long description on the emergence of the earth along with the solar system. And it was the time when learning meant cramming things from books. The teachers made us learn verbatim, and we did. Whether anyone of us knew why the same earth was created in two different ways did not matter. Things went on as they were set to, perhaps for ages.
But the story does not end here.
The Social Studies class. The teacher, Mr. Padam Rai, entered the room as soon as the Moral Science teacher had left. He announced, “Today I’ll ask you questions from yesterday’s lesson.” He picked up Harke (Yes, it was Harke, a real boy Harka Bahadur Rai from a neighbouring hamlet), who had happened to become a front-bencher that day, and asked, “Tell, how was the earth created?” Harke might have thought it was the easiest of all the questions he had ever heard from teachers till the sixth grade in his long course of having the ‘promoted’ status in the final exams. So, he readily, jubilantly, proudly blurted out, “God made it, sir.”
“SSLLAAPP!!!!!” This was what we all could hear from dear Padam sir. Harke was already in tears, and was managing to explain, “Keshab sir taught it in Moral Science only 15 minutes ago.” His neighbour timidly supported him. Padam sir was a bit puzzled, but would not falter, “That was moral science and this is social studies, you idiot. I want the answer from what I taught. I taught this lesson yesterday, didn’t I?”
“But I was absent yesterday, Sir.” Harke tried to protect himself, but to no avail. He got another slap for being absent. But I think everyone got at least one message: Moral Science is Moral Science, Social Studies is Social Studies.