Saturday, October 25, 2008

Memories of a free period

Remember those days in school? When it is the third hour (or period) after the morning prayers and your strict math teacher with her bossy spectacles and her equally bossy stature walks in and starts explaining algebra in a (well, again!) bossy voice? Ok, for me math was the terror - you replace it with a subject you used to dislike and the picture is pretty much the same!

But wait! The rest of my discussion isn’t going to be about the math teacher! Rather, I intend writing about another scene. Picture this: It's the third period, and you are digging through your bag for the math classwork notebook and textbook. But..but...Lo! A different teacher walks in, quite unexpectedly, and very well to your delight, instead of the numbers woman who rattles your brain! “Substitute teacher” yeah! And so, the moment the other teacher comes in, an irresistible smile escapes your lips! And then, you frantically try to cover it up – smart if you are that is. Or else, if you are one of those “cannot-hold-back emotions” types, you let out an uncontrollable giggle much to the annoyance of the substitute teacher, who would already be fuming at the thought of having to spend her “free hour” in a class filled with devils.

So, that being that, some of the human species that I just mentioned (ah umm, there were quite a few of them at every class that I was in and no, no, I wasn’t one among them!) - even if you had five of them in a class of forty doing that, it would have qualified as a cacophony capable of tilting luck out of favor for the entire class. Here’s how.

Things would have depended on which class you were in. Say you studied in class five. You would have immediately got a “stand up on the bench all of you” punishment and one of the first-benchers would have been sent off to the next section to fetch a wooden scale (After the entire class kept quiet, when asked for a scale!) – of course for receiving a punishing hit on the palm for everyone, including the seemingly innocent ones whose brains would have already started working on a scheduling program as to what to make of the free hour!

Or perhaps the annoyed teacher would have gone to the point of deciding on showering a rain of chalk pieces on the class, the talkative ones being the most targeted!

Here’s another case. Suppose you studied in class ten, and the substitute teacher happened to be a subject teacher, she would have, for all you know, chosen to do some “revision” when she would have earlier decided otherwise - perhaps to let you study for a test that afternoon. Fizzzz…and all your study plans would have gone down the drain!

And that gets me to the next point. Let's assume that the teacher somehow let the class do whatever it felt like. Can you even think of how many different courses of action that each of us would have decided, the moment we realized we had free time in hand? The playful *slash* care-a-damn *slash* branded-irresponsible *slash* cool-headed *slash* freaky and so on types amongst us, would have chosen to play those little games. Like what? Like these – turn to a fresh page of hopefully your rough-book and divide the page into four columns to play the famed “Name Place Animal Thing”. Ok, if you hadn’t been that organized to carry a rough book, it would have been the last page of some “ill-fated” subject notebook, in all probability a subject you hated or the subject of a teacher who was lenient enough to let things pass without examining the last few pages of your notebook during correction.

An associated game – book cricket! I wonder which genius of a child discovered (or invented?) this marvelous discovery (or invention?) of a game! Fetch a book, open a random page, and write down the last digit of the even-number page, which is your score!! I bet there are other versions of this game that have evolved in the thousand different schools across our country!

Probably, the height of delight for the playful young minds such as these would have been when the substitute teacher happened to be the Physical Training or the P.T. teacher. Such kids would have been only itching to run out of the class, after uttering the monotonous “good morning”!

Yeah, playful kids. But, what’s a class without those serious ones? After all, they are the balancing factor in any class! The true darlings of their god-fatherly, god-motherly teachers – the many apples of the school’s eye! And here’s what maybe the branded-geeky *slash* studious *slash* responsible *slash* intellectual and so on types amongst us would have chosen to do.

If we had been in one of those younger classes, we would have chosen to finish off some homework and free up some time. Mind you, no amount of coaxing from friends to play would have deterred these studious minds – even when it was the P.T teacher for a substitute! The literature or knowledge-thirsty ones would even have chosen to get permission to run up to the library and grab a book – literature or science or math or whatever appealed to our brains and devoured it during the period! I remember when I was in class seven, when I luckily got a free hour I spent the period reading through a few chapters of Alexandre Dumas’ “The Three Musketeers” which used to be the “non-detail” syllabus for our English Paper II. (Well, don’t even decide what types I am, there! I have played my share of those intelligent games too!)

But, yes, as we progressed to the higher classes, we probably were left with little or no choice but to sit and prepare for the endless list of tests that popped in front of us everyday, till we gave our board exams!

Yet, whatever type that we might have been, the very memory of a free period unlocks the gates to a treasure house of memories – of the innocent things that we once did, of the many tiny decisions that we took at the snap of a finger, and mind you, with so much ease, of the little nothings in life, and most importantly, of being what one truly was, of enjoying life, of delightfully indulging in whatever we did, with the least sense of guilt. Memories that perhaps become lessons as we work our way through the big adult world today.