During my initial days in school, my father always compared me to the Prithvi missile, which was designed and developed by Defence Research and Development Organization.
I don’t know what my father’s reasoning was…but I guess it had something to do with the fact that Prithvi never hit its intended target.
“You are just like that surface-to-surface missile, Prithvi. Can’t even find Pakistan,” he would say.
It wasn’t always my mistake that my father got called to the school often. Like that time when the teacher asked me that dogs question. She said: “Rajan, if I give you two dogs and then give you two more dogs…how many dogs would you have?”
I said: “Five Dogs.”
The teacher asked this question many times and every time my answer was five. I think after the seventh attempt, she lost her cool and called in my father. My father’s answer was ‘Four Dogs’ and even after I reminded him that we already had a dog at home, and the correct answer was ‘Five Dogs’ he only gave me a stare.
I think I was in Kendriya Vidyalaya No 2, Jalandhar, Punjab then – in the 1st standard. The moment we got my first standard results (I passed), he said we would be moving to Kholapur in Maharashtra.
“Papa, why are we moving? Have you been transferred?” I asked him.
“No, I wanted to put you in a stricter school and that’s why we are moving.” He replied without looking up.
Once in Kholapur, I was admitted to Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) School. The first day changed everything – they took me to a hall where they had publicly nailed one student on a giant plus sign.
Just to confirm, I asked the student sitting next to me: “Why do you think that guy has been nailed to a big plus and hanged on the wall?”
He replied: “Maybe, he failed maths. Why else, would they nail him on a big plus.”
I thanked God, he hadn’t failed English…imagine being nailed to an ‘A’ – a nail thro’ the head for sure.
I didn’t want to meet the same fate….and ended up becoming the best student the school had ever seen.
Now, I could get my progress report signed on the same day it was given to me by my teachers – not because I was getting good marks, but because now my classmates had stopped borrowing it to scare their parents.
Soon, I had realized that the lesser activities I did in school, the lesser my chances of making a mistake, and thus even lesser my chances of being nailed and hanged on the wall. In order to limit the activities, I avoided eye contact with teachers and when they asked me to do anything I would re-confirm if they were talking to me.
I think I was in the fourth standard, when I became the favorite student of my English teacher. She had spent the last 15 minutes waiting for one of us to give two examples of pronoun. I tried hard to avoid eye-contact but after 15 minutes, my turn did come. She asked: “You over there….give me two examples of a pronoun.”
I was quite. I didn’t look up.
She came closer, and said: “Hellow…you…look up and give me two examples of a pronoun.”
I had no choice but to look up. I looked at her, looked behind me, and looked on both my sides and then looked back at the teacher and asked: “Who? Me?”
The teacher went ecstatic. Since then I became her favourite student. Unfortunately, we left SDA when I got my fourth standard results.