School Stories – Dead Cat Game – The Pencil and the Bald Head

Author’s Note: You might like to read this before reading the following.

  1. In the School Bus

School busThe Kudla Competition School bus honked outside Imtiaz’s house, and Imtiaz rushed out at the rate of sixty kilometers per hour. His sister Amirah ran after him yelling, “Take your lunch bag, you idiot. Do you want to starve today?”

Imtiaz grabbed his lunch bag, stuck his tongue out at his sister, clambered into the bus, and settled down next to Saartak, his best buddy and classmate.

“Is the dead cat still there?” he asked Saartak, his eyes shining.

“I don’t know,” said Saartak. “If Bupathi removes it, it’s gone.”

Imtiaz was silent for a few seconds, looking a bit disappointed.

“It will be there,” he said optimistically.

“It will be stinking,” his friend replied, pinching his nostrils with his thumb and forefinger.

The boys giggled.

“See,” Imtiaz showed him the scratches on his chin and arms. “I could not kill Agnes Auntie’s cat. It scratched me and my sister hit me.”

“See here,” said Saartak, showing the scratches on his arms, “My cat too did not die. It scratched me and my mother hit me.”

The boys inspected each other’s wounds with interest.

“This is how my sister hit me,” said Imtiaz, giving his friend a whack. “She is a bad girl.”

“My mother is badder,” said Saarthak. “This is how she hit me. She had broom in her hand. Give me your water bottle. I will show you how she hit me.”

He whacked Imtiaz with the water bottle. The bottle slipped from his fingers and struck the floor of the bus, its lid flying open. It then proceeded to roll all over the bus, spilling water in all directions.

As Imtiaz rushed after his bottle, children squealed and tried to get out of his way. The infuriated conductress, who always turned into a janitress as soon as the bus reached Competition School, grabbed Imtiaz by his ear, rained a few blows on his back, and threatened that she would tell the principal if he did not sit down and shut up.

“Aunty, my bottle!” protested Imtiaz.

“No bottle!” snapped the conductress. “Shut up and sit down.”

So Imtiaz shut up and sat down, but did not stop thinking about his bottle. When the bus stopped in front of Kudla Competition School, he picked up his now empty water bottle and sprang out of the bus.

“Take your lunch bag and school bag, you idiot,” screamed the conductress – janitress. “I am not going to carry it for your majesty.”

Imtiaz stuck out his tongue, struck his forehead with his hands, and jumped back into the bus, stepping on a few toes in the process. He grabbed his lunch bag and school bag, dropped his water bottle, stooped to pick it up, dropped his lunch bag, stooped to pick it up, and sprang out of the bus.

“Come fast,” shouted his friend Saartak. “Let’s see who reaches first.”

The boys ran to their classroom as if their shorts were on fire and reached it at the same time. Still, they spent the next ten minutes arguing about it, each claiming that he had reached the classroom first.

“Let’s go and see if the dead cat is still there,” suggested Imtiaz, finally changing the subject.

They charged towards the door and bumped into the class teacher who was just walking in. She dropped her books, untangled their heads from her sari, and scolded them fiercely, “Go back to your seats, boys. Why are you running around? Don’t you know you are supposed to sit quietly in your seats?”

  1. They Copy Notes

blackboardThe boys sadly walked back to their seats, which were located at two opposite ends of the classroom. No teacher in her right mind allowed Imtiaz and Saartak to sit together because they knew it would be like asking for trouble.

Reshma, the cute little class monitor, glared at them as they passed her and then raced forward to help the teacher pick up the books. Reshma did not like boys, especially the boys in her class because they pulled her ponytails and never accepted her authority as the class monitor. In Kudla Competition School, class monitors wielded more authority than the teachers and the principal, but stupid boys like Saartak and Imtiaz neither understood nor accepted this fact.

The teacher wrote some notes on the blackboard, instructed the children to copy it carefully and correctly in their environmental science notebooks, told the class monitor to “mind the class,” and disappeared from the scene. Reshma, who took her duties as a class monitor very seriously, sprang to attention and glared at the class, waiting for them to start talking to one another.

Imtiaz ignored Reshma and concentrated on copying the notes. He copied the first four words on the first line, missed the next two, copied the second, fourth, and sixth words on the second line, and then dropped his pencil. Since it rolled out of reach and settled down near the right shoe of Vikas, the boy who sat in front of him, Imtiaz had to crawl on the floor to get hold of it.  When he finally settled down on his seat again, he could not find the word he had to copy. He knew it was somewhere on the second line, but simply couldn’t identify it. To make matters worse, his pencil had lost its point in the fall and he did not have a pencil sharpener.

In fact, very few children had pencil sharpeners as it was against the school rules to bring pencil sharpeners to school. If a child wanted a pencil sharpener, he/she had to approach the class teacher or the class monitor. Imtiaz wouldn’t have minded sharing his little problem with the class teacher, but he was in no mood to talk to Reshma. His relationship with Reshma was rather strained at the moment because he had booed in her ears and made her jump several feet into the air seven days back. He knew that the class monitor was just waiting for a chance to get him into trouble.

So he poked Vikas, the boy sitting in front of him and hissed, “Do you have sharpener?” Vikas swung around, poked him back, and promptly got back to copying notes. Imtiaz poked him again. This time, Vikas dropped his pencil, left his seat, and rushed at Imtiaz with a grin on his face. The two started giggling and tickling each other.

“Shut up and sit down and copy the notes otherwise I will tell the principal,” bellowed Reshma, shooting daggers at them with her eyes. The fact that Reshma shared an excellent relationship with the principal of Kudla Competition School was well known and Vikas was back in his seat in a jiffy.

But by now, at least five boys and girls had dropped their pencils and were on their hands and knees, searching for them. Pencils had the maddening habit of rolling out of reach and none of the seven year olds liked it when they dropped their pencils. But it was part of coming to school and they knew that they had to grin and bear it or else face the wrath of the adults in their lives.

  1. Pencils Roll Out of Reach

pencilsVikas, who had dropped his pencil when Imtiaz poked him for the second time, was now on his hands and knees, searching for it on the classroom floor. He soon discovered that it had rolled under the left foot of Arjun, the boy sitting in front of him. He pinched Arjun on the leg, making him yell and drop his pencil.

A true warrior at heart, Arjun refused to take the insult lightly. He attacked Vikas and the two boys got into a wrestling match. Reshma ran up to them and started raining blows on their backs. They broke up the wrestling match only when Reshma screamed threats of principals and TCs in their ears. They reluctantly settled down in their seats, discovered that they had lost their pencils, and frantically started searching for spare pencils in their school bags.

Vanitha, one of the little girls who had dropped their pencils when Reshma was bellowing at Imtiaz and Vikas, wailed: “I wrote ‘environment,’ but can’t find the next word on the board. Which word to write after ‘environment’?”

Out of anger and frustration, she poked Achal, the boy who was sitting next to her and copying notes with his tongue hanging out and a fierce frown of concentration on his face. Achal was fond of Vanitha and overlooked the fact that she had destroyed his concentration. “Now I also can’t find the word I have to write,” he said sadly, looking at the closely written words on the blackboard. He then brightened up and told her, “Come, let’s sit on the floor in front of the board and write. It’s easy to search for words there.”

  1. Chaos Reigns Supreme

pencil sharpenerBy now, chaos had reigned supreme in the class. Most of the children were squabbling with one another. Almost all of them had lost their pencils. Half of them were searching for lost pencils. Some had given up all attempts to copy notes from the board and were exchanging views and news. A few were walking around in search of pencil sharpeners and erasers. Reshma was running around the class, trying to maintain discipline by the simple process of either banging the offenders on their backs or screaming at them to shut up and sit down.

Keeping a sharp eye on Reshma, Imtiaz slipped off his seat, walked up to Chetan, and hissed in his ears, “Give me your sharpener.” Chetan shot a quick look at Reshma, who was confiscating a bunch of stickers from a howling girl and whispered, “I will give you, but don’t show it to her. She will give it to the teacher.”

Rushing back to his seat with the sharpener in his pocket, Imtiaz began to sharpen the pencil inside his desk, his tongue hanging out of his mouth with the effort. Pleased with the sharp point, he decided to test it by pressing it against Vikas’ back. Vikas retaliated by rushing at Imtiaz, brandishing his own pencil. The two spent the next five minutes poking each other with their pencil points till Vikas dropped his pencil and broke its point. When Imtiaz burst out laughing, Vikas grabbed his pencil and threw it out of the window.

The boys were so engrossed in their pencil fight that they did not notice Reshma walking up to them, breathing fire and smoke through her nostrils. She twisted Vikas’ ears and rained blows on Imtiaz’s back. “You two will write that notes ten times,” she yelled.

“But,” Imtiaz protested. “He threw my pencil out of the window.”

“He made me drop my pencil,” Vikas complained.

“You will write it twenty times with your mouths shut,” shouted the little despot and shot off to discipline other law breakers.

Imtiaz sighed, found another pencil in the depths of his school bag, and sharpened it fiercely with Chetan’s pencil sharpener. He then stared miserably at the board. He simply did not know at what point he had stopped copying the notes and there was no way of finding out. He handed over Chetan’s pencil sharpener to Vikas and watched him sharpen his pencil. When Vikas showed him the sharp point and grinned, he could bear it no longer.

He grabbed Vikas’ freshly sharpened pencil, rushed to the window, and threw it out. Unfortunately, Bupathi, the coach, was passing that way. The pencil flew up like a missile and landed sharpened point first on Bupathi’s bald head. The man bellowed and sprang into the air. He then looked up and rubbed his bald head.

Imtiaz shouldn’t have found this funny, but he did. The very sight of the coach rubbing his bald head and glaring up at him was hilarious. Imtiaz threw back his head and laughed fiendishly. He did not notice the blows Reshma was raining on his back. He did not notice the teaching walking into the class. He did not notice his classmates flowing to their seats like water and settling down quietly. He did not notice his class teacher staring at him in horror.

  1. The Principal Summons Imtiaz

bupatiReshma ran to the class teacher and started relating delicious stories of Imtiaz and his crimes. Bupathi ran to the principal and complained about a boy in Class II who threw a sharpened pencil at his head with the intention of hurting him. A few seconds later, the voice of the principal of Kudla Competition School boomed over the intercom, filling every nook and corner of the school: “Send Imtiaz of Class II to the principal’s chamber.”

Within seconds, Imtiaz was in the principal’s chamber. Bupathi was sitting on his favorite chair behind the principal’s desk and rubbing his bald head. The principal, a sadistic smile twitching at the corners of her mouth, instructed the clerk to call Zubaida Ahmed, mother of Imtiaz, and to tell her to come to school immediately because of an emergency. Imtiaz sat quietly in a chair and sulked.

Writer’s Note: Above story is a creative piece based on a real incident. If you see yourself or anyone you know in any of the characters (including the cat), the writer is not responsible. 

School Stories: The Gappe Gangs

Writer’s Note: The word “gappe” means gossip. A more dignified way of putting it would be “networking” or “social interaction.” 

The following is a collection of fond memories. I daresay I have been a bit sarcastic while writing it, but that doesn’t mean that I did not enjoy “gappefying.” 

“School Stories: The Gappe Gangs”  is dedicated to all the beautiful gappe queens who made life colorful a few years back. You are all great moms and you rock!! 

gappeParent communities have definitely changed over the years. Our parents hardly visited our schools, and most of them will not be able to help an artist sketch their child’s teacher’s face.

But we are different. We love our children’s school. If permitted, we will sit with our children in their classrooms, make sure that they are treated well by their teachers and peers, and see that they eat their snacks on time. We will choose their friends with care. We will show their teachers exactly how they should teach.

In fact, we will poke our noses into every aspect of our children’s student life and call it “good parenting.” Since we are strictly not allowed into the classrooms, we create Whatsapp groups and gappe gangs. You see, we want to be “in the know.” We don’t want to make the mistakes our careless parents made. We want our children to become the great personalities we would have become if only our parents had done the right thing.

Almost every school in Kudla has a gappe gang, little groups of parents hanging around after dropping their children at school. School No. 2 had one, but I was not part of it. The gang members would arrange their scooters in the form of circles and semi-circles and exchange news and views. Fortunately, the road that ran by the school was less traveled by, so these circles and semi-circles of scooters did not cause any traffic snarls.

I realized the true joys of a gappe gang in School No. 3. Interestingly, I had never intended to join any gappe gang. I just wanted to be a good little mom, the type that is neither seen nor heard and is blissfully unaware of what goes on in her child’s school. I am not even aware of how I became one of a group of vehicle-owing parents who used to park their cars and scooters in the school’s parking lot, an uneven bit of land that strongly resembled the lunar surface, and indulged in long gappe sessions.

We would dump our brats in their classrooms and then hang around in the campus and talk about interesting things such as husbands, schools, teachers, books, children, principals, homework, assignments, uniforms, school competitions, winners of school competitions, mothers of the winners of school competitions, teachers of the winners of school competitions, the quality of the certificates and medals given away to the winners of school competitions, and so on. In fact, the list of topics was endless.

So interesting were the gappe sessions that we hardly noticed our surroundings. The stench emanating from the boys’ toilets nearby hardly bothered us. We did not even feel the hot rays of the afternoon sun as they assaulted our heads, shoulders, and backs. The drivers of school vans and auto rickshaws noticed us and talked about us, but we did not give a damn. Needless to say, we were least bothered about any opinion the school’s principal and teaching and non-teaching staff formed about us. All we wanted to do was talk and talk and talk.

I enjoyed being part of a gappe gang because it was all new to me. I had led a “nerdy” existence so far, buried in books, and like Radhika Mehta in Chetan Bhagat’s “One Indian Girl,” I felt I had to “experience real life.” I found that interacting with mothers was easier than waxing my legs and less complicated than finding a date.

I remember our last gappe session at School No. 3. At least, it was one of my last gappe sessions. It is not that I don’t love gappe sessions, but I just feel I must get some work done.

It must have been the last day of school, but I don’t quite remember. There was a quiz competition that day and school broke up earlier than usual, giving us plenty of time to hang around and talk.

dead-ratA dead rat lay on the concrete floor, roasting in the hot afternoon sun. Having inhaled the stinking air around the boys’ toilets for several months, a little dead rat did not bother us. Our little Outlaws expressed mild interest in the corpse, but we shooed them away to the playground or the sand pit or whatever School No. 3 preferred to call it. Then we gossiped away to glory while they rolled in the dust and sand in the playground. They were sweaty, dusty, and filthy, but we did not care. After all, we were experts in washing their uniforms.

The cleverest boy in the class approached us with his mother, and we all fell silent for some time. The mother of the cleverest boy in the class stopped to exchange pleasantries while the cleverest boy in the class inspected the dead rat with great interest.

“See? A dead rat!” he announced.

“What’s that?” said his mother, noticing the dead rat for the first time. “Hey, don’t touch it!”

She needn’t have been anxious as he had no intention of disobeying her. On the other hand, he was interested in the cause of death.

“How did it die?” he wanted to know.

The mothers were silent, but since I have a big mouth, I felt I must say something. “It got disillusioned with life and decided to commit suicide,” I said politely.

“Huh?” he said while his mother shot a dagger look at me. The cleverest boy in the class then scanned the skies and announced, “I think an eagle killed it and dropped it here.”

His mother beamed with pride, raising the temperature of the surroundings by a few degrees.

The cleverest boy in the class then noticed our outlaws getting filthier by the moment and said: “See them playing!”

“We have to go,” said his mother, terrified that her little one would join them and turn into an outlaw. “We have some work to do.”

We shortly wound up our gappe party. We would soon be leaving School No. 3 and proceeding to School No. 4. And as we went, we would be taking with us certain messages that School No. 3 and its parent and teacher community had conveyed to us.

First, it is not desirable for pre-school children and primary school children to “waste” their time in play. They should spend their time wisely, learning interesting things such as how many teeth they have and how many teeth they will have left if they lose one or two of them. Second, they should continuously impress the adults around them with the knowledge and skills they had gained so that their parents can post about it on Whatsapp and Facebook. Third, they should compete and win, compete and win, compete and win, and compete and win otherwise; they would be “nowhere.” After all, it is a competitive world, not at all the type of playful and friendly world it was when we were children. No, they shouldn’t miss a competition even if they are burning with fever.

Yes, we carried those messages as we marched on to School No. 4. It took me a long time to chuck those messages out of my system. I still feel that my child would have had a less stressful childhood if only I had some sense. As for the gappe sessions, I miss them a lot. They were the best parts of going to School No. 3. I wish I could participate in gappe sessions again, but I simply can’t because my attitude towards schools, parenting, and learning has changed and no parent will ever listen to me. But yes, I still see gappe groups in the campus and envy them a bit.