Sunday, September 25, 2011

NUT FOR THOUGHT




The bus would only take after ten whole minutes. I was getting so bored.  I pushed open the window. The pungent smell seeped in . Bus stand’s were the most popular public toilets. I watched other people watch other people –  the beggar watched an old lady with a big handbag, the old lady the child who sucked her thumb, the child the dog with short tail and the dog the man who roasted peanuts...

The man who roasted peanuts...he had deft hands indeed. The peanuts rolled , jumped and danced on the pan when his ladle pushed them back and forth, back and forth.  And when they got hot and rust red from the performance, the man stopped. And then quickly, as if to trap the good smell that emanated, he scooped some to pack them into a coned newspaper. His commercial eyes searched for mouth watering observers. His eyes met mine..

As soon as my molars found its way into the crunchy nuts, a thought stimulus was struck:

“Damn, why the heck dont’t I know Hindi???!!”

I have always had an aversion to Hindi. Maybe it’s fear. I simply cannot speak the language. From First Standard to my Eight, Hindi was a compulsory second language..But even to date, I am an ‘ullu ka patta’ at it. And when I reached College, I would justify myself with the usual clich├ęd lines of the South Indian bias to the language. Though I convinced others, I could never convince myself. ..I forget now... what was the real reason??

I popped in another  nut... Oh yes!  I remember now...Asif  teacher!

Asif teacher was my Hindi teacher in Fourth standard . She was a type. You know, the kind that’s grumpy and old. One day, she conducted a surprise test. After dictating the questions, half an hour was given. I sharpened my pencil and began to overwrite on the questions as ssloow as I could. After that. I took a good look at my paper with an eye of artist and patted myself.  Surely, it would’ve made a good model for the Nataraj pencil ad!

“Ten more minutes”, said the grumpy voice.

Easy peasy. I sharpened my pencil (again) and moved on to work out the answers:

‘Q.1   Ramu ne  kyu jhoot bholtha? (Why did Ramu lie?)
A.1    Ramu ne  jhoot bhola kyunki.(Ramu lied because.)
Q.2   Ramu ne kyu dhoodh nahi laya?(Why didn't Ramu bring the milk?)

A.2   Rame ne dhoodh nahi laya kyunki’.(Ramu didn't bring the milk because.)

I glanced around the class. Yup everyone was still writing. I sharpened my pencil (again). And then finally Asif teacher said , “ Time over..enuff..submit the test books.”
I grabbed my book and made a sprint for her table. But I was late. Four books had already been kept. But nevertheless, I made sure the remaining twenty eight were placed over mine.  I hoped she wouldn’t reach mine before the bell.
Contrary to all expectations her frail hands whisked away like a machine, ticks and crosses ( mostly crosses). Suddenly she stopped.

“ Who is this duffer?”

It was for me like those strange moments in life when I get premonitions...(like how you know the phone ringing is going to be for you...or when you feel someone's looking at you and turn around and see someone's actually looking at you...or when you when you have a deja vu..)I knew it was mine, but I wasn't going to admit it...yet.
But some bummer piped in:

“ Nithya..teacher it's Nithya's.”

I swerved around and marked my enemy. It was Blessy. She never missed a chance. Why was she so jealous of me? I wasn't even smart!

Strange. Blessy happens to be one of my best pals now. How do old time enemies become best friends for life? ...eh..so where was I..Yeah. Asif teacher and Blessy were the reason I was a 'duffer' at Hindi.

But of course, there was my brother again. I have understood from life that the greatest thing of being a sibling is, you learn to not get spanked for the same reason your elder bro/sis did. My bro was a dud at Hindi just like me. Sadly, he was the one who had to pay for it. Before every exam, my father would ask him to bring his books to the table to teach him. When my father was teaching, he would have no traces of the cute lovely humourous Pappa we knew of.. Like Dr.Jeckyll turning to Mr.Hyde. When I heard my bro whimper, I would shiver. That was enough to make me mug up an entire lesson in a jiffy. And so I was unscathed, left to study myself.

But now I'm paying my price. My brother can now speak Hindi to any street vendor. I'm surprised, he even understands their jokes.

I looked at my empty peanut cone. Poked my finger in it to make sure not a single nut was left uncrunched... managed to get half a nut. It tasted of bitter salt and the influx of iodine made me think: “Damn! I chose not to learn it. The blame game is easy.”

I got distracted from my meditation, when  man selling books entered the bus. With his monotonous well rehearsed voice he says ( but it's more like a song ) so he sings:
 Draaaing book,
colourring book,
Learn Hindi 30 day, Tamil 30 day
Psc, LDC books....

For a moment I thought he was mocking me. The bus was starting.
“ How much for that Hindi book?”
“Twenty five.”
“Here. Give me fast.”
I smelt the new book. I love the smell of new books. Flipped through the pages. Turned to the back of the book. It had the icon of Balaji Publications. It stated in bold black:
By languages we are many, but as nation we are one.
 Oh..how ironic!