Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The English Teacher

I had a tumultuous start to my career: no, I don’t mean the misfortune of being a 2009 pass-out, I also don’t mean the 25 interviews I had to take in a space of four months and I definitely don’t mean the way things are shaping up right now (that’s another story altogether)…

But let’s go back a couple of decades, when I was this 3-year old with pigtails and my parents were struggling to get me admitted to a “good” (read CONVENT) school where all the “good” (read dad’s colleagues’ daughters) went. Thankfully, I was born with this inherent ability to screw up all interviews and that talent was apparent even in those early years. So there I was, sitting in this very posh (read SNOOTY) room in a sprawling campus. The lady opposite to me (must have been the Principal of the school) points to the fruit kept on the table in front of me and asks gently, “So, dear, can you tell me what that fruit is?” Now I HATE it when unknown people/acquaintances address me as “dear”. Plus, it’s an open secret that I don’t like making small talk with people I don’t know. So I chose to maintain a dignified silence and stared back at her rudely. She asked me, AGAIN. Annoyed, I replied, “aapel” to get her off my back. Now, the fruit in question was an APPLE, but since I didn’t know the English word, and was too proud to admit it, I did what I could: I replied in my mother tongue, Bengali.

The rest, as they say, is history. The school refused me admission and this pattern was repeated in all the convents in Kolkata. Like they politely say in HR terms, “I wasn’t a good fit”. And thank god for that! So I went to this co-ed state board school which admitted pretty much everybody (and ended up in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most populous school in the world). This was a school where I could be myself, I could hang out with rowdy, ill-mannered boys and most importantly, I could speak in my mother tongue. All the students spoke in Bengali amongst themselves (those who didn’t, gave in to peer pressure) and so did most of the teachers. Obviously, the flipside was that my English was horrendous (yes, o readers of this blog, that explains the childish simplicity of my writing… I never learnt the big words till I wrote CAT and then it was too late), I suffered from an inferiority complex because I wasn’t “smart” like the other kids and I could NEVER make conversation with the above-mentioned dad’s colleagues’ convent-educated daughters till I was in Class IV.

And then, the English teacher stepped in… who decided enough was enough. I couldn’t keep failing my English paper and I couldn’t keep miserably staring at the food instead of playing with other girls.

He introduced me to the world of Malory Towers and read them with me so that I could discuss what I understood and what I didn’t…

He helped me with the painful ‘make sentences’ and ‘sentence correction’ exercises…

He made me give up my repeated readings of Feluda and instead take a chance on Alfred Hitchcock…

He bought me one Hercule Poirot book, and then another and then another…

He refused to let me take the easy way out in middle school and enroll for coaching classes and instead made me sweat over complicated interpretations of ‘The Lady of Shallot”, “Charge of the Light Brigade” and “The Daffodils” while he edited/corrected my convoluted summaries…

He held my hand as I nervously ventured in the world of classics: Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Bernard Shaw, Emily Bronte…

He pretended to look away while I stole his Sidney Sheldon and Jeffrey Archer collection instead of studying for my Boards…

He encouraged me to take up English as my first language in High School simply because I wanted to study the history of English Literature though it was suicide in terms of grades and he never blamed me when I ended up with 55% in my Boards…

He taught me to speak, read and think in English, simply and crisply and without jargon…


He is the only Chartered Accountant I know who can make sense of old Russian literature as well as he can point out loopholes in GAAP and IFRS…

He is my dad…

16 comments:

Carpe Diem! said...

:) I hope 30 years down the line, somebody writes that for me. :)

Scribblers Inc said...

Woho...very cool post. I remember staring at a fish tank during an entire interview, and thankfully, the school took me in. We also got a fish tank too...

Thanks for dropping by...hope to see you around more often...and yes, you have Great style...

Wishes
Scribblers Inc.

Imperfectionist said...

Lovely! If post on Aunty was the Bestest, this is no second :) Loved it!

little boxes said...

what a beautiful post!
really really touching...i went to a "mero school" as most Calcuttans put it.was too proud to thank the lady at the convent school interview after she offered me a toffee...i was famished from the 2 hours long wait.
wonder of wonders, we've managed to do quite well :)

lovely blog.

Nefertiti said...

@carpe diem
n i hope for that kid's sake, she doesn't have to go through what I did: wanting that piece of chicken but not able to frame it in English!

@scriblers

welcome and thanks for reading... we all have our childhood interview stories dont we?

@imprfectionist
well, when the great imprfectionist cares to leave a comment on a post, it has to be special :)

@little boxes

welcome! I just have to say that i simply love your blog. You should post more often.

as for the 'mero school' bit, I so identify with it. n good for you... at times people are just begging to be treated rudely.

ssoggo said...

Lovely, lovely post..! And no words can do this justice..

Neil said...

You do give too much credit to the 3 year old Shimonti (my eyes rolled a bit while reading that part).

Did I mention this was very good? Actually did enjoy reading this again today. Not a frequent occurrence on your blog ....

Nefertiti said...

@ssoggo

thank u lady...

@neil
3 year old shimonti was quite a child prodigy... u r just jealous of her.
n ALL my posts are very good which is why you read them as soon as I put them up. You are just cranky because we didn't tell you about what happened in goa.

Neil said...

Actually I read them because you come to my blog and post comments asking why I havent read your latest post! And Im pretty sure I will get scandalized if I hear the goa stories. Am happy living in my ignorance ....
P.S - What happened to all the prodiginess?

Nefertiti said...

@neil

don't lie! such a loser...

so u still haven't managed to get the gory details out of anon... such a wimp!

the prodiginess is waiting to be unleashed when you least expect it...

Neil said...

Gulp! 26 years of pent up prodiginess (assuming it went into hibernation after your meeting with the principal when you were 3 years old) .... a dormant volcano ready to explode. Run!

Nefertiti said...

r u suggesting m 29!!!!
FO!!!!!!!

Mani Goel said...

Loved this one....I too had a similar interview experience and was rejected by a convent school...but guess, we did make it fine!!:)

Nefertiti said...

@mani
long time!!! good to see you here. n thanks! yea, the world has enough to offer to everyody I guess

prachetash said...

Why have you used two different fonts in the same post? #justcurious

Nefertiti said...

@prachetash
THAT'S ur takeaway from this post?
different fonts? well, my last lines are always in diffrent fonts...