Grasshopper Chronicle

Grasshopper Chronicle

Jyotirmoy Prodhani

Misled by the Clever Crow

We were still in our primary school in the summer of 1979. It was eventless as ever. The only time we liked school was  when the teachers from the Basic Training Centre (BTC) used to take classes for a week or so once or twice a year. They used to smile at us all the time. They would spread those colourful charts, pictures, various interesting models, globe and stuff inside the class making school exceptionally interesting. Suddenly, those dull lessons turned worthy of some attention. We were not afraid of them at all though they taught us.  Normally we used to have only one teacher per class. He would be there in the morning and would stay put till the school got over. Throughout the year we had only one teacher in the class. But when the BTC teachers came, they appeared in the class like actors. They smiled, even if there was no reason to. They would speak to us loudly, affectionately and even enact roles or sing to the loud clap of the class. More importantly, the teacher would not be the same for the whole day. For every subject there would be a separate teacher. One would teach poetry with pictures drawn on a chart of a clean beautiful village with green trees, blue river, one or two boats, and three four tiny birds flying in the sky; also the mountains in the distance and the red sun peeping from the gap in between the two hills. There would be a lot of tiny lines around the sun which looked as if the sun was burning bright. In the next class they would tell us the same old story of the clever crow with the whole story drawn on a chart- the big black crow sitting on the edge of a pitcher, picking colourful stones and finally drinking water with water droplets flying around its beak. The other one would come with a globe and show us India and Assam but no Golakganj, because it was not there.

We wished our teachers too were like them, who would bring such interesting objects to the class. The BTC teachers were young, good looking, very neatly dressed and were the treasure trove of all knowledge. We wondered how come our teachers were not like them, or why were those teachers not allowed to teach us every day? All of a sudden, when we would be little used to this happy teaching sessions, they would disappear. Class would be back with our original fearsome teacher – Shyam Sundar Sir. He had bulging red eyes, but he was harmless. He would also at times sleep and snore in the class after having asked us to repeat the same thing that we did the previous day. Our classrooms were not great. There was one black board, old benches and low desks, most of the windows had one of the wooden planks missing so they remained half open throughout and the doors were never locked, not even latched. After the school was over the doors were secured with brick pieces pressed at the bottom and the ones with better condition, with the two lock rings intact, were closed with a tiny piece of jute rope fastened through the rings. There was only one room that was always padlocked with proper lock and key, the head Sir’s room. The legend had it that the most important things kept in the room were the batons of various sizes and shapes. It was heard that once the headmaster had beaten up a student with one of those batons and the boy had died immediately there inside the office itself. A red piece of cloth was still there in the room which belonged to that dead boy. His mother came and cried a lot for that piece of cloth but the headmaster was so furious that he refused to give anything to her. The cloth was still lying under one of those almirahs. Manoj, the most learned amongst us, informed us that the dead boy came many a times at night to collect that wretched piece of cloth but could not take it because it was tucked at such a place that it was impossible even for a ghost to take it back. Earlier also so many pupils died at the hand of our head Sir. So everybody was afraid of him, even the fathers of all the students were afraid of him.

As we were in the class, the boy from office came to our class and said something to Sir. Then Sir nodded his head, looked towards and said, ‘Manoj, you are called by the Headmaster, go and meet him in the office.’

We all froze. Manoj stood up and could not move. Sir resumed his teaching and Manoj remained on his feet. Having noticed Manoj was still standing Sir told him loudly, ‘How come you are still here, go and meet the Head Sir.’

Manoj moved very slowly, went out of the class and moved towards Head Sir’s office, very slowly.

to be continued in next issue
Jyotirmoy Pradhani

Jyotirmoy Prodhani

Professor, Dept of English
NEHU, Shillong

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