Monday, September 22, 2008

My English Teacher

Each one of us carry our childhood memories of the school we went to - from the day 1 of our Pre-KG where it seemed we are pushed away from mom's safe arms. Looking around, seeing every other child cry, things seem scary, to be far away from the familiar faces we know. I can very well remember the day when my mom dropped me on the first day and I sat quiet like a good child until I saw my mom walk away. Seeing other children cry, some unexplainable fear hovering within me and soon I join the cry already reaching the crescendo. Who could forget the last day of our school life bidding tearful farewell to all that we would miss - the everyday morning prayers, the inspections, the class works, home works, the petty fights and the reunions, the cold fear when facing the teacher's cane.......its endless.
One such person who has etched firmly in my memory was my English teacher when I studied in a convent from class 8. You see, I joined newly from a regular English medium to this sophisticated convent. The choice was entirely mine, I wanted to go to this school as most of my friends back in my old school secretly got admitted here. And I knew about it very late after they got into the school. I along with my mom went to the school to check if they admitted any more girls when the classes would start just a week later. To my surprise, I got a seat quite easily, I had heard the admission process was tough. But as luck would have it, I managed to get an entry.
The first day was almost similar to my first Pre-KG day. The girls were all hep, throwing up attitude and for a girl like me, it was tough to adjust. I slowly managed but yet, was coy to get out of my cocoon.
My class teacher was a lady with her trademark stilettos, strict and stern. She had her favorites pick of girls - the one who knew good English, who could talk about the difference between credit cards and debit cards- well 13 years back...Holy Lord!! Where have I got myself into....I always used to dread Ms Clipetty Clop's class (Yeah that was the name I gave her secretly..and will shortly tell how I found this name), 40 minutes of fear of getting insulted in front of the whole class. She also taught us Geography and Economics along with English and Grammar
She used to point out, esp the new joiners, "Her, you; read this paragraph". I would be internally happy whenever by chance the para would be just 2 lines.

Here I go -
"India's education policy..." Wait.. Girls how do you pronounce "EDUCATION"
Me -(Confused look)...
Its E"D" UCATION and not E "JU"CATION....
Well....Awww...I didn't impress my ma'am even today...Sob...sob...

We used to take turns reading up a para each as she explained. So we all knew which paragraph would one be asked to read. I would re-read it so many times in my mind that by the time my turn came, I would have well learnt in by heart.
....In honor of....."
" how do you pronounce "honour"...
Me - once again confused.....
"Its hONOUR, with a silent 'h'..

So when ever my turn came, I was criticized for my pronunciation, for my limited knowledge in English.
One day "Girls, how do you pronounce LOVE." We, in chorus "LOWE"... "No, its not LOWE, its LOVE....bite your Vs...Repeat LOVE..." Wow...we learnt something new.

One day, we were asked to frame sentences, part of our grammar class. the regular direct to indirect, Simple, Compound sentences...awwwwwwwwwwww....I wish I have the power to vanish. One of us were picked to frame a sentence using the word "full"..
A girl framed thus "We ate our stomach full".
Oh no, she would not forget this day of her life, my English teacher scoffed off at our English language. "Girls, what a shame, can anyone of you frame this sentence using correct word?"
She was rather irritated, and after a couple of minutes of rebukes, she framed thus -"We ate our stomach FILL". The girls laughed. "What girls, why do you laugh? this is the correct form. You speak wrong English and laugh at this correct usage?"
I don't know, its worth debating, as to whats the correct usage.

Ma'am always had the habit of scolding us and exclaiming "You should be observant girls!".
"Does anyone know what oil do the English use in their cooking?" A few hands up..
"Yes, you".
"Ma'am its Olive oil". "Good, How do you know Raksha?"
I saw it on one of the cookery shows on Star TV".
"Excellent!, See that's why I say it helps to be observant".


She would encourage us to learn new words and apply them in our conversation. But the method she used was terrible. It used to be always insults, rebukes, leaving one teary-eyed. And madam could never accept the fact that anyone else outside her favorite group of girls could come up with a right answer.

A Fill up the blanks question in our Mid term English paper "God is all powerful, he is ______________" (Fill in with a synonym)
None of us could answer this.
Ma'am while distributing paper. "None of you could come up with a correct answer. Sinu, you too, you have disappointed me!!" (As if, she was a master in English language)
"Girls, its Omnipotent"

Well, we all immediately take our Oxford English Dictionary out and search for its meaning. Few things that were mandatory in her class was the English dictionary and the Atlas.

Once she randomly picked up few girls, probably whom she felt were weak in reading the poem and made us all read a poem - rather a ballad.
When all started "Stop it girls, Its so disgusting! Why do you read it in a sing-song manner? Read as if you are reading a ballad, observe the punctuations, the comma and read it accordingly, give enough time for the sentence before starting the next one"...Phew!!!

But the one that hit me hard was when she asked me "What is the calorific need of an average Indian child as compared to an American child?"
This was because I was selected to represent in annual Quiz competition from my house which she was in charge. I was chosen against her nominee as the girl couldn't crack a couple of quiz questions as part of preliminary round and that disapproved her.
I could not answer the question.. She spook fire "Is this your preparation for the quiz competition? On what basis did they select you?" This was enough for me to break down

Anyways, couple of things that has changed probably many of her students....
She insisted that
1. We pick unfamiliar words from each prose in our English textbook and learn its meaning, apply it in our day to day conversation.
2. To be observant as it might teach us lot of things.

These two things made a drastic difference in my life. Even though her words were as sharp as a double-edged sword, even though she insulted and made me break down in front of the whole class, she inculcated a habit that has brought me a long way. Since then, I have been observant always to the minutest of the detail and have been learning every day, not only new words, but unknown things to me.

I thank her each day for her initiatives, those that made me improve my personality, my observation to details, at the same time cant forget her bitterness that she had towards me....Yet She was my English teacher.

Friday, September 19, 2008

My hard luck with Ennai Kathrikai

One of my favorites from my mom's kitchen is Ennai Kathrikai. For the uninitiated, it is a simple and tasty Tamil vegetarian curry. It literally translates to "Oliy Brinjal/Eggplant". This brinjal curry is made with extra oil than that is normally used in a sambhar.
A whole brinjal smeared with the masala dripping its a heavenly taste.
I would stay hungry all matter hot tough it would be to stay without eating, just to eat mom's preparation.
But as luck would have it, each time, yes each time out of the innumerable times I have tasted this preparation at home; I have ended up being unlucky in savoring the curry. Let me tell why.
Ennai kathrikai at home is always eaten with hot steamy rice. I would scoop out a spoon of ennai kathrikai and also some gravy, mix it well and start feeling the heaven, I mean relish it with a sense of gratitude to my mom for preparing it.
I am a fuzzy eater, if that's what it is. The habit of segregating curry leaves, onions to the side of the plate always make my eyes rove around for "non-eatable" offense here..
Don't know for what reason, mustard, curry leaves have always been in the list of "non-eatable" for me. Also Holy Lord, the onions..they are the UNTOUCHABLES.....
so in this process, I always end up finding...guess what??
A WORM :-(.
Oh yes.....I always find a worm somehow having escaped the cleaning process in brinjal(They remain unnoticed as the brinjal are just slit into 4 in this preparation). I have found them in varying sizes, to fully grown 1 and 1/2 inch ones(yuck!!!! I can still visualize that in my plate) to tiny ones....
I am a strict Lacto-ovo-vegetarian. so worms are a big NO-NO for me :-D.
But why me? Why do I get a wormy ennai kathrikai always???
the next thing I would do is to throw away the entire heap of rice and remain hungry......My dream of savoring Ennai Kathrikai and finishing off the entire plateful of rice still remains a dream.....
Hopefully I would be able to live my dream...

Friday, September 5, 2008

Karthik and his Tea cup

With due respect and credit to my dear friend Karthik...a.k.a gopalakk....I am sharing a "not-so-Karthik" type tit-bit.
Gopalakk was his login name in the organization we worked...and it was easier for us to address him that way. He comes across as a calm, charming, down-to-earth person, very sweet..hmm Mr Perfect(He had a neat and organized desktop), very prompt in updating instant messenger status as "Away for tea" or "Away for lunch" as he leaves his cube.
And always follows the English grammar etiquette even on chats.....begins every sentence with Capitals...
But he had a not-so-Karthik type habit. Well, there's always some amount of freakishness in each one of us. Likewise Mr Perfect had one too.
What would you do with your Tea Cup; after having enjoyed your fresh dip-tea? Ok...assuming that we have a fair idea about Karthik, what would anyone expect Karthik to do with his tea cup after he has finished his tea? Most of them would agree if I say we expect him to promptly dispose the tea bag and wash his cup dry....But Karthik...Well........The first time he shocked me...
He leaves the tea cup with the tea bag in on his table and lets it nurture growth - a greenish blusish haze being developed around the tea bag.
The chap had 2 tea cups which would take turns in nurturing growth....He and his dirty tea cup.
He says he makes his tea the same way even now..and its tasty!! and has offered me to taste it. For heaven's sake he is far away in the States...and I am saved. I cant comment as I have not tasted his tea, yet this is gopalakk for you....:-)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

English in its interesting form in India

English has invaded common man's life...and how? Its in a way that one does not realize it. Here, in Bangalore, every other bus conductor uses the phrase "Old daene" to notify that the bus driver is supposed to halt the bus for a while. Well,...if you are wondering what is this "Old daene".... Its English!!. Its "HOLD ON". The phrase is pronounced as Old daene. Well, the concept of Bus
Conductors was borrowed from British rule in India.
Coming back to our English phrase, the conductor would use this phrase hundreds of time day in and day out, oblivious to its meaning and more interestingly the language - English.
He would never give a thought to its origin, all he knows is that he has to use the phrase to communicate to the driver that the bus needs to stop for a while.
Similarly "right" short version for "all right" in its adjective form is used to notify the driver taht he can continue(he could now move on)
Such use of English words is part of everyone's life in India, very well blended to suit vernacular language.
Certain English words are used by locals to denote an object..if i can describe it this way, blended perfectly and used as a local language. For eg. it is common for people to call "table salt" as "salt uppu" - denoting free-flowing salt as opposed to rock salt.
Notable here is the term "salt uppu" which translates as "salt salt" as "uppu" in south Indian languages mean salt in English.
In certain remote villages in coastal part of South West India - where fishing is primary occupation, "Nylon rope" is used as a noun to denote fishing nets/ropes. Here "Nylon rope" is something like a brand.
Sometime back when I traveled to Chennai, I visited the beach. I was sitting on the shore, surrounded by hawkers, tourists. One of the hawker was selling packaged water. He was calling out thus "Water-packet thanni" "Thanni"in Tamil means water. Now this literally translates to "Water-packet water"!!! But "Water-packet thanni" for him and for many others its Water packaged in a plastic packet.
Likewise lot of English words are wrongly used to convey something when it means something else. Oblivious again. The word "personality" is used wrongly in place of "physique".
English is used in a variety of interesting forms, but what matters is the message getting conveyed. And yes thats not an issue..