A funny incident: School has just begun and Shakthi was already in her teacher’s bad books. Try as she might she couldn’t remember what she had done to incur her displeasure. She asks me questions from lessons she hasn’t even taught yet!
“I give up,” groaned Shakthi, as she flopped on the bed in her room. “I simply can’t understand her.” “Problems?” asked her brother Naveen. He was two classes above hers, and they had just come home from school, which had begun a week ago.
“My class teacher is Miss Shanthi,” grumbled Shakthi. “And she’s my problem.” “Too much homework? Class tests?” Naveen teased. “She doesn’t like me.” Shakthi said as she played with the kitten. “How so?” asked Naveen. “Well …” Shakthi paused, aware that she had to be as honest as she could. “She just … dislikes me.”
A bit unfair: Shakthi put the kitten away. “She’s always cutting,” she began. “I thought that she was that way because it was the beginning of school, but it’s been going on every single day. She makes me stand up at least ten minutes, answering questions from lessons she hasn’t even taught! She pulls me up for talking in class when it’s obvious that Tara was the real culprit; she always makes me an example for how not to work or look …”
Naveen looked startled. “Have you tried talking to her?” “She’d bite my head off.” Naveen turned to her. “Keep your cool and be on your best behavior, no matter what. Remember that she’s your teacher, and deserves your respect.” “So I can just suffer under her all year?” “No, stupid. Something will be done about it.”
The next morning, Naveen set off to the staff-room. He was the class-leader for his class, and responsibility had taught him to nip problems in the bud. Besides, his instincts were warning him about the teacher herself. She had always seemed to him a fair-minded person, if a little brusque. Why was she behaving this way?
He knocked on the door. “Come in,” said a voice on the other side – and he stepped in, feeling nervous. He walked up to Miss Shanthi. She was just as he remembered her: crisp grey hair, starched cotton sari, and an aloof expression.
Before he could grow nervous, he introduced himself, and outlined the reason for his visit. “I know you must have a good reason for your displeasure with Shakthi – and if you could tell me what it is, she will certainly rectify it.”
“I don’t want to elaborate on this – but I certainly haven’t been harsh on your sister. Considering her behavior,” she said sharply. “She was in the playground some days ago, and complaining about me! She said that I was messy, and that I was not fit to clean myself, let alone the plate I ate from! What sort of language is that?”
Naveen was perplexed. “And then, Shanti’s not even fit to lick herself – well, I ask you …!” And suddenly, Naveen saw light. If the situation had not been so serious, he would have laughed. He hastened to explain. “I apologize, Ma’am, and so will Shakthi – but she wasn’t talking about you.” “She wasn’t?”
“No. Shanthi-kutty is the name of our, er…cat. She had a health problem a week ago, and the vet said she wasn’t cleaning herself well. And that was what Shakthi was talking about,” Naveen finished a little sheepishly.
Miss Shanthi took some more time to convince, but when a repentant Shakthi came in later to apologize, she finally saw the humor in the situation. “That will teach me not to rant about cats with proper names – especially, when people have the same name!” Shakthi said, ruefully, that evening. “But I really must thank your great help, Naveen!”