13 years in a boys school (St. Columba’s, New Delhi) is like watching an action packed thriller movie. Girls, stunts, villains, heroes…its all there. Memories of events in school are so deeply embedded that ,even now, it is easy to recall stories 9-22 years old. One such event happened in class 9 and involved a certain character by the name of Francis Pattom.
Francis Pattom was one of my good friends throughout class 8 and 9 and were probably the only Sagittarians who became good pals as well.
Francis, as any other class 9-C student, was expected to be naughty and constantly on the lookout for pranks to play on others. It was one of such episodes that led to him having a strong Congress imprint across both his cheeks.
It was the Hindi period and Mrs. Kumari (name changed to protect myself) was, as usual, in her asthmatic demeanor, trying to teach us a lesson in literature. A short and fat lady with hyperactive sweat glands, Mrs. Kumari epitomized the teacher, who, given a choice, would rather stay at home, sleep and watch saas bahu serials through the day.
Francis, like most of us, was bored and with his hand on his chin was pondering on how he could manage to survive the 45 minutes class. As Francis glanced towards the floor, his eyes weary, he suddenly saw an object that could entertain him and his friends for the rest of the period. The object: A rubber band, large and oval, with the potential to sting and cause pain.
Francis picked up the rubber band and started stretching it, sometimes towards me (on his left) and sometimes towards Joshua (on his right). The apparent fear on our faces was thrilling enough for him to continue threatening us over the next 10 minutes.
Thrill coupled with foolishness constantly motivates you to surge ahead and his next move was to point the sling at Mrs Kumari, while we giggled and challenged him to release it. Francis was enjoying the attention…”Chodd doon?…Chodd doon?” he would ask to which we would respond ” Abey ja na..kya choddega…fattoo”.
In one such exchange of dialogues, Francis, with his head turned towards me and the band pointed towards Mrs Kumari, accidently released the potent missile.
“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaah”, Mrs Kumari shouted in pain”Ye kiski battameezee hai?” The class: deathly silent. “Kaun tha jisne yeh harkat ki?” No answers.
Francis, meanwhile, was being mauled down by his conscience and the fear that someone might take his name. He decided the best course of action was to surrender. Slowly, Francis stood up…”Yeh tumne fainka tha?” Mrs Kumari asked. “Yes ma’am par galti se” Francis replied. “Tum idhar aao” Mrs Kumari ordered Francis as she felt her red forehead, the target of the rubber band.
Francis slowly made his way to the podium while the class looked on. The usual suspects were shocked at the audacity of the attack while some of us still giggled silently at the turn of events.
“Sorr”….Phataach…the first slap right across Francis’ cheek reverberated across the class room. “But ma’am”…Phataach…this one seemed louder than the previous one. phataach phataach phataach…5 slaps in all. Even the naughtiest kid in school wouldn’t have expected such intensity.
Francis was shaken, but he was, after all a boy. As he walked back to his seat with Durga (read Mrs Kumari) glaring from behind, he attempted a faint smile at me. Now visible clearly, both his cheeks held imprints of Mrs Kumari’s overzealous hands.
Clearly conscious of the gallant act he had accidently committed, Francis needed to capitalize on this occassion to establish himself as a hero. As the class ended and Mrs Kumari left, still holding a handkerchief to her forehead, Francis stood up and announced to the class ” Mujhe kuchh nahi hua”, expecting the class to applaud his effort and congratulate him on his ‘success’
His attempt was at best, meek, and a second later, all of us were rolling down on the floor in fits of laughter, while Francis resigned to his fate as a fellow classmate