Thursday, December 5, 2013

Pass, ya fail?

***The buzzing intensified. Paper balls flew around. Little kids dressed in blue and white swarmed in and out of the classroom. And suddenly, the buzzing died; the kids dropped everything and made a beeline for their respective seats. “Good morning, ma’am,” the kids sang. The teacher was in, carrying a bundle of white papers. Answersheets.

I sat, shifting my bum from side to side, meddling with my plait. The class was so silent that I could hear my heart thump violently. One by one, each student was called to the teacher’s desk and handed the paper. As each one of them took that long walk back to their seats, I observed their faces -- some beamed, others hung their heads in shame. Pass, ya fail, what will I be doing in a while, I wondered, making the heart protest a little faster.

“Parvathy, come,” the teacher said, waking me up from my reverie. I walked, my hands freezing. With trembling fingers, I took the answersheet from her. And there it was, inside that big red circle. 49 out of 50. I rolled my eyes upwards and my lips curved into a smile. I wanted to run back to ammai, to show her my marks…our marks, ammai’s and mine.

As ammai came back from office, I jumped like a little kitten and handed it to her. “Ammai, 49 out of 50, see,” I said and looked at her face. She was grinning, ear-to-ear. “I got the highest, ammai,” I said, but quickly corrected myself. “WE got the highest,” I said and the pride on her face made me happier than the marks did. Ammai and I, always a team. She taught, I learned, we achieved…***

Things have changed. The little girl with plaits is now a woman with slightly shorter, layered hair. The lessons are different, and so are the exams. The answersheets aren’t distributed anymore. But one thing hasn’t changed. Ammai and I, we are still a team. She teaches, I learn, we achieve.

In a week’s time, ammai will be in Hyderabad for the first time. Whatever she has taught me over the years, whatever I have learnt by silently observing the way she runs the house, all of that have been tested over the past one year. It’s time for the answersheet, the results. As ammai comes home, she will deliver the verdict, whether I have been able to learn whatever she taught me. Pass, ya fail -- ammai,that you will decide...

Am I nervous? Oh hell yes, I am. I have always tried to be like her, to make her proud. Before putting the dosa batter inside the fridge, I ensure that there’s no batter sticking outside the dabba, just like you do, ammai...Before going on a trip, I clean all the little dabbas in the kitchen, and make sure all the dishes are cleaned, dried and placed in their respective shelves, just like you do, ammai. I place the broom handle-side on the floor, make sure that the dishes are dry before I stack them away. I ensure that the bedsheets have no creases when spread over the mattresses, fold the clothes neatly so that I needn’t iron them. I wash the pans first, plates and cups next and the spoons and ladles last. Just like you do, ammai…

When you step into our Hyderabad home, I hope you see a glimpse of yourself in everything I do. That is what you have taught me, ammai; that is what I have learnt. And that, only that, is what I want to achieve, what We want to achieve.

And even though I have learnt a lot, there’s a long way to go. Our home in Hyderabad is my answersheet ammai, and it waits to you to access it, evaluate it. I’m not expecting a 50 out of 50, I’m far from perfect...But then, we are a team, remember, ammai...Teach me and I’ll learn. And together, the 50 out of 50 will be ours...