It took a few seconds to register and then the shock hit Aamir – it was his essay! The essay he had been quite happy with, was now being read out as a specimen of pathetic writing.
For Aamir one of the biggest problems turned out to be English. While in his old school he had been rated among the best here he found his knowledge of the language, or lack of it, causing him quite a deal of embarrassment.
A month after he joined, their English teacher, PLN Sharma, asked them to write an essay on The use and abuse of the internet. Sharma Sir was a short, dapper man close to retirement. He had a round face and round eyes, which sported thick spectacles. When he smiled, which he often did, he looked like a benevolent owl. He belonged to the old school of thought and was very particular about grammar, usage, and pronunciation. His favourite student was Shantanu. Shantanu’s accent was flawless, his vocabulary awesome and he hardly ever made grammatical mistakes. More often than not Shantanu was asked to read out stanzas from poems or passages from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar which was in their syllabus.
That day Amir put in his very best in the essay he wrote. And he was quite happy with the way it turned out. Next day Sharma Sir came with the corrected papers.
“Well gentlemen, your Class VII English teacher Samuel Sir was quite impressed with your knowledge of the language. But I am sorry to say I don’t share his opinion. This is the first assignment I have given you which tests your creativity, as well as your ability to write in English and to say I am disappointed with the results, would be an understatement. Here I have two essays with me which I would like to read out to explain my point. The first one is the kind of essay I am looking for and the second one is the type of essay which makes me regret becoming an English teacher.”
Sharma Sir looked at the faces in front of him. He knew he had their attention. He began reading out from the first essay. There was no doubt about it – it was a good piece of writing – short and crisp, with great content and no grammatical errors. Sharma Sir then picked up another sheet and began reading it out. It took a few seconds to register and then the shock hit Aamir – it was his essay! The essay he had been quite happy with, was now being read out as a specimen of pathetic writing.
“I have read out to you two essays. I don’t think I have to point out which one is the one close to the ideal and which one is rubbish. The first one was written by Shantanu.” Everyone turned to look at Shantanu who was smirking.
“I won’t name the author of the second essay to save him the embarrassment. But I would advise him and many others in this class whose writing is very much like his that they had better work hard or get ready to fail.”
“Excuse me sir,” a voice rang out.
“Yes,” Sharma Sir turned his owlish gaze in the direction of the voice.
A thin hand had gone up.
“Yes? What is it, young man?”
Aamir got up. “Sir, while it was kind of you to think of the feelings of the person who wrote the second essay, I feel everyone should know his identity.”
Aamir looked around and spoke very quietly, “I am the one who has written the essay. And let me tell you when I completed it, I was quite happy with what I had written since I was bench…benchmarking myself with myself. But when I heard you reading out Shantanu’s essay it was very clear that my writing is pitiable in comparison. I don’t want to make any excuses but in my previous school, English was hardly spoken. At home, too, I have always conversed with my parents in Urdu. But, Sir, I promise you that by the end of the year even if my essay doesn’t turn out to be the best, it will certainly not be the one which will cause you any regret for taking up the teaching of English as a profession.”
Aamir sat down his face flushed. Sagar squeezed his hand, “Well done, bro!”
Sharma Sir looked at Aamir for a few seconds, “Young man, I like your spirit. I am sure you will succeed.”
Just then the bell rang and the class was dismissed.
In the next period, Shantanu was handing out the corrected essays. While handing Aamir his essay Shantanu sniggered, “There are more red marks than blue on this sheet. For sheer technicolour effect, your essay should get the highest marks.” Shantanu’s friends joined him and soon half of the class was laughing.
Sagar got up, his teeth clenched but Aamir restrained him. “Shantanu, whatever might be the colour of my essay paper now, I challenge you that by the end of the year I’ll beat you in English.”
There was a stunned silence for a few seconds. Shantanu looked at Aamir as if he had gone mad. “What did you say? You are going to beat me in English?” He looked at his friends and suddenly clutching his stomach doubled up laughing. “Ha! Ha! Hyder, did you hear that? Our Chhote Nawab of Warangal is going to get more marks than me in English. This is what I call the height of ambition.”
“I think this guy dreams with his eyes open,” added Ganesh.
Just then Vishnu Sir, the Maths teacher, walked in and Aamir was saved from further humiliation.
Read on to Chapter 5
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