Mr. Vats cried in the first English class that I took in his grade. Why? Because I wanted the class to sit in 3s so that they could share a textbook, and I didn’t let him pick his partners. It was very evident that this child was much more sensitive than a normal 11 year old boy. I was curious to know more and was keen to make a personal connect with the child.
I had a little chat with him before snack time. He waved at me from outside the staff room, on his way to drink some water, and we walked out for a chat by the amphitheater. I appreciated him for a wonderful homework done and he blushed. I asked him who helped him write at home and he said nobody, unless he asks his mother for help. I told him how his classwork versus homework difference surprised me. He blushed again and told me how he hated writing.
He showed me a brilliant quill pen that he had made himself from a long feather that he had collected during their field trip to Melkote. He drilled the inner hole further, taped a fine nib to the tip and walked around with an ink pot. He promised to make me one if I found a nice feather that I liked too. But he warned me to stay away from porcupine quills, because they were useless, with just the poison in them. I nodded and we promised to try harder at writing during class hours. He promised and walked back to class.
I stepped into class and Mr. Vats had his notebook open and ready, spic in the first bench, and a brilliant smile on his face. His quill pen and the ink pot were right next to the notebook, ready and willing.
Aunty, I truly missed you and Ankita last Friday.
But we met last Friday, no?
Yes aunty. But after class. That’s when I missed you.
My stomach is paining, aunty. I am not lying. It really doing kodaboda.
OK! Go to Jessi aunty in the infirmary.
(Back later) It looked nice and pink, aunty. So, I drank it thinking it will be nice. And it tasted yucky.
These three little boys are extremely curious about everything in life and wandered into my gated house searching for my six year old dog. The oldest is 10 and is the responsible big brother and the youngest notes, “Even I am 6 yrs old“, when I tell him how old the Scotch is.
As I sit them on the sofa and bring them an apple each, they stare at all the gadgets in the house with awe.
“How much is the TV, akka? Must be very costly no? Oh! Small computer! Oh! It’s called an iPad? How much does it cost? Must be a lot of money no? Nice mobile (cell phone). Look! I managed to unlock the phone. How much does it cost, akka?“
I fend off their inquisitiveness with answers that I believe are appropriate for their age. As the oldest and the youngest pet Scotch and enjoy their apples, the middle one wanders off to more apples kept at the puja area.
[It’s customary for most Indian households, especially Hindus, to have a little temple in the house; a collection of idols and pictures to bless the house. These idols are traditionally worshiped by lighting lamps and incense sticks and with offerings of flowers, vermilion, rice flakes or money.]
He carefully stares at the many colorful idols on the various sections and his eyes eventually rest on an idol that has been recently worshiped on. He fixates on an idol that sits smack at the center of a small podium, and has mounds of Rs. 5 coins lying around it.
“Why is there so much of money put there, akka?“, he quizzes me, while settling back on the sofa.
“It’s for the God. My mom must have done a puja with the coins.“, I respond.
“But, God already has so much money. So, why are we giving him more money?“, he retorts, catching me off guard.
“Umm…I…don’t… How old did you say you are, again?“, I ask my quizzer.
“I am 8“, he responds, ” and Mani anna is 10. My mama came home drunk last night and threw quite a fit. It was very funny, you know!” and he continues to munch on his apple.