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My school friends chapter 4

“Hay, — onnum illa, nothing- much, nothing— important.” With these words, manicured meticulously to appear as a musing but clearly intended to be heard by his wife, Madhava Menon Masher ( for Master ), my class teacher was pacing the polished floor of his bedroom,  when his wife was reading the Ramayanam book, with utmost devotion, moving  occasionally her eyes up to look at the Heaven and waving her hand to describe the movement of the characters, enjoying every word of her own rhythmic recitation. Masher was happy that his preamble had the required effect when he saw her closing the book and looked  up to thank the Heavens again but that joy was short-lived as  she was actually winding up her devotional chant to move out of the room to attend other chores.
“Hei, evadakka-whither? “ he stopped her by holding her hand and said, ” I wanted to discuss an important issue and you are running away ?”
“You said, ‘nothing, nothing” and how am I to know that it means something.”  Malathi Amma retorted, “anyway let us talk tomorrow, as I have to prepare the kids to bed now.”
“Nikkuka, nikkuka, wait please, this is to be discussed now and now itself.” Master tried to explain the urgency of the topic for discussion, “a baby squirrel entered the classroom and you know what a mess it created?”
” Mashre, is that such a topic which cannot wait for the sun rise?”
“Not that teacher, Kalyani Amma—” The moment he mentioned the name of the HM”s wife, she sharpened her ears and reoccupied her chair to know what all problem that good- for -nothing woman had created in the school. (Malathi Amma was also working as a teacher in another school and her husband, giving her profession the status due, called her as ‘ teacher’ and not by her given name).
“She is a nagging  husband -teaser,  always complaining of this pain or that pain, just to make her husband to work for her in the kitchen.”,  commented his wife with her satisfaction turning into a smile on her face..  Master resented her abuse on his senior’s wife though he thought it unwise to rebuke her.
Master gave a word-picture of the happening in the class that morning, asserting in unambiguous terms that he had no role in the animal’s roaming into the class room, Then, remembering his advice to us that one should never be afraid of telling truth even under the most adverse conditions, he asserted, ” Kalyani amma was not there, anywhere in the picture.  It was I who stupidly enquired about her health and got the reward for that from the HM..”
Malathi Amma, regaining her natural simplicity, exhorted her husband, “let us go to HM’s house now and enquire how Kalyani Amma is doing. .She is a kind lady who has helped me on several occasions.  One should never forget even for a small help received. Didn’t Lord Rama reward the squirrel which collected a few grains of sand on its wet body and dumped those into the ocean, by petting the petty animal and presenting a permanent mark on its back as a mark of gratitude? ”
She looked at her husband for confirmation. Master readily agreed with her appreciation of Lord Rama’s unalloyed gratefulness though the mention of squirrel made him uncomfortable. ‘And going to HM’s house and at this unearthly hour?” The very thought sent flashes of lightening through his nerves..
Then silently he mediated for a moment about his profession. He was given the responsibility of shaping the character of over two hundred students by their parents and the school authorities. He should   exercise his authority as a teacher and also as a husband now, failing which he would become unfit to be the master of a school or  the master of a family. Instantly, he raised his head and in clear voice, as addressing a  scores of children in the class room, said  ” no teachera not now;  I will  collect more information from the students tomorrow and we will decide. Now you put the children to sleep. It is already late.” .
Ocala, Florida
Oct.28, 2012

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