Joyous kids, flashy uniforms and teachers with dashing smile. An almost daily update of kid’s activities and progress. The learning apps on iPad and over-concerned parents. International schools of today are an antithesis of schools of yore, where ‘masterji’ would be symbolised as a disciplinarian ‘muchhad’ in Hajmola ad. The power of an index finger which he moved sternly and the child meekly surrendered- ‘Hajmola sir!’. Even parents preferred the strictest of them. Most famous teacher of my neighbourhood was the one who had the laurels of caning the most notorious kids to make them fall in line. His once bruised and battered pupil have now become rich respected responsible citizens of country. Before their legacy is lost, I wish to revisit the innovations in punishment they bestowed on us.
# 10: Get out of the class: Mildest yet commonest punishment. Everyday, somebody had to sacrifice and get out. Usually a clumsy kid who couldn’t get up when the boss entered, or one with protruding front teeth which resembled an ignominous grin, or just any random pick. Like a ritual.
#9: Stand on the bench : On the face-value, an innocuous punishment. But, the ‘odd-one-out’ feeling, ‘smirking girls in background’, and feeling ‘helpless’ when next guy pokes pencil in the leg, virtually proclaims you a ‘mascot of stupidity’.
Stupid (n): A helpless child in dirty uniform; standing on the bench consciously adjusting his sagging shorts; with a running nose”.
Great orators of world must have taken this brunt of public-scrutiny in school-days before they became one.
#8: Hit by the chalk-piece: An unpredictable high-velocity targeted missile. Targets were decided impromptu, based on subtle behavioural instincts. A yawning front-bencher, a whispering back-bencher, or a fledgling eve-teaser. None of them would be spared from the hawk-eyes of master. This impeccable hand-eye co-ordination many greatest batsmen would envy. Some times we dodged and ducked only to be hit by another flying chalk-piece within fraction of second.
#7: Murga-punishment is an age-old punishment probably before the arrival of real ‘murgas’ (chicken) in India, and educationists (colloquially termed ‘master’) have innovated it over time. While ‘sitting murga’ was a cake-walk, and many would bear it through out one teaching session, ‘standing murga’ would be punitive extreme. We even had a sadist guru, who innovated a combination of ‘standing’ and ‘sitting’ murga. Yes! you guessed right. Such a diplomatic sadist approach can’t come from bland monotonous science, maths or language teacher. It must be the mutant descendant of Chanakya- the social studies teacher. I am sure Chandragupta Maurya would have been made’murga’ umpteen times by Chanakya.
#6: Sitting between girls: Was this a punishment? Ask the victim! The false pride of boy-hood one carried from birth would be pulverised between lice-infested unkempt hairs, disproportionately perfumed body odor and unwarranted sniggers of school-girls. A live casual public demonstration of sexual-harassment. Embarassed to the core, the boy would never repeat the mistake whatever it may have been.
#5: Slap exchange: A simple transformation of relationships. Two best friends caught chatting and scheming during class, are asked to slap each other. A forced yet tight slap well responded by a furious ‘tamacha’. The friendship shatters instantly and they don’t chat for quite some time like two neighbour-turned foe, like Maneka and Sonia, like India and Pakistan. A sadist yet effective political approach to break the naughty duo and rule.
#4 a): Caning: Punishment in most raw form. Some (like my sports teacher) literally carried a miniature ‘hunter’, while some had traditional polished ‘stick’ reminding its power by rhythmic taps on master’s other palm. But, most of them resorted to pruning a fresh twig everyday from campus flora. Deadliest was the misleadingly thin pliable green twig, which revolutionised the concept of caning. It came with its own elastic inertia magnifying the actual force applied; much more impactful due to low surface area of contact. Oohhhhh!
# 4 b): Ear-tweezing: ‘Ear-pulling’ is subdued version of the actual punishment. Easy to grab; even easier to tweeze and twist. Looks like god has designed ‘pinna’ for this one more purpose. Since, I am going descriptive, this punishment too had two forms. One, the milder one, was holding the entire pinna in one go, and twisting it anti-clockwise. Would create a facial grimace and a closed ipsilateral (same-sided) eye. The other one was just holding the ear lobule (lower post soft part of ear) and tweezing it between the fingers till it become red. A roasting and piss-stimulating experience.
#3: Call the parents: In true sense, it was the virtual defeat of masters by incorrigible mischievous kids. But, it served the purpose. Father would begin where the teachers left. Most powerful slap a man can have is of his father. Slap would be so dreadful like Lord Indra’s ‘Vajra’, they preferred to go back to those much milder ‘asuras’ of school. If fathers were god-incarnates, mothers too were no less than goddess Durga, who could blast with sharper slaps potioned with heart-wrenching emotional melodrama.
#2: Public humiliation: Humans are hurt most, not by canes or sticks, but by psychological subjugation. A public humiliation leaves an imprint which stays through life. Some school-kids who now have got respectable position fail to turn up in alumni meets, since it reminds them of their humiliation. Every grin of their batchmates still hurts them. They might have stopped ‘bed-wetting’ long back and ofcourse no more shit in the pants, but the bullies of past haunt them.
#1: Moral lessons: I never feared any of the above punishments. Murgas and caning were transient corporal burdens and public humiliation was limited to some of the unfortunate or ultra-mischievous ones. But, moral lessons were the lethal weapon. Even British left bored of Gandhian harangues. Mildest of my masters, who never caned or scolded, haunted me the most. A moment of error, and man would begin his hourlong lesson on morales and ethics to the extent that you forget what the error actually was. That too, Gandhi must have been a great orator, but we were facing an insipid unrelenting repulsive rant.
Its not just that punishments have disappeared, the priorities have probably changed. Freedom of mind and self-development reigns the current education where you chose your own path rather than working on a written script. You don’t need to fall in-line, rather make your own line, vivid and uninhibited.
P.S: Author condemns all kinds of school punishments, and hope they are buried for good.