Riding the bus to school, when we approached destination I'd hasten to count the ambulances we sighted from the window. The belief was that seeing three ambulances brought luck, and so the teacher might not ask to see our homework. There was a large hospital near the school, so ambulances roamed the streets there, but mostly I couldn't get three. My palm (and sometimes the knuckles) received serious whacks from thick canes and stayed red and blue all day. (I checked my hand now and reassured myself that it is whole.)

Sometimes it was alright because many hadn't done the homework and we all took flogging and stood upon the bench. Punishment taken in a group lightened the pain.

Then, I moved to another school in another town, where the headmaster held a special ceremony monthly, in the daily school assembly. He lined up the top scorers in the month's class-tests on his left and gave each a palm-sized certificate of merit. Next, he lined up those who scored the least on his right and lashed them till his cane broke. The caning would continue even after the assembly had ended, and we were trooping to class.

In Bangalore again, our teacher was exasperated that her boys and girls were shy of each other at such a young age. So she put boy next to girl next to boy next to girl. We rather liked the arrangement, as I remember.

My history teacher in a North Karnataka town was a Scottish nun. She didn't like the government-prescribed history text-book, and she ordered one for us that extolled British rule. Now I realize she got away with something serious. She also taught us English, and her art classes were fun, and the overall experience was something like in the Sound of Music.

In my final year of school, our teacher of mathematics took us to the river Kaveri. He asked us to identify birds and rocks and hills and boats and trees and so on. He then talked to us about set theory. By now we were grown, and our interest would wander to two sets he wasn't talking about — a male set and a female set. The teacher got really cross, and he said he saw no future for us. No matter. We got ourselves a past.


Image: Unsplash, Kelli Tungay