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Monday, December 26, 2011

Who Should Be Punished? Changing the Rules


I was a fierce person from my childhood, or precisely I was a fiercer person in my childhood then I am now. I have never been chicken heart, but rather like the hot fiery grilled chicken from KFC.  As a part of the contest post for the KFC Fiery Grilled,"Sets You On Fire!" contest, where I am asked to describe a fiery event or situation, either real or imaginary;  I don’t have to resort to imagination which can never match the fierceness of my real life.  I am sharing an incident, from my childhood which looked normal to me back then. Anyway thinking of it now, I feel, I really achieved something to be proud of.
My Mom was an extravagant person. As a result; though my Dad had fairly good income, she could not plan the budget the right way. She ended up leaving out some necessary things not attended to or spent upon. Food was the main agenda on her budget and we could never starve. Once we were stuffed to the full; she would look into other things. If children would make more demands then she would get it for them by hook or crook. Sadly, in all this love and care, the electric bill, our school fees and other such necessary payments remained to be paid. Once, my monthly school tuition fee was not paid for 8 months. Our convent had provision for free education of poor students, but I did not fall under that category. My dad worked in Joy Ice Creams Factory, which was located just opposite my school and his income was good enough.
There were few very rich students in our school, as well as poor students who fell under the category of free education. These children had no problem. Then there were the in between students like me, who had to struggle to pay the monthly fees. So, by the end of 8 months time, Mother Superior lost her patience. She called upon the class teachers to send all the students who had not paid their fees to be made to kneel down near her office until she comes over there to punish them. There were 19 students in all, two among them being me and my sister.
 I always enjoyed something different from routine life. Initially it was fun being led out of class room and being made to kneel down near the office. I was small and this did not mean an insult at that stage. Those feelings come over only when we are adolescents. Within a few minutes my knee started to hurt very badly. It was fun no more. In no time my mind started to wonder why I had to suffer the pain. What wrong had I done? I was a studious student in lower primary school, who did all the work allocated to me. I could not kneel down for long and so I stood up.
Everyone gave me the look described by Charles Dickens when Oliver asked for more porridge. No one had ever gone against the orders given by the school so far. My sister gave me ‘the look’ and indicated I kneel down quickly before anyone saw me. I shook my head and refused. All students were aghast. I saw a teacher rushing towards us. Mother Superior was walking from the convent house with a big cane. There was fear in me but I was not going to surrender to fear. I knew deep in my heart that I was right and I did not deserve the punishment. The teacher lifted up the stick and whispered harshly for me to kneel down before Mother Superior came.
I replied, “Miss, what wrong have I done?”
The teacher replied angrily. “You have not paid fees for past eight months”.
I did not understand how this was my fault. So I replied again, “My parents haven’t given me the fees, how should I pay it?”
The teacher was confused. She was losing her temper too. She hit me on the back and said, “I don’t know about it. You should pay the fees if you are to study here. Now kneel down”.
I was angry that she hit me. Now I replied loudly, “I will not kneel down. My knee hurts and I don’t like pain”.
By then the three nuns; Sister Claudia, Sister Lawrence and Sister Fatima had reached over to the place. They were not used to arguments and were kind of shocked to see a little girl answering back. Sister Fatima was the kindest one and Mother superior Claudia was the toughest. 
Sister Claudia: What is going on? What is the problem with you girl. Aaahhh it is you Farila! Now whose hair are we going to pull?
Her first encounter with me had been a tough one too. I had insisted that she pull the hair of the boy who had pulled my hair and in the process had praised him highly without realizing it.
I was quite embarrassed with the mention of the incident, but nevertheless, I wasn’t going to back up now.
Me: I am being punished for no fault of mine. I do my homework regularly, take part in activities, come to school on time and follow all the rules. Why am I being punished?
Sister Claudia: Girl, you have not paid the fees.
Me: Not me Ma’am, it is the fault of my parents. If you punish me they will not pay the fees. The stones are pricking my knee, not theirs. Make them kneel here ma’am because it is their fault. When their knees will hurt, they will learn their lessons. Beating me or making me kneel down is not going to change things.
(off course the above conversation happened in much simpler and broken English which I cannot repeat exactly because I have lost touch with that language).
The teacher lifted her stick once again as she was very upset, that I was arguing with mother superior. Fortunately, Sister Fatima intervened and took my side. She said there was a point in what I was saying. It was actually wrong to punish children for no fault of theirs. Sister Lawrence looked confused, though she agreed with Sister Fatima, she said that something had to be done about children not paying the fees. The three nuns stood there and had a small discussion which we could not hear. I did not look at my sister as I could almost feel her stare piercing my skin. Finally the nuns ended their discussion. They decided the children should be sent back home and not permitted to attend classes until the fees was cleared.
It all happened there and then. The rule of punishing the students for not paying the fees was changed. Mother Superior asked all of us to pick up our bags and go to our classes. She said we will not be allowed to attend classes if we did not bring our fees the next day. That did not go down smoothly with me. So I tried to talk to her again.
Me: But Ma’am, I want to study and I don’t want to miss my classes.
Sister Claudia: Oh no! Not again Farila. You have to learn to end things. This is final. One more word from you, I will make you kneel down and hold you down there myself.
Now I was scared and shut my mouth. Inside my heart was telling me that it was wrong to stop a good student from attending classes for their parents fault but I did not dare to argue anymore.
I have great respect for my teachers who had patience to look and listen to what a poor girl was saying. Back then it did not mean much to me, but today I think of them with great respect, hold them very high in my thoughts and look up to them for inspiration.
Later in life when I saw the children (not my son) being beaten for not paying the fees in my son’s school, I could not bear but intervene. The H.M. there said the owners have made the rule and she is helpless. I pursued the matter for quite some time but did not see the change. That shows the greatness of my own teachers.
This was neither the first not the last fiery incident of my life. Beginning from proposing to a guy boldly, asking the truth about swearing in the name of Allah, to fighting cancer, my fiery tongue and wits have not only got me out of sticky situations, they have landed me in there too. This cannot be avoided as my nature is fierce, and, I love giving back witty answers. There are not many regrets that I have left behind as a residue of the outcome. Therefore, I am fine with ‘ME’.
The fire filled answers are never pre-planned. They just pop into my mind spontaneously; I don’t have any preparations to be made, efforts to put it out or push myself to say something out loudly. That’s me without make up or pretentions.  Some appreciate this and some do not. Nevertheless, I cannot do anything about the way I am created. It was not in my hands you see ;). God could have given me some more attention or my Mom and Dad shouldn’t have married at all.  Now the people around me, who are bound to listen to me, have the option of either loving, hating or being neutral to me. Change is not possible
In my childhood everyone had so much of hopes pinned on their various skills through which they yearned to change me into a golden child. Not the metal one, the character one. I need not tell you that, the project was a huge failure which is proved through my Autobiography; a process of Discovering Myself. 
http://www.indiblogger.in/indipost.php?post=102687

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