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Monday, November 5, 2007

The Making of Pinky

Pinky still remembers with a shudder her encounter with the strange tutor. Last year just after the Pujas her Kaku (uncle)and kakima (aunt) came over to their place as a ritual to pay respect to Dadi. At least that was what Pinky thought in the beginning. Pinky’s kaku was a very jovial man. A little on the flabby side though, but still he looked so smart. The best thing Pinky loved about her kaku were his eyes, they were so kind and reassuring. As always kaku asked her about her studies. He even did a spell check on her, in which Pinky failed miserably. ‘Quality’ , according to Pinky spells as Kwality , Balloon was Baloon and monkey was monky . Kaku and kakima were flabbergasted.

“What school is she going to Masima, her spelling is horrible !” Kaku exclaimed .
“My daughter is much younger, still she can spell Hippopotamus with a bang “– declared Kakima with apparent pride .

Pinky was also quite fond of her Kakima. She was so beautiful and laughed so much. Pinky found it very infectious. That day Kakima was wearing a beautiful red saree. Pinky felt like touching her wax like hands .

“No no, this can’t go on. We must do something about it. Pinky is becoming much too spoilt here. Please, you must give your consent Masima, it is only for Pinky’s sake. We are going to take her to Kolkata, admit her to a good school and make a good smart girl out of her. Next year when we come here to visit you with Pinky, you will see the difference yourself.” Kaku said.

Pinky looked at Kaku, Kakima and Dadi, in that precise order and what she saw made her heart sink.

At night pinky cried and cried and her pillow was soaked with her tears. Bhulo licked her tears and whined .

“Oh Bhulo, who will look after you, who will give you milk, who will pick the ticks from your coat.” Pinky whispered . How awful these elders are. Nobody asked Pinky, what she wanted. She does not want to go to Kolkata. Well, she would like to go there, but not for ever. This is her home. She wants to stay with Dadi, with Bhulo, with Bablu. Pinky seemingly became thinner overnight .

At Kolkata, however Pinky was quite happy. Kaku , Kakima and their only child, little Bulan lived in an apartment house near Gariahat, quite a posh area, compared to the suburbs where Pinky lived so far. The housing complex was huge, with swimming pool, play ground and rose garden and a gymnasium. Their flat was also so big and oh so beautifully furnished, with a giant TV set in the lounge and small TV in Bulan’s room where Pinky and Bulan watched the Cartoon network. And her cousin Bulan was a lovely kid. So cuddly , Pinky hugged her whenever she feel homesick.

Kakima did not let Pinky put oil on her hair- it made the pillow covers dirty and ‘with so much oil on your head you look like a village girl’ proclaimed her aunt. But Pinky had a problem. With a head full of more than abundant , coarse and curly hair pinky could not comb her hair on her own. A teary eyed Pinky remembered Monima oiling, combing and making thick plaits with her hair and proudly flaunting her before dadi, ‘see what beautiful hair she has got’. Kakima also laughed at her frocks. “Oh Pinky , what are these? You call them frocks ! they look like bags to me, so long and so awkward, so shabby.” Kakima bought beautiful dresses for her like her cousin Bulan. Though happy to get new frocks and skirts, inside Pinky felt sorry for dadi and monima. Poor people, they don’t know how to dress but they love Pinky and Pinky would choose her discarded frocks and their buyers any day than her benevolent Kakima and these new dresses.

Pinky still remembered the first convent school she visited with her uncle. It was a very renowned school at Kolkata and Bulan studied here. Their car stopped at the huge gate which was kept open as it was the time for students to report in the morning. Pinky was awed to see the huge compound inside, the main building standing in the middle, a two storied yellow building huge and inviting, surrounded by green grass covered playfield, where a few gardeners were at work, it seemed to Pinky. At the left side of the main entrance there was a small brick room, where stood the school darwan in uniform and Pinky noticed he had a very benevolent expression. From the gate to the building there ran a path of red bricks and soil and Pinky crossed it with her uncle with a trembling heart. She wanted to be a part of the school, it was a love at first sight. The written test started at 10.30 sharp. When she got her paper, Pinky felt like crying. How could she even dream of being admitted to such schools; she did not know anything; she was so utterly inferior, so ignorant, so inadequate.

Kaku visited a few more schools with Pinky but came back crestfallen. None of these renowned schools would admit her. She was very weak in English and Maths; not at all upto their standards.

But Kaku would not take defeat without a fight. He appointed a tutor for Pinky at home. Both Pinky and Bulan became his pupils. Their tutor would come dot at six in the evening and would stay upto 8 in the night. Kakima would send snacks and tea at about 7 in the evening. At that time Pinky and Bulan would get a break. Their tutor, Mr Duttagupta, was a stern man, a short and stocky fellow with a square jaw, a blunt nose, a bushy mustache and two marble like cold eyes. Pinky never saw him smile. Pinky started dreading the study time. Pinky realized after a few days that their tutor had a problem with his speech. He would come and straightaway give some lessons for them to solve. And he would bend over their exercise books correcting homework. The first day after kaku introduced them to their new tutor and left the room, Mr Duttagupta looked at them for a longtime, cleared his throat and then began his sermon “Girls, to day we st… st….sta…….rt with aa..aa…aaour lesson….” Pinky was praying to God “Please God don’t make me laugh.” And she tried to think of all her worries but could not suppress a squeak which dangerously sounded like a laugh. Bulan looked at her and put her small palm before her lips to cover the huge grin that spread from ear to ear. That was Pinky’s undoing. Bulan was a student of first standard. She was good in all subjects and was an instant hit with their tutor. Poor Pinky, she was weak in almost all subjects. She could do simple sums, adding and subtracting with single digits only and that too with difficulty. Their tutor started preparing Pinky for the second standard. according to his opinion 'the girl was too big' to be taught the sessons of first standard and that with her 'advanced age' she should be able to pick up the lessons meant for standard two students. Poor girl, she was not even familiar with the lessons of first standard, not to speak of second. So each day after the tea break, Pinky would be found standing with her hands on her ears.

Pinky felt so ashamed of her inadequacy. But apart from being ashamed and feeling low, she could do nothing to improve matters. Being a child she kept forgetting that she was a failure and acted , played, screamed and howled as any other child would and thereby fuelling her uncle’s anger to no end.

These days, Kaku seemed exasperated with Pinky and her inability to learn. He seemed to overlook Pinky’s past education record, that so long she was being educated in a school where English was taught only from Class –VI, where teachers were being selected on their political colours and not for their merit and where overall teaching standard was below par. He forgot, in his eagerness to prove his point to Pinky’s maternal guardians, that unless you teach a kid the alphabets you cant expect her to spell words, if you do not teach her the basics of counting you can never hope to teach her how to do multiplications , and in his anger, started scolding her and keeping her in locked rooms, to ensure that she becomes more attentive to her studies. Much though was his concern for his orphaned niece, he failed to realize that all his frenzied efforts were having an absolutely negative effect on the kid. Poor Pinky yearned fervently for her Monima and Dadi, Babloo and Bhulo and freedom. Almost six months has passed and there has been precious little progress in Pinky’s English and Mathematics.

Unknown to Pinky and her uncle, her Kakima (aunt) had been observing the whole process of ‘making of Pinky’ with a sympathetic mind and felt her plight with a mother’s soul. She wrote a letter to Pinky’s Monima explaining the situation and asking her to come and take Pinky back. Pinky was perching on the second floor balcony when she spotted Monima and Babloo coming out of the yellow taxi . Pinky was down even before Monima reached for the calling bell . Pinky’s uncle was secretly relieved that she was being taken back but Bulan was heart broken. She loved her cousin and would not let her go. Pinky consoled her and promised to come back for the pujas before Bulan let her go.

Back home Pinky was a changed girl. She studied and studied. She would wake up early in the morning when every body was asleep and do her home work. Monima took extra care and worked hard with Pinky . At school also when her class teacher found Pinky to be so eager about her studies, she took extra care and taught her even after school was over. Gradually Pinky overcame her weakness in English language and mathematics more because of her own will and desire to learn than for any other reason and in their annual examination Pinky came out Second in merit. With the result sheet in her hand Pinky tiptoed into the drawing room and picked up the phone and dialed her uncle’s number. Her uncle picked up the phone and Pinky said in a very small voice, “Kaku I have come second in my school. Are you still angry with me?”. In a contrite voice her uncle said “No child, I am proud of you.”

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