He stood ramrod straight when he didn't have to speak. When he spoke his head seemed fitted on a loose neck. His favorite nod was sideways; his neck moving the head first right and then left. And he had an extra set of teeth in his lower jaw placed just behind the normal one.
His name was Pratap,. In school he terrorized the English language teacher who incidentally had been terrorizing the students for umpteen number of years.
The instruction was simple. Write a sentence using at least two new words that had not been discussed in the class. Pratap wrote, “The foolish old man lost some of his zing when he found the smarter student had great pizazz in sentence construction.” He underlined zing and pizazz as his two new words.
The teacher swallowed hard, but did not give up immediately. His red-inked note advised Pratap that pizazz should have four Zs, double Z occurring after each vowel. He was asked to write another sentence with the correct spelling. Pratap humbly said “OK Sir,” and his head nodded side-wise more than twice which betrayed him of being under great stress.
We apprehended an explosion of some sort the next day when we found Pratap standing ramrod straight outside the classroom to greet and escort the teacher inside. He peremptorily acknowledged Pratap's greetings, and stepped in.
Once inside the teacher and the student locked horns. The former quietly extended his hand which duly received the English notebook. The teacher nearly missed the header-word on the top of the relevant page. It read 'Confirmation' instead of 'Correction'.
The teacher's grim countenance bore ample testimony to his head having gone haywire. He kept his cool with great difficulty, and read on. It said : “The foolish old man has never heard of the thesaurus, and writes pizazz with four Zs, even though three Zs are also lexicographically acceptable, as if using an extra Z will add more dynamism to the word, as if spelling 'pilllar' with three Ls instead of two will make the pillar itself stronger.”
The teacher looked up from the page. If a rigid stare could cause violent death, Pratap would have dropped dead. He approached Pratap with an eloquent silence, but the latter could not hold back a last minute jibe : “Please don't lose your oomph, Sir.”
He caught Pratap by the shoulders, and said, “If the chattering of teeth in the ensuing freezing winter do not claim that extra set of ignoble teeth in your foul mouth, I will supply you with enough teeth breaking words next year to correct your infernal dental imbalance.”
There escaped a sound from the teacher's throat that could either be a chocked cry or a suppressed giggle. None in the class believed it to be either. Then a roar of laughter almost shook the classroom as the teacher took the lead, Pratap picked it up a fraction of a second later, and then all joined in. T
BY TAPAS MUKHERJEE