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"Walk Down Memory Lane"

Post on: June 25, 2020

The year was 1979; I was in primary 4, enrolled in a school in Bukit Merah estate. It was an era where the adage, “spare the rod and spoil the child”, was steadfastly advocated in most homes and schools.

Our favourite English lesson was over and soon, the dreaded Mathematics class was about to commence. We waited for our teacher, Miss *Rita, to arrive. Ten minutes had passed by, and yet Miss Rita was nowhere to be seen!

Soon the class was cosying up to the freedom. Everyone started talking and engaged in playful banter. In no time, it blew up into total mayhem. The whole class was enlivened and the sound decibel had reached to a profound level.

We felt relieved that Miss Rita had failed to turn up. She was a no-nonsense disciplinarian who took pride in teaching in her unorthodox way and at the same time, instilling fear in her students.

“Perhaps, Miss Rita came up with sudden diarrhoea and is stuck in the toilet,” Dave cheekily suggested. Everyone broke into rapturous laughter as the thought of our strict teacher battling against nature’s call cracked us up.

“Maybe her mom is sick and she has rushed to the hospital,” another boy interjected. Like every inquisitive ten-year-olds, we were speculating about Miss Rita’s no-show. We were hoping she would not turn up at all. We continued our banter and our antics became bolder as the minutes ticked away.

However, one person stood out amongst the boisterous lot. *Stanley was weak in his studies and barely made it to primary 4. And being timid and shy, he always kept to himself — accentuated by his lack of self-confidence.

He was seated at the front row, directly facing the door. He just stared blankly, anticipating Miss Rita’s arrival. With his fingers crossed, he waited with bated breath, oblivious to the noise surrounding him.

Suddenly to our horror, we saw miss Rita walking towards our classroom from the door, which was ajar. She was fuming mad as the noise had reached a few notches up from the usual. Feeling vindictive, she walked with a sense of resentment as she approached the door.

Everyone scurried to their seats and instantaneously took out our Mathematics books. Miss Rita stormed into the classroom and was greeted by Stanley, sitting closest to the door. For some inexplicable reason, she gave Stanley a tight slap! It was loud and reverberated with an endless smack.

Poor Stanley was almost in tears — his cheeks reddened with pain and shame. We were shell shocked and indignant that the best-behaved boy bore the brunt of Miss Rita’s fury while the rest of the class, was spared.

Miss Rita vociferated, “You are so weak in Mathematics and yet didn’t bother to go through the sums.” With that, she resumed the lessons for the day, after a 30 minutes hiatus.

We did not concur with Miss Rita’s justification; we empathised with Stanley having ended up the scapegoat to our antics. Thereafter, a street-smart classmate got wind of Miss Rita’s tardiness — she was held back for her poor performance and got a dressing-down from the headmaster. That explained her annoyance and avenue to let off steam, albeit a wrong one.

This episode reinforces my view that sometimes life is not fair. Nevertheless, we have to accept unfairness with grace and dignity. Men may fail us; however, life rewards those who make the best out of what it presents. It happened 40 years ago. I wonder how Stanley is doing now and if Miss Rita had mellowed down through the ages.

By: Shaji Thomas Varughese
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Photo: Pixabay.com

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the person.

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