Five months passed. It was November. After a good festive season of Durgapuja and Diwali, the children were tortured with half yearly examinations. After the exams, on the Parent – Teacher meeting day, I went to the school. I spent a lot of time in the senior wing where my elder son was studying - talking to the teachers, other children and their parents and saying Hi! – Hello to my friends. When I went to the junior section for the younger one’s report card, it was too late. His class teacher Seema ma’am had already left. We came back.
On the next afternoon, I was waiting for my younger son at the bus stop. The bus stopped and the younger one stepped out of the bus. His school bag was hanging on one shoulder, the water bottle was hanging on one side from his neck, his belt hook was opened and the two ends of the belt were dangling on both side. He was holding something in his hands and was chewing it. This was a normal site. He was always in a bad mood while going and returning from school. I picked him up in my arms and snatched the card he was chewing. He put his little arms around my neck and put his head on my shoulder. On reaching home, I put him down. He threw away his school bag on one corner of the room and was struggling to pull out his shoes. Now I took a look at the object he was chewing. OMG it was his first report card. He had chewed the report card from one fold like a crescent moon and a large portion was wet with his saliva. I was shocked. I asked him “Look! You have damaged an important document. Why did you chew it ?” Pat came his irritated reply “Baaki Pilloo ko khilaa do.” [Feed the rest of it to pilloo.] (Pilloo was our newly adopted pup) I said “This is very bad. Your teacher will punish you.” He was least bothered and continued his undressing act. I opened the card. Inside, no information was lost. His report card read as follows:
Class Activites: Avg
Physical Activities: Avg
Habbit / Manners / Punctuality: Avg
Social Behaviour: Good
Sense of Responsibility: Avg
Muscular Coordination: Nil
I just could not believe it. “Muscular Coordination – Nil” The word Nil was written in blue ink and underlined with red ink. “What did the class teacher mean by Nil?. Medically speaking, no or nil muscular coordination should mean that one’s nervous system was damaged and or that the child was retarded – something was horribly wrong.” I mused. “Was there something wrong with my child? No no no!” I couldn’t think any further. I was perturbed. I could not make the hell out of what the class teacher Seema meant. My husband had gone to the office after his lunch much before the child was back from school. Those days we didn’t have any telephone in our home. All horrible thoughts were coming to my mind. I waited till 4 – O clock in the evening and was the first person to visit the sector dispensary where my doctor friend Mrs. Sarani Dutta used to sit. I walked into her chamber. She was a qualified doctor and mother of two and had known my kids since their birth. She should be able to understand my pitiable condition. Instead of presenting her my medical card like a patient, I showed her Piku’s report card. She was taken aback. “What’s the problem?” she asked. I showed her the last line – ‘Muscular coordination - Nil’ and very hopelessly asked “You know Piku since he was born. Do you think he has some medical problem? What is the meaning of this statement?” I almost choked. She touched my hand and said “Calm down. I know your Piku very well. He is a normal child. There is nothing wrong with him”. She went on “I think you should talk to Seema Agrawal directly. Perhaps she can explain why she wrote so or may be it was a mistake.” I was little assured by her kind words. I tried to get some reassurance from my husband when he came back from office, but he laughed it away and said “Don’t worry dear. It is not of any significance.” I thought no body was understanding my plight. I could not sleep through out the night.
Next day, after my hubby had gone to the office and the children to school, I went to the school and sought an appointment with Mrs. Seema Agrawal. I was waiting in the visitors lobby. After a while Seema came and asked “What happened Mrs. Banerjee?” I said “I want some explaination about my son’s report card, but please tell me first whether he is a normal child or not?” She said “Ofcourse, he a normal boy, and an excellent story teller as well.” Now I showed her the report card. She bounced back “Mrs. Banerjee! What did he do with the report card? He has eaten it?” I covered the missing area of the report card with my hand and pointed out the line ‘Muscular coordination – Nil’ I asked her “How can you explain this?” She explained “Look, we give the children some kind of project or some small things to do in the class. Few children do it very well and so as per school rules we grade them VG- Very Good, G-Good or Nil. Yes, I remember, your son did not do the project work given in the class at all, so I have graded him – nil. Secondly you have to pay a fine as you need a new report card.” I asked her “What kind of project work did you give the children?” She said “I had given them a chart paper and a paper cutting of a candle which they had to paste neatly on the chart paper. All the children submitted their work but Abhirup (Piku) did not submit his work.” I felt relaxed. I told Seema “Please change the word Muscular coordination to some thing else as medically it means different.” She said “Please give this suggestion to the school authorities”. “Sure I will” said I and returned home.
That evening, Piku was playing with Pilloo (Our newly adopted pup). The elder son was also playing with his friends in our compound. I called Piku “Piku! I want to talk to you.” He rushed to me and jumped on my lap. I asked him softly “Some kind of project work was given by your ma’am in the class – some candle or something – do you remember that?” He readily said “Yes, you know, ma’am gave us a big chart paper and you know my chart paper was of pink colour and Varun Gupta’s paper was yellow.” “Yes, but what did you do with that paper?” I asked. He said “Nothing.” I asked “Nothing? But what happened to the candle?”. He said “I pasted it on the desk and threw the chart paper in the dustbin. You know ma’am tells us to keep the class room clean.” I was amazed and asked “Why did you paste the candle on the desk? You should have pasted the candle on the chart paper.” He said “Oh mom! Our ma’am teaches us every day in that A B C rhyme .... XYZ ....Candles on my desk. So I pasted it on the desk.” Now I was truly RELAXED AND HAPPY.