Forty-five Minutes Make An Hour

Being a grandma is great, but at times, it gives you flashbacks just when you’re trying to explain how important Mathematics is to your young grandkids!

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“Some advice: Keep the flame of curiosity and wonderment alive, even when studying for boring exams. That is the well from where we scientists draw our nourishment and energy. And also, learn the math. Math is the language of nature, so we have to learn this language.” ~Michio Kaku

As a child, growing up in Cochin (now known as Kochi), I was introduced to numbers in Lower KG and got to know them better in Upper KG. It wasn’t so bad. I didn’t mind them but I liked the alphabet better. Then came Class 1 or Grade 1, as it is called these days. Now I was introduced to single-digit addition sums! Cool! I had ten fingers to count on and it was fun though it would get tricky when the total ran beyond the digits I had on my hands! That’s when it got my goat!

If I found that exasperating, Class 2 taught me something more… double digit addition and single-digit subtraction and Multiplication Tables! We were introduced to number 1 & number 2 tables. I thought it was a breeze when I was on the 1 table. With the number 2 table, I struggled a bit but got the hang of it. It was easy while writing, “Simple, add two to the previous answer”, said my bro. Just when I thought I was a whiz at it, they started the oral test at the end of the term; we were quizzed in the oral tests in the class!

I thought the teachers were cruel. My mother thought I was being stupid because she feared I’d lose marks and my rank with my low arithmetic scores in the final examination.

 

So, after HW (homework), I’d have to revise arithmetic. This meant, my brother would go out to play an hour before I did. Not fair! The best part is, after a day or two, he felt bad about it too.

Study time was usually an hour for both of us, my brother and me, except when I had to revise Arithmetic. Then it would extend to an hour more.

We were never supervised. You see, we were Christian children and so my mother expected us to be “obedient and good.” Well, I must mention that we were obedient and good kids. I must also reiterate, we were just kids too, minus the adjectives!

There were days when math was too tough to tackle and the games the kids were playing outside a lot more fun. So the devil on my shoulder would start whispering in my ear… and hey presto! the hour would have only forty-five minutes.

 

Now, I didn’t know how to read the time on the clock beyond the hours because minutes and seconds confused me, but my brother could tell the time. So, I’d use all my kid sister wiles, emotional blackmail et al, and get him to put the clock ahead. Of course, I’d want it bucking ahead by a bigger margin but he warned me that it would be obvious.

It was all I could do to keep a straight face when mummy would re-set the time on the clock and grumble about it running ahead and rant at the poor quality of things.

All this was fun until I grew up and lost precious percentage on marks due to poor grades in Mathematics. If only I had put myself to it more seriously at the start; if only folks had been more patient with my Math problems; if only I hadn’t put the clock ahead. So many ifs and buts. So much regret.

I was good with my Math scores in the primary classes, then on, it became difficult and the Math teachers were extra strict, short on patience, and quick with punishments; even corporal punishments were permitted!

Although, I was never punished, I was scared to death when anyone got it. This made it not only difficult for me to learn the subject but it also served to heighten my hatred for it. I scraped through my exams but my low scores brought down my overall grades and percentage. Needless to say what it did to my rank! Mummy had been right.

From being a contender for the first three ranks in class, I was sliding down to the 7th or 8th, and then to the 10th. It didn’t matter that we had over forty children in the class, I had lost my position. Mummy was not at all happy and told me so in as many words. This was a big blow to my self-esteem as ranks mattered a lot in our day. Mummy would berate me and I would rather show my report card to Daddy than her.

If I kept myself going, it was only because of Daddy. I couldn’t drop Math. 

It was a compulsory subject up to grade 9. I could drop it in the next grade. For that, I had to pass this subject, or repeat the same class… no promotion to grade 10. He said my rank didn’t matter. What would matter was if I didn’t try. If I gave up. I assured him I wasn’t going to. Giving up wasn’t an option for me. Mathematics was never my subject anyway and I wanted to get rid of it even more now. That fueled my #determination!

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I studied #Mathematics, right up to the pre-secondary level (Class 9) when I had to pass Mathematics, i.e. Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, and Trigonometry in a Board Exam! Well, I flunked in two and had to appear for Math again if I wanted to go ahead. Thankfully I got through. But I disliked the subject even more.

Then, I had reached the secondary classes and could select my subjects… three electives plus two compulsory languages. Mathematics was not one of my elected subjects. What a relief!

Needless to say, I still need my fingers to count beyond a certain number! Ok, that’s an exaggeration. But I am awful at math and anything technical. And that’s not funny but it’s ok!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Running Away

After all, it’s one thing to be running away when someone’s chasing you. It’s entirely another to be running alone.”~Jennifer E. Smith

Daddy was a restless boy. He had an overactive #imagination and was forever up to some prank or making an endeavor to live out his dreams. This was one side of the dreamer, poet, artist, and fun-loving boy. However, buried, not far beneath, in his soul, smoldered a terrible #temper; perhaps an accumulation of all the unspent energy and also the frustrations he had. He was impetuous and reacted, often, very irrationally when in a rage. Usually, it meant beating up someone or being destructive in some way. Though, to him, it wasn’t destructive at all; it was justice. Either righting a wrong or defending one who’d been wronged.

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One day, when he couldn’t get his way with his mother and couldn’t convince her to see things his way, he decided to run away from home. He must have been about thirteen or fourteen then. They lived in a small town where my grandfather was a teacher in the Government School. Daddy didn’t have any money nor did he have a plan in mind. So when his temper cooled down and he realized that running away from home wasn’t the wisest thing to do, he was already quite far away from home.

“Running away was easy; not knowing what to do next was the hard part.”~Glenda Millard

#Hunger and #fear weren’t making things any better. He kept walking and sat down only when his legs couldn’t hold up any longer. He was sitting near a watermelon rehri (cart) and one can only imagine how much his mouth must have watered and his tummy growled for a bite. He was #miserable and wanted to go home, but being #arrogant, he did not know how he’d face not only the beating he was bound to get but also the humiliation of defeat. He found it harder to say, “Sorry,” and accept his fault than sit out his hunger and fatigue.

At one point, he did come close to giving up and going back. It was Summer and the Punjab summers are extremely harsh. Perhaps he would have swallowed his pride and turned homewards but someone approached him. It was a eunuch.

On any other day, he wouldn’t have responded nor entertained conversation with this person. This day wasn’t any other day. Daddy didn’t bother to dwell on the social stigmas that surrounded eunuchs; it was a relief to have someone #sympathetic talk to him. He spilled out his story and didn’t feel ashamed to cry. The eunuch consoled him and gave him slices of watermelon which he walloped down.

With his hunger and thirst satiated, he expressed his desire to return home, worried now that his mother who loved him very much would be sick with worry and crying. But the eunuch talked him out of it. Daddy reluctantly acquiesced to what he said more from a sense of #gratitude than #conviction. So he quietly went along and they reached Karnal, a town very far from Daddy’s home. Here he was made comfortable in the eunuch’s shack and told to rest as it had been a tiring journey. The eunuch went off to earn his living singing and dancing dressed as a woman.

Back in Daddy’s hometown, his parents were stirring up search parties. Everyone known to anyone in the family was out looking for him. The news of Daddy’s disappearance reached Melzhar Gilani, who later went on to become a Judge, and he swung into action. Fortunately, his contacts proved to be excellent detectives and Daddy’s whereabouts were traced to Karnal. Before the day was through Uncle Melzhar went down to Karnal himself and rescued Daddy from the eunuch. Uncle Melzhar Gilani belonged to an influential and rich family, and it was enough to warn the eunuch not to try and come anywhere near Daddy again.

Contrary to Daddy’s fears, he was received with tears of joy and relief. 

“Questions from earlier circle like buzzards. Am I running away or moving forward?”~Doug Cooper

One would think he had learned his lesson; he had in a way, but it wasn’t that running away wasn’t the solution. About four years later, he ran away again. This time, however, he knew where he was going and what the purpose of his mission was, and he carried some money with him. It seems that the lesson he had learned was that running away was fine if one had a destination, plan, and a constructive purpose for it.

I fancied the #adventure and thrill attached to such stories, but I could never be fully convinced that this was the right way to achieve one’s goals. There are other ways, which perhaps might mean #confrontation, but they serve to guide you and also provide you with other viewpoints and better #options.

Maybe, that’s why, though I dreamed of running away as a 6-7-year-old, and even kept a few of my valuables bundled in a handkerchief, tied to a stick a la vagabond, I never did want to ever leave home that way! This is the humorous side of my take away as a child.

Very early in life, I learned where to draw the line and also to distinguish which fantasies could be realities and which only made for good play-acting and dreaming.

Daddy didn’t advocate running away as a means to an end. His mistakes were youthful ones, made in haste and perhaps regretted bitterly in quiet moments. He never admitted it openly, but I can safely draw this conclusion from the way he guided me with lessons on #perseverance, #determination and going through rather than around. His main stress always lay on getting a sound education as the way to achieve one’s goals.

In the final analysis, Daddy had learned some valuable lessons from his #shenanigans and he passed these on to me. What I marvel at is the way he taught me; by recounting tales of his successes and mistakes. He never hid his escapades and neither did he conceal the negative outcomes. He blamed no one for the adverse consequences of his actions and gave credit, where due, for his achievements.

He neither denounced his actions nor praised them. He left it for me to work out. I had questions which he never fended, answering each honestly. I had to seek my own ‘Truth,’ he only showed me the way to the ultimate truth. From him, I have learned to live my life with courage and a firm belief in God.