I debated long and hard within myself if I should be talking about unpleasant things now, but then decided that it might be cathartic for me to acknowledge that not all my memories of school are rosy after all. I may not be able to share all of them in the online world, and perhaps will never do so lest I hurt others, but one of them at least will resonate with many of my readers who have taken a physical beating from a person in authority, for no fault of theirs at all. I was beaten black and blue one horrible summer's day, and by that I literally mean black and blue, when my petite body was bruised so badly for weeks to come. I was a mere child at that time, perhaps ten years old, and had always been a good student and an obedient child at school. I had, and still have, the utmost respect for all my teachers. No one had cause to lay hands on me, not my parents, not my teachers, until that fateful day when I lost faith in my teacher, of all people!
It was our History class, and our teacher had brought back the test notebooks for us to see. Children that we were, we were all curious to check our scores on the test we'd taken the previous week, and scrambled for the notebooks all at once. Perhaps the teacher hadn't anticipated this mad rush to get our notebooks, on which we fell like a pack of wolves. He was unable to control the situation and couldn't hold us at bay, so he yelled at us to return the notebooks to his table so he could enter the marks in the register first before we could have them. I was a first row student, as always, and promptly returned it to the table, but so did the 25 other odd students in the class, all at the same time. Some of them from the back rows leaned forward from behind me and placed their books as well, but in the melee, the notebook pile got knocked down and went sliding down the table. Now the teacher had a pile of notebooks at his feet on the floor, and he completely lost it when he saw my notebook that had slid down with the others and was the one that caught his eye first.
To this day, I honestly don't know what came over him at that minute, but he went BALLISTIC. Yes, 'ballistic' is the word! He grabbed me by my uniform, pulled me forward, and slapped me multiple times with his bare hands. He then proceeded to rain down blows on me - on my head, on my face, on my back, on my hands, on any part of my body that was accessible to him - all with his bare hands. All his pent up fury was focused on battering my petite frame as he raged in anger at me. The entire class was aghast and fell silent, and I myself was speechless in total shock, confusion and pain. I could not understand why he was hitting me for no apparent reason at all, when I had implicitly obeyed him and had dutifully returned my notebook to his table. My agony and humiliation were compounded when he hauled me by my arms, and literally flung me out of the class, shut the door against me, ordering me to stand outside in the sun for the entire class.
My classroom at that time was the right side vestry at the back of the chapel, and I stood outside in the hot and harsh sun, sobbing uncontrollably. Another teacher, Mrs. Chandra John, who was teaching Grade 1 then, happened to come out of her classroom at that time and spotted me crying my heart out, with my hair in shambles and my face all swollen from the slaps I'd received - something quite unusual and not right to all those who knew me in school. The class had just ended, and she took me by the hand to my mother (also a teacher there), on the other side of the school campus. I was still seized by racking sobs and was clearly not in a state to explain to both of them what had happened. By then, angry welts and finger marks had begun to appear all over my face and body, and for the first time and the only time that I can recall, my mother took me to the teacher's room, and pointing to the telltale evidence on my body of the monstrous beating I'd received, she asked the teacher what grave offence I'd committed to warrant this kind of a punishment. The teacher said that I had been disrespectful to him and had thrown my test notebook on his table, and had knocked down all the other notebooks as well. All my mother said was that he should have known me better, that I would never be disrespectful to my teachers, that everyone at school could vouch for my good behavior, and that he had jumped to conclusions about me in this matter.
I went home in the evening, still sobbing, and continued to sob in my sleep, I was told. My father was outraged when he saw the finger marks on my swollen face, and when my mother removed my chemise that evening and he saw all the black, blue, and purple bruises on my body, he was practically livid, I must say. My trust and faith in my teacher was lost a little that day, and on extension, it was of a child who became distrustful and skeptical of an adult's unlikely and unexpected reactions to seemingly normal events in life. I have no clue why the teacher lost his temper with me in a big way that day, but what I'm sure of a hundred percent is that I had done nothing wrong. The next day, the teacher came to class with both his pant pockets full of chocolates and piled them in my hands - his way of making up, but I was very wary of him and steered clear of him from that day onward. I was never able to look him in the eye thereafter and not remember the severe beating I'd had at his hands. He was transferred elsewhere soon after and I never saw him again, but the incident left a deep scar on my psyche, deep enough, obviously, to warrant a blog post decades later! My beating had been senseless, monstrous, and unwarranted from my point of view, and he was the only teacher who ever laid hands on me in my entire life, thus making him quite an unforgettable part of my life for all the wrong reasons! :)