My dad hailed from an unknown village in Balasore district in Orissa.He had four younger brothers and 2 sisters under him.He was a topper,went to Bhubaneswar and started living there,working,studying and dreaming.
He also started taking tuitions.My mother was one of his students (They both learnt their lessons, I think.).They fell in love,married and he went on to start his own coaching institute that he used to finance the three cars that he bought to start his own travel agency.
I do not have the brains or the resolve like my dad.But I was inspired nonetheless.I decided to give tuitions too.At that time, I was managing my graduation,MBA coaching,and a job as a Customer Care Agent.I wanted a student who was easy to teach.
My first student was Sai Kumar, a 11th standard student who wanted help with Accountancy.I almost finished his course in 2 months,and he surprisingly understood everything.
After Sai Kumar left for his boarding school,I was confident about my abilities as a teacher.Then, Litton walked into my life. On to my nerves, rather.
If ever the calamity of tutoring children befalls you,remember the golden rule.CHILDREN ARE NOT EASIER TO TEACH.I learnt it the hard way.
Litton (‘Lit-awn’) was a 5 year old.He had been living in his native place all his life till his parents realised he was too street smart for the place and sent him to stay with his uncle, who stayed below our house.
Litton was a thin,little kid.He was not tall, not fair. There was nothing abut his appearance that stood out. Except one thing. He always wore a smirk on his face. It was a cross between a sarcastic and a ‘know-it-all’ smirk.
His aunt requested me to teach him.I was supposed to teach a 4 year old for 2 hours a day, and be paid for it.Walk in the park, I thought.
His aunt had forgotten to mention that he was an incorrigibly disobedient and naughty kid. I only got to know of this aspect of his from a few friends later on.
Apparently, Litton would bunk his tuitions and pocket the money meant for his tuitions every month.He was also whacked a lot by his uncle because he would use his uncle’s perfumes before he went to school.Yes, he was a 4 year old !
Whenever we played cricket, Litton would stand there and be ready to fetch the ball if it went out of the park.I did not know that he could be naughty. I was in for a rude shock.
The day arrived when I had to start teaching him.
I did not know this, but his aunt had given him strict instructions not to have anything in our house.The first day, I offered him some biscuits.
“No.” he said without even looking at them. But I am a couch potato and keep on munching on something or the other. He always declined the offer to eat anything but I could see his resolve was now weakening. One day when I was having Brittania Jim Jam biscuits and asked him,he said in a sing song tone. “If you want to give me….”
From that day, my sister and grandmother and sister pampered him. Inspite of his abysmal academics, he was given Horlicks made by my amamma and biscuits that were hidden away from me in the kitchen.
Litton was a smart kid and knew whom to be polite and sweet with. He always greeted my granny and sister and smiled when they said anything.
“Such a sweet kid,na?” my grandmother one day said.
She had no clue.Since I was his tutor, all his attitude was reserved for me.He wasn’t great at studies and it didn’t take long for me to notice that.
Maths and English to a 4 year old. What could have been easier ?
Litton was fascinated with Maths.When I say fascinated, I donot mean that he was interested in the subject and wanted to learn it. Far from it.
Whenever I explained anything in Maths to him, he stared at me.He kept on staring at me as if I was singing some melodious song for him.
I tried another technique. “If you have 5 apples and I give you 2 more, how many will you have?”
He continued staring at me as if he was wondering if the apples would be ripe or not.Then, he scratched his head and said,
“I don;t know.”
And then he smiled. It was as if deep within, he knew that my maths sucked and yet I was teaching him.
I am more confident about my English so I thought that would have been easier to teach.
All his life was spent in his native place and he had as much an idea bout English as I had about cows.
His spellings were sacrilegiously bad.And that all-knowing smile was un-nerving.
After many attempts at spelling that would have given the Queen a definite heart failure, i asked him to read out the spellings from his book.He was to read a word in English, and then say its meaning in Oriya.
The first page had a picture of a healthy,smiling cow (quite difficult to find these days).After all, he had been tending to cows for a while and had an idea about them.
‘Read that out’, I told him.
” C-O-Oww…Cow.Cow maane gaay“
“Good.” I said, ignoring the c-o-oww.Read the next one.
“H-o-r-s = Horse. Horse maane ….jersey gaay ? “