On the day I went for private tuition in maths, I wondered how our pesky teacher who addressed us using slanderous nicknames at school would summon his wife at home. Would he be the unruly bully? Or a bleating lamb? I waited with bated breath to know.
While I was calculating the area a cow tethered with a 10-feet rope could graze, he suddenly looked over my head and howled “hey!”. I nearly jumped out of my skin, fearing that the said cow had come to life and was galloping to gore us. It was, however, a call directed to his wife, to appear before him — though her name like Parvathi, Padmavathi or Parvadhavardhini would be available for such purpose. Before one could say Pythagoras theorem, the wispy woman materialised from the kitchen, shaking like an Arabian slave summoned to be whipped. Without a glance in her direction, he darkly growled “Kapi”. The ordered beverage was brought in no time. He gulped it like it were a cup of hemlock with Socretical air and made a rude noise cart men let out to order the animal at the yoke. The lightning in the female form from the kitchen reappeared to clear the tumbler.
I reported to my elder sister this brand of cryptic conversational relationship between a husband and his wife. She smiled enigmatically and said the couple already had three kids, with the fourth one due in eight months. At that age I could not comprehend the import of such a tangential comment.
That the coin had a different side was realised by me on the day I went to meet the drill master who was a Hitler on the playgrounds. As I entered his den with trepidation, I saw him in the hall facing the kitchen. Before long, a ceramic dinner plate came flying resembling the discus sent by an angry god in a mythological serial to scalp the one-eyed demon’s neck. Like a batsman ducking a nasty beamer at the final fractional moment, he avoided it — but having paid good money for the crockery, caught the plate in its elliptical path and laid it on the teapoy. Soon this missile was followed by select pieces of cutlery, then a ladle, rolling pin and a basin with chapatti dough. Cricket coach he was, he displayed admirable skill in catching the objects before they hit him or the floor at the expiration of the force with which they were hurled — with the exception of the circular dough that caught him squarely on his face and stuck like a mask.
Tactfully I withdrew from the scene and later described the ambush to my sister. “What would have happened if fate had paired off the grumpy maths teacher with the firebrand drill master’s wife?” I asked. Inhaling the rubbery smell of the brand new tennikoit ring the drill master gave me as a price for my silence, she said, “may be the ruling planets guiding the matrimonial destinies prevent such terrible mismatch” and playfully threw the ring at me. I missed.