The subject that was the bane of my school life was the second language, Tamil.
I made the most absurd mistakes, which used to raise quite a few laughs in class. I especially had a tough time recollecting animal names, which I knew quite well in English.
Once, in the Tamil poetry section, we had the story of an Indian Deity. During one of His reincarnations on earth, His wicked stepmother would ask for Tiger’s Milk to cure her of her pretended terrible disease, hoping he would get killed by the animal. But the deity in human avatar would rush off to the forest and return victorious.
The Tamil master recounted the story to us in chaste prose. Then he wanted one of us to tell the story to the class one more time. As fate would have it, I was the one chosen to do so. I plodded along as best as I could in my faltering Tamil. Then when I came to the part, where the mother asks for Tiger’s milk, I forgot the name of the animal.
I tried to dodge around by saying “the step mother asked for a savage animal’s milk”
“Which savage animal?” questioned the Tamil Master.
The whole class burst out laughing. The boys were very amused. Each one started to shout out some comment or the other on my behalf.
“Sir, he is almost correct. He said an Indian animal’s name”
“Sir, lucky he did not say Buffalo or Oxen”
“Sir, he could have said an Elephant.”
The banter against me continued. But the master also laughed and said :
“Okay. Since your friends think that you are almost correct, I will excuse you this time.” And he spared me from writing an imposition, “Tiger..tiger..tiger…” one hundred times. Pheww!!
Another time, during my half-yearly examinations, the Tamil question paper had a section asking us to “translate from English to Tamil” and it carried ten marks. This part of the paper was the one most hated by me.
Among the other lines given for translation, one was:
The young one of a cow is called a calf.
I knew there was a single word to denote calf in Tamil. But as usual I did not know it. So I translated it as best as I could. What I wrote down, if literally translated would read something like this:
The children of a cow is called a small cow. (china-maadu)
The next sentence given for translation was:
The fox said the grapes were sour.
My translation literally read:
The wolf said the small fruits were bad.
When the master was giving away the corrected answer sheets back to us, he called each boy to his table and pointed out their mistakes and told the correct answer to the whole class. When it was my turn, I knew the class was in for some good laughs. I was not far from wrong.
When the master read out my translation to the class, he asked, “what do you say to this boys?”
And they all replied in one voice,
“Sir, as usual, he is almost correct.”
Story by : S.B. Chennai…….. Written by : Gulsum Basheer @ talkalittledo.
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