Monday, July 31, 2006

'Phunnee' Language

I guess all of us have our own favorite stories about teachers destroying the English langauge. Indeed, anecdotes of 'open the windows; let the air-force come in' and such are commonplace by now. Here I present a few of my own favourite college anecdotes:

This happened during my MCA, in my juniors' class. This was a new prof (for Networking, of all things), and the students were understandably a bit cagey, not sure of what to expect of this new chap. The prof, dressed impeccably, strutted up and down the class, doing the usual introduction session. Then he asked for the class-rep and walked down to the blackboard. 'Tommorow, I want some charcoal in this class!', the prof thundered.

'Charcoal !!', wondered the flabbergasted students. The hapless class-rep threw some panicked glances toward the class-toppers, but they seemed equally bewildered. So the poor guy ventured an incredulous 'Charcoal, sir ?'. The prof, by now beginning to get quite impatient with the inability of this class to take in a simple command, reiterated in an ominous tone 'Yes, yes, charcoal!'.

By now, it was clear to everybody that the guy was a hopeless nut. One of the guys threw caution to the winds, and asked the prof: 'What do you need charcoal for, sir ?'. The highly irritated professor exclaimed, 'What do you mean, what for? I want to maintain a daily bulletin !'. By now, it had dawned on the prof that he was cursed with a class of imbeciles, and a peculiar calm descended on him. He took pity on the gaping students and said: 'Of course, all of you have to contribute to make this a success'.

The class-rep finally had an inkling of what the prof wanted by now. He ventured a guess: 'Sir, do you mean thermocol by any chance ?'. 'Exactly, you hit the nail on the head, my dear boy !', exclaimed the by-now beaming professor. Needless to mention, the story was out within hours, and was the subject of much hilarity for at least a week.

There were lots of other incidents with this prof, but this one became truly famous in campus. Of course, the guy was christened 'Charcoal' ever after. The strange thing was that at times he would speak coherently, and then he would go and utter something really wierd, which would have everybody around him in splits.

This was during one of those infamous model-exams that we had every semester. The girls were writing furiously, as if their lives depended on it. Some of the guys were copying desperately, while some of the others (including me) just couldn't be bothered. The teachers (invigilators, so to speak) in charge of that particular hour were a couple of new guys.

Now, these guys were really peculiar - they moved around as if they were Siamese twins. I mean, you just couldn't spot one without the other. They also dressed sorta alike - cream/white shirts, khakees and a smear of ash on their foreheads. And neither of them could use more than two words of English in a sentence.

The pair almost caught a girl copying; she managed to get rid of the chits just in time, and staunchly denied it, of course. The duo proceeded to ask the one question that every person getting caught copying at exams should be asked: 'You true or false?'. Now, we were final-years, and not really in a mood to write exams and all that. As a result, this ingenious question threw the class into hysterics. The poor girl, whom the question was directed at, was gaping at the guy like a goldfish in a bowl. Unfortunately, while laughing the loudest little did I know that I was the next bakra in line (all of us think they were asking the girl whether she was saying the truth or lying, but to this day we are not sure!).

The exams were getting over, and everybody was slowly getting up. The new teachers meticulously collected everybody's papers, and asked for the class-representative (me). Then they asked me: 'Who hand?'. Startled at this sudden question directed at me, it took a moment for me to process the meaning. After a moment of speculating whether he meant Maradona's 'Hand of God' or something like that, I politely (as politely as I could manage) said that I did not understand. They tried to make things clearer: 'Paper who hand?'. The class was once again in hysterics, and I was trying hard not to smile myself. I thought they wanted to know who to hand over the answer-sheets to, and asked them whether that was what they meant. They nodded in unison: No!

By now, the entire class wanted to go, and began shouting out suggestions. A brainwave struck one of my friends, and he shouted out truimphantly: 'Who handles this paper! They want to know who is handling this paper!'. Looking at them for confirmation, both of them were nodding their head approvingly. Mightily relieved, I told them the name and ran away from there.

But seriously, I often wonder how such candidates get through interviews. After all, isn't at least a minimal conversational ability in English a must for a teacher (that too, at a post-graduate level)? Some of the teachers we have been forced to endure wouldn't get past the first stage of an interview of one of our IT firms (which is probably why they have opted for the teaching profession, I suspect).

Just to make things clear, I have had some great teachers during my college life, and I remain grateful to all of them. However, I have also had to endure many insufferable and incompetent teachers purely for the sake of internal marks (which they keep reminding you of whenever they suspect you are getting a bit superior). Isn't it time we get rid of the much-revered guru-shishya model (where a student is supposed to respect and adore his teacher irrespective of whether (s)he is good, bad or ugly) and adopt a more professional approach of evaluating our teachers based on students' feedback?


Shruthi said...

Ha ha!! That was very entertaining :))
My sister had a lecturer and this was what happened in her class once.
Lecturer(pointing): You there, tell me blah blah (asks a question).
A stands up and asks: Me, ma'am?
Lecturer: Not me, next to me!

Endless source of entertainment! :)

Ranjit Nair said...

@Shruthi:That's a good one too!

saumya said...

My coz sez this happened in his engineering college –
The prof wanted to send the guy out of the class for misbehaving
Prof – “u follow me” leads the guy out of the class stops “now don’t follow me”
And returns to the class

Ranjit Nair said...

@Saumya: LOL - thatz a good one. In fact, that reminded me of a joke in a old Mallu movie: a comedian - Jagathy, if I remember rightly - wanting to order Sreenivasan to get out of the house and go live in the out-house, combines and screams it out in short: 'You out-house!'. It always struck me as terribly funny, that one!

saumya said...

i remember that one - thats the one where madhvan becomes M.A. Dhavan

Ranjit Nair said...

@Saumya: Yep...that's the one alright!