“You’re under arrest,” said the visitor who was in the police uniform.
The sun had just risen above the horizon far, far away, beyond the concrete jungle of the city. Sunita was ready to go to her school where she was a teacher in the upper primary section. The school would begin at 7.30 and she had to start from home at 6 am from home. If she was late by a minute the attendance register would automatically mark her absent. That was just one of the many miracles which the computer technology could perform in her school.
“Arrest!?” Sunita was both amused and surprised. What crime had she committed? She had slapped a boy on his back yesterday because he had fallen asleep in the class while an interesting activity was going on. “Interesting”, according to the lesson plan given to her by the textbook prescribed by the school and produced by experts. Physical punishment is an offence which can send a teacher to the jail. But she had only patted the boy on his back, in fact. The sound produced by the hollow of her palm hitting on the back of the boy was just a ploy to send a message to the class.
“Yes,” said the police officer. “There’s a complaint against you by the father of a student whom you are teaching. You hanged the student yesterday.”
“What!?” Sunita’s jaw hung loose though it was not in her nature to open her mouth so wide in spite of being a teacher.
Sunita was arrested and taken to the police station. She was transported from there, with as much grace as the police could afford, to the court where her bail was to be granted.
“You hanged a student, an innocent 13 year-old student, hanged him alive yesterday?” asked the judge.
Sunita had already understood her crime in the interval between her arrest and the bail.
“Yes, sir,” she said.
“Say, ‘my lord,’” prompted the lawyer.
“My lord?” and she looked at her husband.
“Just do what he says, dear,” said her husband, “this is a world that has its own vocabulary.”
Sunita explained to her “lord” that she had played a game named Hangman’s Noose in the class. It’s a word game. Every student has to supply a word according to certain rules of the game; otherwise he has to draw a part of the scaffold on his score sheet. The one who fails again and again in the game obviously gets hanged on the scaffold he has drawn for himself.
“How can you play such a game in a class of young students with tender minds?” the judge was visibly agitated. “It’s such a negative game. It’s teachers like you who create criminals in the society. Terrorists are born in the wombs of such teachers...”
The judge was very generous with gratuitous admonition.
Gratuitous admonition come at a price, Sunita learnt quickly, in the world of “that has its own vocabulary.”
“I was only following the lesson plan given to me,” explained Sunita.
“What? What’s a lesson plan?” asked the judge with as much severity as he could muster.
“You know...” ‘You know’ was a phrase that Sunita was prone to use when her confidence was under assault. “We ... are given textbooks ... to ... teach. And the textbooks have certain ... exercises. They call it activity-based teaching. The ... what shall I say... the ... Hangman’s Noose ...”
Sunita hung her head in shame.
“Carry on. We have no time,” hollered the judge as he smacked his lips lasciviously.
“Tell them the truth, darling,” prompted her husband.
“You know...,” said Sunita.
“Yeah,” said the judge impatiently, “we know much. Get to your point and be done with it.”
“The ... Hangman’s Noose ... is a game prescribed in the textbook.”
“What!?” exclaimed the judge. “A textbook prescribes hanging! How can this be possible in a country whose constitution was drafted after years of debating and redrafting? There is only one judiciary in this country. How can a textbook hang anybody? And you,” he looked at Sunita smacking his lips again, “whoever you are, should know that there is only one judiciary in this country that can hang anyone. And you, a mere puppet teacher in a paltry public school dared to hang the son of the local Panchayat member? I can hang you for this, you understand? ...”
“Take it easy, darling,” murmured Sunita’s husband. “I have brought enough money to buy him.”
“OK,” said the judge when the sweeper muttered something in his ear. “Your bail is granted. But remember, don’t ever dare to hang anyone. It’s my job...”
The sun was setting somewhere far, far away, beyond the concrete jungle where Sunita and her husband settled down to cook their dinner after an eventful day on which Sunita had decided to give an assignment, if not a project, to her students as part of the Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE).