Kids Corner


The Inquisition





It was the long-dreaded day of the annual visit by the Government School Inspector.

He was greeted by the Superintendent of the local School Board and the Head Master, as well as the Head of the Parents’ Association, the Head Priest from the nearby temple, and of course, the region’s Member of Parliament.

Soon as tea and snacks were out of the way, the Inspector stood up and declared: “Well, let’s go and see what you can impress me with today!“

The Head Master led the entourage to the seniors’ classroom, where the Teacher was waiting, on pins and needles.

The students inside, huddled around their desks, newly washed, polished and shiny - the pupils, that is, not the desks! - couldn’t have waited any longer, bursting with anticipation. And information. The teacher had spent all week preparing them thoroughly for this annual inquisition when the official would test them for the depth of knowledge that had been imparted to them during the preceding year.

The faces of the young ones, as the grown-ups entered, were bordering on terror. Who would the Inspector choose today, to grill … and what would the question be?

The Inspector surveyed the sea of anxious eyes, as the adults stood behind him in a phalanx, but no less apprehensive. The Teacher rubbed his hands over and over again, one with the other, as if washing them.

The Inspector pointed to the boy smack in the centre of the front row. There was a collective sigh of relief from every corner. From the rest of the students because they knew they were off the hook now, since a victim had already been chosen. From the adults because they knew that the front row had been stacked with the brightest of the lot.

“What’s your name, child?”

“Ramu, Sir. Ram Prasad.”

“Good,” nodded the Inspector. “Now tell me, Ramu …” and here he stopped for a few seconds, long ones, and there was a collective holding of breath!

He looked the boy straight in the eye and said: “I want you to tell me, young man, who broke Raja Janak’s dhanush?”

Ramu was a bit taken aback, but recovered quickly to offer a  swift … reply, no, a gasp.

“It wasn’t me, Sir!”

“I don’t think I heard that right,” said the Inspector, as he took a step towards the boy. “What was that you said?”

“It wasn’t me, Sir. I don’t know who did it. I really don’t!” exclaimed Ramu.

The Inspector turned to the Teacher and simply stared at him.

“I swear I didn’t do it, Sir. I really didn’t!” Ramu’s voice was louder, and his face redder.

The Inspector kept staring at the Teacher, until the latter took a step forward and stammered: “Well, Sir, Ramu is the best student in this class. I know him well. And I can say quite confidently that if he says he didn’t do it, then surely he is telling the truth!”

“Yes, sir, it’s the truth! I can swear on my mother‘s life I didn‘t do it!” piped up Ramu.

But the Inspector had turned to the Principal by this time. The Inspector tried to say something, but no sound seemed to emerge from his lips.

The Principal was the one wringing his hands by now.  

“Inspector Sahib, I’m ashamed to say that students today are not of the calibre of old. I know them well, even though I don’t know this particular one. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he is indeed lying to you, and in fact may be the very one who broke the bow!”

The Inspector seemed to loose all strength, as he stumbled towards the desk and slumped into the lone chair in the room.

The School Superintendent pushed his way through the crowd and stood before him in utter consternation.

“I can assure you, sir,” he burst out in a torrent, “that we will get to the bottom of this. This is the first I’ve heard of this, but first things first: we’ll immediately replace the bow with a new one … “ and here he turned and glared at the Principal, “at .. the .. cost .. of .. the .. school, I might add here!” He hissed the final words with great emphasis.

The Head Parent - as she was usually known within the Association - was simply flabbergasted by the entire scene she had just witnessed.

“Wait a second, wait a second! These are good children. And I know Ramu - he comes from a very decent, very pious, very God-fearing family. I don’t want anyone jumping to conclusions here. Let’s wait until a proper investigation is carried out before we conclude who actually broke the bow!”

“But it is true,” interjected the Pundit, “morals have indeed gone down the drain. There’s no proper religious instruction in this school any more. What can you expect but this? If he‘s done it, he MUST be punished.“

The School Inspector somehow found the strength to emerge from his chair, stomped out of the classroom, made a bee-line for the front door, not saying a word, not looking back even once, and drove away.

The Head Master rushed into his office, closely followed by the Superintendent, the Head Parent, the Pundit, the Politician … and the Teacher.

They sat quietly in their chairs, glum and despondent.

Until suddenly the Politician shot out of his chair and stood towering above them.

“Ill take care of it. Not to worry. It’ll be alright!”

The rest just looked at him, feeling too helpless to even venture a question.

“It’ll be done, I promise you. It’ll take a bit of money. A lot of money, actually, but it can be fixed. The parents of the child will have to dish up the bulk of it. The rest of us, each should pitch in. I know each one of you has a decent income … we can get an attractive package and we’ll seal the Inspectors lips with them.”

“And the broken dhanush?”

“We’ll pay the raja off, we’ll get rid of the evidence … and we’ll transfer the kid to another school! It‘ll be the last anyone will hear of Raja Janak‘s dhanush!”

A lone voice in response: “Who is this fellow, Raja Janak, any way? And what’s he doing with bows and arrows in this day and age?”

April 5, 2012

Conversation about this article

1: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), April 05, 2012, 2:33 PM.

Following the 'Inquisition', the Inspector gasped and came up with a verdict: "The teacher," said the Inspector, "was a fool." The teacher, although not strong in the department of 'bows and arrows' was not prepared to be punctuated as such, and saved the day. The Teacher said: "The Inspector was a fool".

2: Manjit Kaur (Maryland, U.S.A.), April 06, 2012, 12:13 PM.

This was a good story. Just what I needed today ... tore me up.

3: Davinder Singh (Nawan Shahar, Punjab), April 08, 2012, 4:36 AM.

Good story. I remember another one during our school times making the rounds ... teacher asked a pupil: "Hamaare desh mein Ganga kahan se nikalti hai aur kahan jaati hai?" Amused student answered: "Masterji, ganga nikaldi taa(n) ghar ton hi aa tiyar ho ke bann than k ... par eh ni pata jandi kithe aa...!

4: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), April 10, 2012, 8:54 AM.

In 1947, one of our teachers in Govt. High School, Ludhiana, Punjab, had a vivacious teenager daughter named Aagya (literally, permission). Some of the naughtier boys (not me!) would approach Master ji with folded hands and say: "Masterji, Aagya day-o ji", all to our snickers.

5: Ashish (Delhi, India), October 19, 2012, 9:00 PM.

Haha, I like it. Very nostalgic feel :)

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