Charlie and the Seventh Graders

Image result for charlie charlie pencils

“So class, you see? Qui goes before a verb and Que before a sujet, i.e,  a subject… and what do you call them?”

The teacher turned around from the blackboard where she had been creating a pretty mind map on the Pronoms Relatifs. It was the class after snack break and the students were still licking the salt off their fingers from eating too many chips during the break.

“Let’s do the exercise on page 56 for more clarity, shall we?” she announced. Sid looked around to see the sincere ones in his class quickly getting on to the task assigned. He always wondered why teachers said “we” when they actually meant “you”! Sigh, French grammar was so difficult to begin with and this teacher with her “we”and her “mind maps”! He fiddled with his pencil, trying to figure out the answer to the first question of Exercise A on Page 56, on pronoms relatifs. Of course.

Varun, who sat across him, looked equally disinterested. He was chewing off the ends of the pencil, in an effort to make the class go by faster. Sid gave him a wink and Varun smiled back. A wicked idea began to form in Sid’s mind. He put Varun’s pencil over his, the two pencils arranged perpendicular to each other, such that one pencil stood precariously over the other, shaking gently in the fan’s breeze.

Charlie… charlie … are you there?

Varun looked at him, surprised. What was Sid trying to do? He tried hard to concentrate, but his eyes and mind went back to Sid. He saw that he had slid a sheet of paper under the pencils now, with four squares on it. Two squares had “YES” written on them, the other two had “NO”.  

“Is this a new game?” he whispered under his breath. Sid shook his head. “No, the pencils are possessed.”

“Have you gone mad, “ Varun hissed, “That is my pencil!”

“Yes, but it is possessed now. Go on, ask Charlie a Yes/No question.”

Varun was the kind who would do anything to get away from the French on hand. He whispered his questions slowly.

Charlie, charlie, are you there?

A pregnant pause later, the pencil on top moved gently and settled upon YES.

Varun was intrigued. He wanted more.

Charlie, charlie, do you like French grammar?

No response. And then suddenly,  a flicker of movement, before it landed on NO.

“Me too! I hate French grammar!”he blurted out aloud. He could feel eyes upon him. Especially the teacher’s.

“Varun, if you hate French grammar so much, you may leave! “ she bellowed.

“No miss, I was talking to um….um..”

“Who?? Have you now found yet another person to chat away with? OUT! “ said Ms. Meenakshi.

Sid popped in, being the more daring one.

“Miss, we think these two pencils are possessed. So Varun is a bit scared.”

“Possessed, what nonsense!” Miss. Meenakshi walked up to their desk to confiscate the ‘possessed’ pencils. Varun pounced on them and grabbed them before she could get to them.

“Miss, “he said, “why don’t you try it? They are really possessed.”

By now, the whole class was around their desk, wanting to get to know this Charlie guy better. Arpita went first with her question.

Does Abhay like me?


Arpita quietly went back to her place, thinking it was probably a hoax anyway.

Keertana played it safe.

Do we have a math test today?


Yaayyy! They were all hooked. Miss. Meenakshi was annoyed now. She decided to end it once and for all. She decided to beat them at their own game.

Stupid Charlie, can you please leave my room?

The pencils did not move. The whole class watched with bated breath, as Miss prattled away, “See, children? I told you! They were just moving in the breeze. Back to …”

“Miss, look! Charlie says NO! “ the whole class screamed.  The teacher was now at her wits’ end. She took the pencils to another desk and asked Sid to prove that they were still ‘possessed’ so far away from the fan.

Sid was thrilled to be challenged. He asked Mayur to ask the question, at the new desk.

Charlie, charlie, am I a good student?


Of course, Charlie had to say that. Mayur was one of the toppers in Grade 7. By now, the entire class had set up mini Charlie stations at each of their desks, with their own pencils. Miss. Meenakshi was strict, but she also knew kids. She let them play, just for the day. By the next day, she was sure, this Charlie would have died a natural death.

Miss. Meenakshi had, however, underestimated the power of childhood pranks. By the next day, many pencils were being tortured by Charlie, across all grades. All sorts of questions were being asked. Charlie is in deep trouble, thought Miss. Meenakshi. She decided to try it out herself.

She closed the door to the classroom and arranged her pencils. Quietly, she posed her first question.

Am I a good teacher?



Will I get a raise this year?


As if she didn’t know that! She saw the fan above her, whirring at full speed. She switched it off, and tried again.

Will I get a raise this year?



Such a difficult question, eh? She tried again. And again. No replies came forth from Charlie. She switched on the fan again and tried again. This time, Charlie said YES.

She heard someone knock at the door. She cleared her desk of the pencils in a hurry and opened the door. It was Sid.

“If it is about that stupid Charlie thing, I don’t want to hear about it!” she cried.

“No Miss, I just wanted to tell you something.. About Charlie…” Sid looked at the two pencils peeking out from under her hand bag and wondered what Miss had been upto.

“Have you been talking to Charlie too, Miss?”

“Of course not, you think I am an idiot?” Miss. Meenakshi was quite flustered.

“I am glad you didn’t, Miss. Because I am Charlie. I blow on those pencils”, replied Sid sheepishly.  Miss. Meenakshi felt like a true idiot. But she managed to grin when Sid asked her,

“You won’t tell anyone right, Miss?”

“No”, she said, still grinning.



Charlie lived on in the school for many months after this. He made many students frustrated and the juniors were frightened to call upon Charlie. But whenever Sid sat down for one of these seances, Charlie seemed to outdo himself. It didn’t take long for the smarter ones to realise what was happening.

What happened after that, you ask? Let’s just say, there were as many “Sids” in the school as there were pencils! 


On how little I have learned…

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We all have those days. Those days of utter hopelessness and desolation. Where a lot of ‘revelations’ shower upon you. This weekend was full of moments of such angst.

I was thinking of how I never learned to play any role that was expected of me in life. Barring childhood, which most of us scamper through mindlessly anyway, I have never been able to just “be”. The most acutely devastating phase of this kind of ennui was after I got married. I just didn’t know how to be a “wife”. I still don’t. I have no clue what goes into the making of a wife. I do things my way and hope to be understood. Thankfully, I have been blessed with a husband who is sensitive enough to my quirks. In another marriage, I would have lost steam a long time ago.

Like I saying, I was plagued the whole weekend with thoughts of how I haven’t understood the role of a mother either. I do not know why I seek to learn what is expected of me! It is silly and important to me, all at once. I know how easy it is to lose oneself in roles like these. At the same time, I feel lost without the rough framework of what motherhood is ‘supposed to be’.I realized I had no clue of this one either. I feel extremely jealous of those who seem to have it all figured out. I wondered how I had spent nine years of my married life with nary an opinion on how a home should be kept, or how a curry needed to be made or what philosophy I needed to adopt for raising my daughter. I am just so clueless that it scares me. Shouldn’t I know a little by now?

I have just been acting upon one whimsical idea after other. I cannot tell you what a daughter or a daughter-in-law needs to do; I cannot tell you how I feel as a “wife”. I don’t know how to be a “mother.” I feel so rudderless.

Sometimes, I think, my only best friend is Time. Who, like a river, flows over all my wounds and insecurities and gives me the gift of perspective, over and over again.

P.S : This might be a post full of ramblings, but it is definitely not  a sad one. It is one that is most reflective of the true ‘me’ and we all come in different types, don’t we?


Methi Paranthas and a Mother’s words




Class Three was in a shambles. Notebooks lay wide open on the desks, bags were strewn over the floor and smelly, muddy feet tapped anxiously, waiting for the teacher to dismiss them for lunch. Right now, the teacher’s voice seemed muted to Sid, just like the TV at home, when Papa wanted to get in a few words with Mama as she sliced chillies for the dal. He looked out of the window idly, getting impatient. His mother had packed his favourite food for lunch today, methi paranthas. Umm, the golden brown rotis speckled with green and drizzled generously with oil, with a side of a spicy curry. He just could not wait.

” Children, wash your hands and start eating!” The teacher’s voice suddenly blared into his ears, no longer mute! Sid dashed off to the washroom. Back in class, he spread his napkin neatly on the desk and took out his tiffin box. It was his favourite day of the week anyway : they had reading, sports, music and dance lined up for the afternoon. The methi paranthas were just the icing on the cake. He heard Sparsh and Karan fighting in the row behind him. Who cares, he thought and opened his box.


His tiffin box was on the floor, his parathas all over the desk. That Karan,  he just did not know to mind his own business ! Sid was seething for revenge. He grabbed Karan’s arm and pinned him to the chair.

“Why did you do that? Now, I have to go hungry!”

Karan was an energetic boy, but not a bad sort. He apologized and said, “You can still eat it, it is on the desk, not on the floor! ”

Sid started to sob as he said, ” My mother asked me not to.”

The teacher hurried in to see what the commotion was all about. As the boys explained, Sparsh piped in, ” Ma’am, his mother has asked him not to eat food that was spilled, not even on the desk! He is only following her words! ”

The teacher smiled to herself and asked them, ” So boys… Sid cannot eat this food now and Karan is sorry for what he did. What should we do now?”

Karan hugged Sid as he said, ” I will share my lunch with him. My mother has made pulao today. Can we do that, Ma’am?”

As the bell rang for the next class, the boys were seen laughing and eating, the methi paranthas forgotten for the love of a kind that only eight year olds possess.

The search…

I could hear him,
I could feel his breath,
Yet, I could not touch him.
All the days in my womb
All the kicking and moving around
Sometimes I would sing him a song.

Yesterday, he was born,
and today, he is gone.
Have you seen him,
Somewhere in this pile of slush?
My udder is full and I need to nurse.

I think of him on this lonely night
With his four legs and pointy ears;
How we would have pranced around
On green pastures and under leafy boughs-
You are sure you have not seen him?

Just so you know, tell me soon,
if you see him with his pointy ears;
Yesterday, he was born
and today, he is gone…
My udder is full of unshed tears.

P.S: I need to nurse…

A plate of sunshine…

Leaf and fruit
Dew and rain;
Melting sugar
On my tongue, here it snows!

Mani ambled along the village road, on her way to the market to buy some vegetables and fruit. It never snowed in that hot village, (you would not be able to find it on a map!), but Mani, like many ten year olds,had a fertile imagination. She was friends with the elves in her cupboard, who ruffled her clothes and made a mess; each night she said her goodnight to the man on the moon. Her teacher often told her mother that her marks would really improve if she just learnt to channelize this creativity into more productive pursuits.
She reached the market where the familiar sabzi uncle would give her all that she needed before she even asked. It was convenient, she could carry on with her silly rhyme!
Here it snows,
like milk and cream
Kanha’s dream
in flakes of white.

She packed her vegetables in a dirty old cloth bag her Amma had given her, and started on her way back. She reached the stone bridge over the river, where the banks glistened in the sun. Stopping for a minute to admire the view, she was jolted back into the present by Rani, her friend from school.
” Hey, Mani. What are you doing?”
Mani turned around and smiled. Rani was like that, always catching you by surprise. Mani loved to call her the Sudden Girl, because most things happened to her all of a sudden! Why, just last week, the maths teacher had let her off without a beating for scoring one on twenty, because, all of a sudden, he felt that her marks would surely improve the next time!
“Amma wanted some vegetables for dinner, “Mani replied. “And what is the Sudden Girl upto?” she asked with a wicked grin.
Rani seemed pensive as they started walking towards their homes. They lived really close to each other and spent most of their free time together- plucking mangoes or doing homework. Sometimes they packed leftover rotis or dosas in banana leaves and had a picnic by the river. They always had fun, what with Mani’s imagination and Rani’s serendipity.
Today, Rani seemed extremely quiet. She did not smile and looked very scared. Finally, just when they had crossed Ramana Uncle’s house at the end of Temple Street, she blurted out in sobs,
“Appa is very sick! Amma and Anna are taking him to the town hospital tomorrow!”
Mani was shocked. What was so serious that it needed a visit to the town hospital? People went there only if there was no other way out. Why was Rani’s Appa being taken there?
Thoughts ran helter-skelter in her mind. But she had to help Rani. She offered her soothing words and took her home. Mani’s Amma already knew and invited Rani to stay the night. In the attic room, with the termite-infested bed, Mani and Rani spent the night, worried and scared. After all, ten year olds cannot embellish their conversation with fancy words, they could only worry and fear.
Day dawned. There were chores to do and of course, school. The girls could barely concentrate on anything that was happening. Even when their history and class teacher, Dhanamma Ma’am announced a picnic to Chocki Hills, Rani and Mani were the only ones in class who couldn’t scream in joy. They waited for news from the town. Rani’s Amma had promised to call. Rani waited by the phone all evening. Mani just paced the courtyard, trying to memorise the poem for Recitation Exam.
Finally, after what seemed like ages, the phone rang. Rani picked it up, tears streaming down her face. Just the anxiety of waiting had made her such a wreck!
“Rani, Appa is feeling much better now. Do not worry. Stay with Aunty and do not trouble them. Anna and I will return in a few days. I will call everyday, ok?”
” But.. but what did the doctor say?” Rani mumbled, flustered with all the instructions.
” Rani, ” her Amma seemed stressed and exasperated, ” the doctor has asked for a certain medicine. Unless we get that, Appa might not survive.. Rani..” she paused for a second, ” Appa has malaria.”
Tears flowed down Rani’s cheeks like rain.
“What is that medicine, Amma?”
“Sontoshin.. anyway Rani, I’ll go take care of him now. Be a good girl. Do not worry, my dear. God will take care.”
Rani put the phone and sat down quietly next to Mani, who was writing her ‘barahkhadi’.
After a while, she asked Mani, ” Eh.. Mani.. where do you think we can get sontoshin?”
” What?” Mani was flummoxed. She had never taken a pill before.
“It’s a medicine, that can save Appa.”
Mani thought hard. What kind of medicine was that, ‘Suntoshine’? Were they talking about the sun? Yes, that was it! The sun can cure any disease, her grandmother had told her that. Even now, every sunday, Mani recited the slokas to please the sun god.
” Of course, I do, Rani! It’s Sunshine! Soon, your Appa will be dropping you off at school on his bicycle!”
Rani was elated. ‘ Come on then, let’s pack it and take it to town!Let’s run like the wind, Mani!”
“Wait a minute! It’s sunshine, but how do you we pack it? We can’t wrap it in a banana leaf, can we?”
“True, Mani.. what do we do now?” Rani sounded dejected.
Mani could not bear to see the disappointment on her face.She was determined to find a way out. The girls went to bed, trying to think of various ways to gather sunshine, but of no avail. Sleep tugged at their tired eyes and they could keep awake no more.
Early next morning, Mani woke Rani up.
” Rani, wake up! I have found a way to gather sunshine! Come with me, quick!”
Rani ran behind Mani all the way to the stone bridge. The banks were dew-covered.
” There, ” said Mani, ” this is where I see the sun everyday, glistening from those grains of sand. We’ll gather this sand on this copper plate that my Ammamma gave me, ” she announced proudly, producing a shiny plate from her satchel.
Painstakingly, two little girls gathered the sand and lined the plate. Mani told Rani that the sand had to remain slightly wet at all times, or the sun would escape. Rani was extra-careful, so she laid her muslin handkerchief over it, to keep it moist until they reached town. Clutching the plate with both hands, the girls clambered onto the bus. They did not make contact with the curious onlookers, for they knew the medicine would not work if they frittered away their energy in idle talk. As field and river and bridge and grove passed by, they had only thought on their minds : Rani’s Appa. Rani had asked her Amma for the address of the hospital the night before. Her Amma seemed wary, but had indulged her. Rani must be missing her Appa, she felt.
” Rani and Mani, what are you doing here?” asked her Anna, amazed to see them, early in the morning, with a copper plate in their hands!
“We found the medicine!” Mani hissed, “here it is!” There was much jostling and arguing after.
Just then, the doctor passed by. He wanted to know what the commotion was all about.Mani repeated the events for him: how they gathered sunshine to save Rani’s Appa. The doctor listened patiently and took the plate from their hands. ” I see.I do not know how to thank you girls for this. We have been looking for this very medicine. Now let me administer it to him. You want to take him home with you, yes?”
“YES!” chorused Mani and Rani in tandem, so excited that they could not see the doctor winking at Rani’s Amma as he took the plate into the ward. Forty-eight hours later, an emaciated but completely cured man, emerged from the hospital room. He was received by warm hugs and tender tears. He was so happy to be going home with his family. The famiy thanked the doctor for all his help. The doctor smiled and asked Rani, “Do you realise what actually cured your Appa?”
“A plate full of sunshine!” he added, his eyes crinkling in good-natured teasing.

Many years later, Rani and Mani learned how much the nice doctor had worked to save Rani’s Appa. They realised that true sunshine that heals, lives not on the river banks, but in people’s hearts. That’s when you can offer, plates full of sunshine.. to heal, to protect, to cherish and to love.

Just for your information, Rani grew up to be a famous doctor, inspired by the one who saved her Appa and Mani? Well, her imagination still is strong as ever and guess what she does for a living? She writes stories for children! Amen!

(A huge thanks to the prompt from !)

For Lulu

Four legs and a tail;
Vixen eyes and ready for love;
Wrapped in my arms, you came home
into a family of four,
four paws multiplied by three.

We dreamed big, we drew up plans
you were the wicked bitch
that we wanted to raise, the ghastly hound
of our Baskervilles, the terror
of a calm neighbourhood.

We pleaded, cajoled, beat ourselves up
trying to teach you to stay away
And all the while you toiled away
just to snuggle up next to me
Or to rub a wet snout against my face.

Oh! how have blind I have been,
in wanting you to grow up too soon.
Blind to the child within and all too eager
to prove my point; Your tender feet
crushed in my adult wisdom.

You’re just a dog, yet I wonder
about the lesson I learnt;
children need love more than space-
and a family is born not from rules
but from togetherness and hugs.

All I want is…

a tiny home I can call all my own, where every step echoes with the rustle of my dreams;

a love like the waves, gushing out to meet me and yet, returns home each day, leaving me, the shore, with my shells and memories.

a soul as light as a feather, yet pregnant with promise; promises of light and joy and eternal freedom.

a child, not from my womb, for then I’ll smother her with bonds; but a kindred soul, who sees me for who I am; a baby that I shall feed with love, droplets of dew mixed with chunks of the moon.

All I want is…

To be free, my way.  

On being a mother…

One after another, they tumbled out,

four pairs of legs, two pairs of eyes,

And a tail for each.

I don’t count them though,

Miracles come unasked for,

And their numbers, evasive.

Through my dusty roads

I let them play,

one,two; two, one; one too many.

One sunny morning, they will run away-

towards a scrap, towards a smile;

I would not stop them,

for all the stones that haunt my dreams.

I am a mother, a ruthless bitch;

Life moves on and there always

Seems to be one miracle too many.

Though at times I wonder,

If they’d spoken a tongue,

Would I have tucked them into

A warm bed, happy and snug?

I wonder…

For Yasmin


You are the glint in the eye,

You are the hint of a smile,

You are Desire; deeply felt and

hidden in the heart’s nooks.

You are my dream in disguise,

You are the walk in the rain,

You are Beauty; locked and captured

in the depths of my eyes.

You are the birth of a soul,

You are the kite in the breeze,

You are Wisdom; flying free

On a rainbow-hued cloud.

desire, beauty,wisdom-

is my heart ready to welcome you, my little one?


The kind of things children say!

In a reading class, from a 6 year old: Ma’am, my body is here, but my mind is playing baseball.. Can I take my body along with my mind?

A contribution by a 7 year old to the school magazine : A good teacher must be plump and pretty and never get angry.

A 9 year old to a teacher: Ma’am, you look so pretty today that any man would fall for you!

A 5 year old looking at a broken pipe and water gushing out: Will we all drown? Can I swim home through this right now, because what will my parents do if I drown?

A 6 year old after reading the story “Jack and the Beanstalk” : I don’t like Jack. He’s not hardworking at all!

An 8 year old in his essay on Nutrition: We must not eat junk food like samosas and fries because they are tasty.