Lords of the Last Benches

Throughout my school and college life, I was plagued with a problem. Students all over the world will empathize with me. How does one sit through thousands of hours of classes where the teacher is boring you with incomprehensible jargon that has absolutely no relevance to your future life?

Me and my friends became LLBs (Lords of the Last Benches) at the age of ten. We tried to devise ways to kill time at the back, while the teacher was killing everyone else’s interest in the front. At first we simpletons sat straight and tried to sleep thinking we wouldn’t be noticed. But a teacher is not that dumb. Then we realized that camouflage is a much greater weapon than distance. Plan 2 was to cover a story book with a dull text and get lost in an altogether different world. The chances of getting caught are 50-50. However, these odds may vary, depending on the expertise of the student and teacher respectively. One of my friends would lift his head and look at the teacher with great concentration at the end of every paragraph he read. However, I would get totally drowned in the plot. “Rajguru! Are you listening?” would go a voice which I never would hear and face the consequences.

After that me and my friends put into motion Plan Philosopher. I would lean my chin on my hand covering my mouth, take the support of the desk and look very thoughtfully towards the teacher. My fellow philosopher would do the same and we would keep whispering and have long classroom chats. Everything went well till my bench mate developed a sense of humour. I managed to control myself at the first couple of jokes… and then he dropped a downright beauty. My laughter traveled to the end of the class.

Our biology teacher was already in his worst of moods and was teaching fungi. “Fun-geee” was the way he pronounced fungi. “Fun-geee, you bhangi! Please come here.” I knew I was in trouble. “You dare laugh at me?” he thundered and I got my first taste of Teacher Brutality. First I was yelled at in front of the whole class and then caught by my belt. Then came blows for 30 seconds, a moral lecture for a minute, blows for… This alternate process continued for what seemed like an eternity. A dazed me was forced to drop Plan Philosopher like a hot duster.

After a brief lull, I started planning strategies again. Actually it was all the holes in the desk that set me thinking. I brought a number of buttons in the class and invented Button Holing. A simple game, in which you had to thumb buttons into the holes of desks. My bench mate was skeptical at first, but decided to give it a try. We always made our moves when the teacher’s back was turned. We became quite successful and the game became a passion.

But poor me again. I always get carried away. In one particular nail-biting game, I thumbed the winning shot. The moment overwhelmed me and I jumped and yelled in triumph. This was too much even for our non-violent history teacher. I had never seen him hit anyone in the seven years I spent in that school, but I was to become an exception. I can still remember the slap of a six-foot-plus broad-shouldered giant.

I finished school a defeated boy.

Nowadays everyone seems to be coming out with a book on everything you can think of. I wish someone authored a book, 101 Things to do in a Boring Class. That definitely would have been a help.

© Sunil Rajguru