Spelling day was arriving.
Kids were scrambling to rote all the spellings. Mothers were struggling with the big words. More than 8-letter words were plain torture for 8 year olds they thought. All the books in the market had been bought and all those special important words the teacher had listed were learnt by heart. It was a huge mess in the lives of these tiny tots.
At home, her mom said, “Beta, ‘Umbrella’ is U-M-B-R-E-L-L-A”. Her, jumping around the house in search of her other sock said, “Nah Ma, it’s U-M-B-R-E-F-F-A” and galloped away. It was a mother-daughter game. She’d wrong a correct spelling and fit the correct one in her head that way. ‘F’s and ‘L’s were her favorites to mess around with.
She wasn’t like the other kids who died rote learning every day. She, well, watched television 8 times the capacity of any 8 year old, kept her knowledge about Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi abreast and discussed it with her grandmother at length, slept the night before the exam like it was her last night on the planet to gather all the sleep. She wasn’t one of the rat-race lot. She was way ahead of them. She always wanted to go to the top and see what it would look like from there. She wanted to be a G-I-R-A-L-L-E.
Spelling day was here.
It was a few minutes for the bell to ring. She was not to be seen around. Her peers knew where she’d be. Home! They thought her mother had a magic red car by which she came to school every morning. How else would they justify her waking up 15 minutes before school time and getting into the school gate exactly on time? The magic red car was on its way. She hurried out, kissed her mother good bye and ran into the school gate a millisecond before it shut!
She dashed in and took her seat. The teacher arrived with that scary sheet of paper from which she would dictate. The teacher announced, “Everybody, listen carefully to the rules – Every word shall be repeated only twice. At the end, all the words shall be read out. Okay? Let’s begin!” The kids got set with their minds all sharpened. She? Well, she was busy sharpening her pencil.
The teacher started,
First word ‘Coconut’. I repeat ‘Coconut’.
The kids instantly picked up their pencils and scribbled down the word.
Second word ‘Planet’. I rep—–and the teacher was interrupted. “Miss, please repeat the first word.” The teacher said, “Child, like I said, one word shall be repeated only twice. Why didn’t you listen?” She replied with an oh-so-couldn’t-you-tell-me-earlier expression, “I was sharpening my pencil!” The teacher said, “The words cannot be repeated. Move to the next word.” She starting to get irritated now, “But I didn’t listen! And look, I have 1 to 10 so neatly written on my sheet. I just have to put in the words now.” The teacher with more disgust than denial said, “No. Rules are rules. Children, let’s move on. Second word…”
She stared at her teacher like she’d burn her down. Folded her hands and sat on her seat. She wasn’t going to budge. She wanted that first word!
The teacher went on, “Fifth word…Tenth word..Now I shall repeat the list for you’ll to check.”
She picked up her perfectly sharpened pencil and got ready. It was show time! As the teacher went on reading the list of words, she went on writing the spellings. She managed all the 10 words. She didn’t need a stupid teacher and her stupid rules to prove she was B-R-I-F-F-I-A-N-T.
Level 1 cleared. She was one of the two little kids to have gotten a 10 on 10.
But the test wasn’t over yet. There was no winner. The teacher decided to have a tie breaker round. The kids now had to spell out verbally.
“Huh! Big deal”, she thought to herself and threw her plait back. “Why do these stupid black ribbons exist?”, she murmured.
The oral test commenced.
“Girl, spell ‘Umbrella’”
“U-M-B-R-E-F-F-A…….no no U-M-B-R-E-L-L-A”
“Incorrect. You get only one chance kiddo, your classmate wins.”
This was unfair. And stupid. Her teacher was oh just so stupid! (That was the only abusive word she knew back then!)
Her family though, wasn’t like her stupid teacher. They understood that she was a class apart. That she never followed the rules. That she could never be on time. That she jumped up all the ladders she came across. That she could not tolerate injustice. Oh that, or incorrect grammar. And how difficult was it to get that? She was just D-I-L-L-E-R-E-N-T.
Years later, she sat slumped in her sofa with her wedding card sample on her lap. The first thing she noticed was an incorrect apostrophe placement. She still failed to understand how people could be so stupid. As she looked through it and corrected all the tiny spelling errors to make it absolutely perfect, I realised, She had grown up. F-I-N-A-F-F-Y.