Dark room, daintily lit by a single dim tubelight. Pastel blue walls adorn deflated slogans and grotesquely drawn portraits of gods and saviours.
– Int. Scene 1. –
Students: (in a singsong tone) Gooh-hud mawr-ning, ma’am.
Teacher: (waves hand loosely) Sit-down, children.
Students ruffle their makeshift backpacks, made mostly out of pesticide sacks with odd capitalist branding
Teacher: Okay, class. Today we are going to learn about the body parts. (lifts her arms up and moves her fingers like an overly-obvious puppeteer) What is this?
Students: Yes ma’am!
Teacher: (laughs at their ineptitude) No, what is this?
No response from the students; only confused faces
Teacher: (brings her arms to the front and moves her fingers in an almost tremulous demeanour) What is this?!
Students: (almost fumbling) WHAT IS THIS!
Teacher: (visibly annoyed) No! This is fingers. What is this?
Students: (comfortably) Fin-guhrr-ss.
Teacher: (points to her nose) What is this?
Student #1: (confidently points his arm in an inverted Nazi salute) नाक! (Hindi for “nose”)
Teacher: (scowling) No! Not like this!
Students: (in unison) Not like this!
Teacher: Argh. In English.
Student #2: (softly, with reservation) In-ain-guh-liss?
Teacher: (taps her nose several times with her finger) What is this?
Student #1 and #2: (mockingly yet hoping that they are correct) Inainguhliss!
Teacher lifts Student #1 by the arm, almost tossing him across the room
Teacher: What are you doing? Huh? Go stand in front of the class.
Student #1 chants “एक दो एक” (1–2–1) like an obedient foot soldier, walks to the blackboard, faces the class, and raises his arms straight up
Teacher: Okay. Now we… (stops mid-sentence as the realisation of the presence of an external researcher in the room dawns on her)
She flails her arm towards Student #1, trying to mime to him to lower his raised arms, while simultaneously grappling with her limited vocabulary to churn out an intimidating instruction — in English
Teacher: What is this?!
Student #1: (smiling sheepishly) Fin-guhrr-ss.
– End scene –
The events depicted in this scene occurred with almost 99% one-to-one correspondence in a government primary school in India. The “external researcher” vouches for its authenticity.
Tragedy में comedy?