I have always dreaded the 7pm to 8pm study hour, and during the stretch of my life, this has been the case for different reasons. When I was young, it was for the one hour of boring study material I would have to endure, and now in more recent years, it is about the one hour of teaching my son that I have to face. Come to think of it, actually the latter seems worse, because when I was little, I also had the option to shut my little brain off the trauma and simply stare at the letters while wandering off to la la land. But now it’s tougher, not only do I have to concentrate, I also need to keep pulling back my son’s mind from the la la land he frequently visits during these 45 minutes.
Cut to yesterday night. Today we have a maths test, a formative assessment to be exact. And as usual my son knows nothing, except the numbers, for which I am eternally thankful. The main syllabus of study includes ascending and descending single digit numbers and we’ve gone over them, as often as traffic does on Indian roads. I have potholes in my patience, yet the basic funda of how to get this math right continues to baffle my son.
Okay K, I venture, after a cup of energy boosting coffee. ‘Before means ‘mundara’, ‘pehle’. We’ve switched to native tongue, in hope to get him understand.
‘So what comes before 5?’ I ask him. My son tries to calculate. ‘Before is mundara?’ he confirms before answering.
An extensive amount of counting and calculating ensues, after which he says ‘6 comes before 5’
‘Oh no dear, think of it like this. What do you say before you say 5?’ I ventured, feeling very bright with my suggestion. However a blank dazed look from the other end of the table told me that my brilliant idea had not been perceived as such. Not the kind to give up easily, I tried again. ‘Okay, you say 1, then 2, 3, 4, 5’; I said dramatically stressing on the last number. ‘Now, what did I say before I said 5?’ after ten minutes of more calculations, K was sure he had grasped this simple maths. ‘Oh yes, I know. I understood. It’s 6.’
I was a fighter, I assured myself, and hope wouldn’t desert me so early. I tried again. ‘Forget the before numbers. Let’s try after. So what comes after 5?’, I asked feeling quite hung up about the digit, yet hoping that he’d get atleast one sum right. ‘After means ‘venakala’ right? ‘Baad mein?’
‘Yes’ I said.
‘Then 4 comes after 5’ was his wise reply.
I don’t know in which constellation and with what form of thinking does 4 come after 5 and 6 before it. I felt like hitting my head against the wall, but maybe I was already doing that. I had just decided to call it quits after trying for an hour to get the concept straight, when I had the brilliant idea and the memory of that Ghee toh tedhi ungli stuff. ‘Okay K, one last time, let’s try this.’
‘Fine’ he said, ‘I’m ready’
Keep in mind that before means venakala (baad mein) and after means mundara (pehle). I had simply mixed the definitions, for perhaps that was happening at his mental level as well. ‘Now let’s try. What comes after 4?’ (maybe 5 was not lucky for us after all).
‘So after means mundara?’ He checked again.
‘It’s 5’. Great, we had cinched it. And what comes before 4, which means venakala?
‘Of course 3’, he said.
We had cracked the DaVinci code after all, and it felt good. My son and I were pleased with this little achievement, only my 8 year old daughter wasn’t. ‘You’ve told him wrong definitions, just for marks’, she alleged with a furrowed brow and serious expression. ‘Do you know that it’s not right to do that.’
Oh sigh, huh, pufft. Life goes on. Its not a perfect world, and the road won’t always be a straight path. You just have to move with the flow. And sing, ‘Don’t think twice, it’s just another day in paradise’.