behaviour, education, parenting

The perplexing case of Deepak’s blank answer papers (Part 1)

When the school opened and class teachers were assigned, my friend Sadhana peeped into my time-table to look at what class I was assigned the class teachership.  Then suddenly she announced in a shrill voice, “ Listen Listen! Laxmi is going to be the class teacher for the class IX th E-division”. Before she finished her statement there were sympathetic glances and knowing nods from other friends around like, “Oh God” and “ God please save Laxmi” “ Oh poor Laxmi” etc. As I wondered what lay in store.. Sadhana said with suppressed giggle, “Laxmi just go to class and see for yourself. Now Deepak is in your class”

As the bell rang all conversation ended and I walked to my  IXth E class for the first time,  filled with curiosity and apprehension to see my new special student Deepak. As usual, after explaining some Algebra sums, I gave a few problems on the board for the students to solve, and started going round the class watching each and every student, as how they were working. As I came to the last bench, I found a boy just sitting with his blank note book,  busily doodling on the side of the note book. He had not taken down a single line, of what I taught, or what was given to solve. Without asking him anything, I just stood there watching him. Squirming under my gaze, he pretended to write but could only just copy one single line.  He   started scribbling something   repeatedly writing and cancelling it as if he was confused. After five seconds I asked him, “Did you not understand what I explained at all?” He stood up with his head hung but did not reply. I waited. But still he did not answer. Then the boy next to him got up and volunteered saying,    ““Madam, he won’t talk. He got Gutka in his mouth”

I now looked at him sternly and said, “Go to wash room spit it and come” He went out. Before he returned, another boy got up and  said hesitantly , “ Madam, Deepak always eats Gutka in the class and never answer any teachers and never write any lessons”  I understood  that  he  was the famous Deepak.

He came back to his desk and stood with hung head, I repeated my question and this time, to my surprise he answered, “Yes I did understand the sum when you explained . But I did not feel like writing”.  For one moment I was stumped. I did not know what to say to a boy of thirteen years who straight   on my face tells me   ” I don’t feel like” But I was the not one  to  give up .  I walked to the board wrote another difficult problem on the board and announced the class. “Children, now this problem is going to be solved by Deepak.”

As the whole class gasped, I looked at Deepak and said again” Come Deepak, here is chalk! Take it and solve” Deepak did not show any resistance and took the chalk piece.  Not only the entire class, but I was also shell shocked when Deepak solved the problem systematically without any effort and dropping the chalk on the table walked back to his seat. Hiding my surprise I said “Very Good Deepak.  I am happy that there is such an intelligent boy in the class” The bell rang and the class was over.

Back in the staff room, my co teachers were refusing to believe my statement the Deepak solved the sum. One by one all the teachers who had taught him earlier from the 5th grade on wards told about the past stories.  Surprisingly, Deepak was one  of the best student, in the class till the end of 7th grade scoring above 80% average and scoring nearly 95% in mathematics. Then suddenly from the beginning of 8th grade, he became completely the opposite- rude, non responsive and undisciplined. The worst thing, which irritated the teachers was, that he gave completely blank answer papers in the Unit- test, writing only the questions. Repeated talking, warning, punishing, nothing seemed to have an effect on him.  He failed in 8th once and in the   second attempt   passed   only due to his scores in the final.   Hearing all this Deepak became my challenge.

Then every day, it was Deepak  versus me in the class.  If I stood near him he would sluggishly write something. Otherwise   he would just sit with a blank note book. Every day he had Gutka and every day I send him out for spitting.  After a month one day, when a most difficult sum was given on the board suddenly he solved it in his note and stood up to show me. I was extremely pleased. I told him, “Deepak if the sums I give the class are average and you don’t find them interesting, you go the last problem in the chapter and solve them.” The chapters would generally have about thirty sums and the ones in the tail end would be most difficult.  Deepak now started solving them effortlessly and proudly showed me the sums.  There was a mild happiness in his face.  Time rolled by and the first Unit test was held in August month.

When I got the paper bundle, my heart waiting with expectation I first pulled out Deepak’s paper.   The blank answer sheet with only his name stared   back at me.  I could not believe this at all.  He was solving well in the class and I thought that I had broken the ice!  But I had also failed to make him answer in the test.

Next day the moment I entered, I first went to his desk and said in strict tone, “What do you think of yourself Deepak? What is the meaning   of this blank paper?

He kept silent with his head hung. I   raised my voice and repeated the question.  He looked up and said without any emotion, “Because I did not  feel like answering the paper” I was at loss of words. I could not waste the time of the class on one student and I moved away to my distribution of the papers.  Most of the children had scored very high marks and even the average ones were happy that they had scored better this time. I decided to take the Principal’s permission to call his parent.

Those days there never use to be the regular parent teacher meeting at all. Once in a while when some child became a problem student first we report to Principal. She would then call the student to her room and give a talk, advice etc to the student.  If the problem still persists she would send for the parent.

It was the rule of the school that all the children should get their parents signature on the unit test papers and then return it to the teacher for the school records.  When I was collecting the answer paper back   from Deepak, I was shocked to see strips of crimson marks  all over his hands and neck. Some of the marks were very deep and were  showing the deep bruise with bleeding.  His face was also swollen and I could see heavy finger marks on them.  I was stunned. In all my life I had not seen any child being beaten so badly. I asked softly, “What are these marks Deepak? “ I was sure he would   tell me   some false story.  But, looking at me straight in my eyes he said, “My father hit me with a belt.  He always does that when he sees my answer paper blank”

In the staff room we all discussed this unusual incidence.  Many times the parents do get in to a fit of rage when their wards do not perform. But never like this extreme case. Secondly if Deepak knew that his father would hit him like this, and in reality he knew all the answers for all the problems, why was he purposely giving the blank paper and asking for all that pain? What was wrong here?

With the Principal’s permission Deepak’s parents were called, but only his mother came. She was well educated. Her husband was the Vice president of a bank. She could hardly control her tears when she talked about Deepak. She said, “More than my son getting beaten I am more terrified about my husband’s health. He is already a high blood patient and when he loses his temper and thrashes Deepak badly,   immediately he gets an attack and had to be rushed to the doctor. When he is exploding with temper I am more afraid for his life than about Deepak”   This was also news.

Then after some repeated questioning she disclosed that Deepak had an Aunt, younger sister of his father, who was taking care of him from childhood. Since both of them were bank employees and worked late Deepak was totally under her care and he loved her very deeply. She helped with his studies and   he was very good in his exams. But at the end of 7th grade she got married and left.    Deepak missed her very badly and then his downfall started.  Any amount of mothers   love and advice could not make him all right

I said, “Getting married and leaving the house is not something  unexpected. Deepak is also not a baby to go into depression.  Your sister in law must be writing letters to him or talk to him on phone etc and that should be enough for a thirteen year boy” The mother accepted with a tinge of guilt that her sister in law married without the consent of her brother and hence he had forced the family to cut off all the connections with her.

Now we were back to square one.

What   madness drives a young boy to such a cruel vengeance   to provoke his father’s temper, knowing  very well that  he could get an attack and  which could even prove fatal?

Why would a smart child intentionally sabotage his own education? 

How would we break open his inner heart and get the secret out?

After all the he never cried , while even the poor belt cried in shame?

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 Could any one of you guess what was wrong with Deepak? 

( to be continued)

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