Sunday, May 25, 2008

Teaching is Learning!

Kuwait is green and beautiful! What an impossible dream! To a dreamer like me landed fresh and full of passion, it brought in a free flow of pheromones. It didn’t take me much time to discover the truth.

Once I was called to a rich Kuwaiti Sheikh’s sprawling mansion and given the part time duty of tutoring his recalcitrant sons ever so elusive, lessons on English equally elusive. The recalcitrant duo was researching on wild mischief and had perfected the art of spitting in each other’s face, for one. They were in the process of compiling an international dictionary of swear and four-letter words. They would practice such words without inhibition on their close circle of friends, family and much to my chagrin even on their teachers!

Why a teacher would wear a large panama hat indoors while teaching, may raise curiosity and eyebrows in some. The Arab siblings having parked on either side of me would often end up in a fight. After flinging back and forth a string of groovy words, they would invariably start a spitting match. It was for this that I wore the hat; to avoid the spit missiles landing on my crown. All the while the tirade went on I had to sit bent low. The class continued for a while because the money was good, but then all was not well when it ended.

Soon after chucking that one I was confronted with another one. This time I was wiser, so decided to take only one person at a time. One on one- was far better! At least that’s what I presumed. The boy was just going into teens and was mostly placid. All he was interested in was eating, which he did all the time, I guess. He never stopped munching even during class. While I got richer he grew fatter. He would order a whole burger meal with nearly a litre of Pepsi and to top it five scoops of Baskin Robbins- various flavours and polish off the entire pile without a pause while I did his home work and assignment. It was a compromise which I readily accepted. I feared his tantrum. I had the misfortune to be there when he really blew his top. He yelled for nearly five minutes calling abusive words to his mom, siblings and the maids. The maids got all types of whacks from him all the time, whatever the mood he was in. If he was friendly, they would be whacked on the butt, when angry whichever place his fist landed! WHACK! WHACK!

He fancied himself to be one of the wrestlers that come on the television and was into wearing weird costumes and head gears. In addition, he kept a large baton with steel studs which he said he used in fight. It seemed he liked to fight in the street and boasted of being a member of a gang. His driver (he had a separate car and chauffer at his disposal) confided in me that the chap went for fights alright but got walloped most of the time. He did agree that the boy horded all sorts of weapons like chains, clubs and even knives in the boot of the car! Just imagine!

When teaching Kuwaiti children we have to follow some unwritten rules:

They are always right.

Never anticipate any gratitude or proper relationship expected form a student, relatives and parents.

Their time is important; yours is not.

Never complain about the student to the parents.

While instructing, please note the child understands English as he wants, so avoid instructions as far as possible.

Keep yourselves at arms length to avoid physical abuse.

Never show any emotions on your face; if you smile it will be construed that you are laughing at him.

Never joke, for they don’t understand.

Beware when they are nice to you.

Ali was a unique specimen. His chauffer called him ‘Rubber Boy’. Ali was a roly-poly good-looking chap, but was crazy to the core. He was like one those exotic pets that don’t match their benign looks with their manners. His chauffeur would pick me up from my flat and drop me after the class. Ali would hop in during some of these trips and scare the wits out the children playing outside by waving his gun filled with plastic pellets or brandishing a large stick which he carried with him at all times. Sometimes he would shout out “PAAGAL HEY!” “PAAGAL HEY!” The onlookers would wonder why this kid was sticking out his head and screaming his head out. “THUM HI PAAGAL!” they would shout back. He reveled in his ignorance, but posed himself to be a swell guy. He was into eating all sorts of seeds. I felt he must have got a bird’s brain from all his nut chewing!!

The stint there continued for quite a while!! I don’t know how! But as long as these dumb guys are around people like me can make money without much effort if you don’t mind bending your principles.

There were quite a few interesting characters that came to me yearning for some knowledge. I learnt a lot of four-letter words in Arabic from them, but I wonder if they managed to learn anything from me!!

No comments: