Laytary and the Lashes: Taught "by hands" in Government High School Therian
“Attention, class,” a jubilant voice echoed through the thick acacia trees, “you have a ‘message’ from Sir K.” In our times the boys more generously blessed with good physique but measured academic abilities would swell at such messages. Everyone got the hint from the mere manner of expression and an added sarcasm. “You are to attend to a laitary* this Friday,” our fellow put it bare for the benefit of the obtuse minds, of which there were none. The message hit everyone according to the weight of their body. The thinner and the lighter you are, the harder the strike. I was one of those unfortunate pupils who had little to offer in this field. So the countdown began. Every tick of the clock made every cell of the body cringe in the face of sheer image of what would follow. In situations like this, you fall on your knees and pray; pray to everything you can. I had God Almighty to turn to. I did. I had a ziyarat (sort of shrine of an anonymous peer) near my house where it was believed lay some saint. The villagers would gather there and pray to Allah THROUGH the anonymous peer, for the end of a drought or the success of a child in the annual examination. My grandmother would cook the best she could and distribute among the children after dedicating it to whoever was buried there. I also availed this power as well. As usual help did not come.
Come Monday. It is early fall. The weather is usually cold and crisp. Ironically however, the sun that day was shining in full glory. Generally, it would be a good school day. The teacher would enjoy sun bask more than thrashing the poor souls. But this particular day, the order of things was different. Apprehension. Dread. Melancholy.
The English lesson came last. I saw myself floating in the sea of voices; teachers shouting, children reading, birds chirping. Yet, the relation between the versifier and the signified was reversed. What otherwise meant life and hope, issued dread and warning. The ‘teacher’ walked to the open area the class had occupied. “Rite an appplicaation fawrr fees konnsesian”, he uttered a sharp piercing cry. By the mere manner of his expression, you lost your senses. Anyway the class started scrambling. So did I. Mustering all the intellectual power and summoning all my memory, I tried to jot down whatever attended my mind. Before I could go a little down the way, the doomsday set in. You heard the hissing of the stick, the thuds on the flesh, the cracks on the hands, “the no sir no sir no sir,” “Allah”, “Mother”, cries and groans, all together answered perfectly the chaos destined for the doomsday.
Despite all my efforts, some horrible strike of a stick, or a loud cry by a robust victim, or a fall and rush through the ranks of the class or mere bad luck of mine made me misspell a word (if my memory is not failing me it was the word ‘pass’ of which I missed one letter, S.) My turn. The teacher snatched notebook from my trembling pale hands; blood had mysteriously drained. He did not take long to reach his target. He had no time to tell me what was wrong. The stick had already ripped my hand. The good thing was that the excruciating pain before the gallows did not take long. There was no count. The only thing that could help you is his relatively low physical strength. So he poured all that he had. Exercised his muscles to the full. The only thing I remember is that somehow I went into the hands of the best of all my teachers, Mr Raja Muhammad Munsaf Khan Sahib, may Allah bless him. He tried to console me. Thought the warmth he had and compassion he poured knew no bounds, yet it did not remove the swelling on my hands and the pangs of my spirit. The burning sensation in the arms and shiver that had overtaken me lasted for days. Luckily there were no bone fractures. The pain, like any, went in time. But my spirit was torn apart. It was mended by my best teacher in whose hands nature thrust me the next year. I started my studies again. Learnt to learn. This experience is one of the few which stamped a strong mark upon my nature; I can’t forgive. I have tried many times to forget and forgive this man. I pray to God to give me strength to forgive him. But I have not been successful. Probably I never can.
*Laitary means you get together and cut fodder for the animals or do any other such task.