Parsley and Thyme

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The Crow and The Pitcher

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I was 8. The second language at school, Hindi, had begun its journey away from my cerebrum, down towards my Achilles heel. I remember going home after struggling through a particularly stressful Hindi exam with my tormentor – the question paper – safely clipped to the exam pad. I also remember explaining, very nonchalantly, to my mother that I had answered only one question from the entire question paper. And then we parted ways – she to the kitchen, and I to my room. In silence. I may have heard a sigh of relief emanating from the kitchen a little later, but I don’t recall clearly. Even if I did, a little information on my preparations for the said Hindi exam is essential before you can conclude on the (seemingly) high coolness quotient of my mother.

I had spent the greater part of the night before the exam, in stentorian memorization of a single question-and-answer pair which I had carefully dissected from the entire syllabus. The pair was from an Aesop fable called ‘The Crow and The Pitcher’. I found the story inexplicably intriguing, and only one answer from the question-and-answer assignment on this story, worth mastering. The exact reason behind this choice remains a mystery to me to this day. It was probably the negligible level of difficulty involved in learning that one answer by rote, or probably the rhythmic sounds I made as I chanted it over and over again in the wee hours of the night. Reasoning swept aside, I firmly ignored all the other question-and-answer pairs which ominously stared at me from my ‘Class Work’ book and decided to stick to just the one which had caught my fancy. By the next morning, my entire family (of 5) was privy to my focus point for the exam :

Q : Kauva kya chahtha tha ? (What did the crow want ?)

A : Kauva paani peena chahtha tha. (The crow wanted to drink water.)

I left for school that morning, pushed out of the house by unseen pairs of hands, some of which had expectantly left their place on the owners’ ears, and the others which had plastered pillows on their owners’ heads to get them through the night. I was a picture of confidence in the exam hall. Until I was handed the question paper. It was panic time. 6 out of 11, and I thought I could get away with 1? Suddenly, all my physiological functions seemed fully autonomous – I was drenched in sweat, tears, whatnot. Gathering the last bit of strength that I had not imagined to find, I scoured the paper. I found my hero nestled somewhere in the middle of the eleven villains and I nervously serenaded him.

‘Kauva paani peena chahtha tha’

The only predictable aspect of the whole episode, of course, was the result of the exam. And for the torture I had inflicted on my khandaan, I spent many years suffering musical renditions of ’Kauva kya chahtha tha?’ in various ragaas. Uggh.

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Written by Kanchana

November 15, 2011 at 2:15 am

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