Kappu – A Life of Lessons
Today, the guard without hair is not there. When I reach outside the school, there is no one in the ground. The other guard sees me, but he doesn’t flinch. Instead, he gestures at me to come over.
“What is your name?” he asks me in Kannada, the language I know best.
“Kappu,” I utter by mistake, but he laughs it off. He asks me my real name.
“Suma,” I tell him.
He is kind, this guard. He tells me that I can stand near the window and peep into the class all day if I want to. He’ll tell me if someone comes. It’s something I’ve longed to hear. But a ragamuffin can’t be at one place all day. I have to find enough to take back, or my father will give me a beating. So I shall move away soon.
Yellowed paper in hand, I stand crouched near the window, waiting to hear the woman.
“D for,” comes a voice, but it’s a different woman.
“Doll,” echoes the children, but I know this already.
I have stood near the wrong window. I can see the guard tell me that.
But I have stood at this window before. Seeing the woman show the picture of a doll makes me want one of my own. I want a doll. And I want the book that has the doll picture in it. In it, I have seen her show cats and eggs and jugs. I will ask the guard uncle if he’ll get the book from me after the woman goes.
I crouch down and move toward the right window. Looking through, I see the woman there write in letters close to each other. I can’t do that; yet. But one day, I will. Looking at her, I try it on my yellowed paper. This lesson is fun. I hear the bell ring, and I try to slip through the fence to the road. But there’s a hand on my shoulder.
An angry man looks at me, and shouts in a language I don’t know. I plead with him to let me go, and he does, but he takes my yellowed paper and tears it, just as the children come out and watch him. Tearful, I sneak out the fence, but my luck is bad.
I am caught by my appa. As he drags me away from the building, I can see the angry man throw away the pieces and the children look at me. My appa curses me in Kannada as he pulls me to our tent, asking me why I couldn’t know my place. He gives me the beating I knew I would get. But he’s in a fury today.
“Let this be a lesson to you,” he says, taking the hot flat ladle from the coal stove and pressing it into my right hand.
~ Continued in Part 3 ~
(© 14th April 2015)