It would require a whole book for me to write about all the beatings that I got in my childhood, as beatings were always a part of bringing me up. The general belief in our society was that if you have only one son then you should be very strict with him so that he will become a good son when he grows up. I being an only son, strictness, beatings and not displaying any love were that I always got form my parents for the fear of being spoiled otherwise. Well, I don’t deny the fact that I may have been little naughty too thereby inviting some of these beatings.
In the beginning when I was still staying with my mother, at her parents' place, it was my mother who used to beat me. I thought she was the strictest mother in the world. But when at the age of 10, we moved to my father’s place, I realised that she was a cakewalk as the beatings and strictness of my father was much more severe and I lost all the fear about my mother's beatings. May be my first lesson on fearing only the more powerful!!!
I would speak about some of the beatings here as they had a character of their own and huge impact, either positive or negative, on my personality. Why I chose to chronicle these beatings? Well, partially for people to draw their own lessons from these incidents and partially for my own pleasure in revisiting those incidents of my early life; a kind of purging the memories and leaving no grudges.
Going for a Movie: The earliest of my memories, as regards the severe beatings goes, is about the beating I got for going for a movie. I still distinctly remember the film; a Malayalam melodrama named Santha Oru Devata (Santha- a Goddess). Looking back, the film was not worth at all for all the beatings that I got.
I was absent for a day from school when the teacher announced that there would be a sponsored show of the movie next day. When I reached school next day, I saw all the children thrilled and ready to go for the movie to the local talkies in the afternoon. I could not even think of a situation where I have to stay back when all other children of my class were going to watch movie. So I went back home during lunch break and requested my mother. However, she refused to give me permission as I have not informed father. It was only the father who could give me permission. I was sad and went back to school. But when I saw the children forming a queue to walk all the way to the Talkies that was two kilo metres away (how sad, to think of those children walking for such a long distance in the afternoon son!) I could not resist myself and I got into it too.
I watched the movie and cried at the sight of heroin’s tears. After the movie, teachers walked us back to school from where we dispersed to respective homes. I was late by 30 or 35 minutes when I reached home. Also, I was not carrying any books as I have already left them at home during lunch break. Father was already home and he received me with a question as to where I was and where are my books. When I replied that I have gone to see the movie with the entire school, he started beating me. He was prepared for it and had kept a rod ready. I received all the beatings on my legs and it lasted for about 15 minutes!! I do not know how many of you have actually undergone something like that. Being beaten up with a rod for 15 or so minutes! Well, when he finished I was left with lot of red scars on my legs and a big black scar on my mind. Only positive memories were of my grandmother applying some oil (or water; I do not remember clearly) over the scars and massaging my legs while I was sobbing uncontrollably.
Did I learn a lesson? Well, may be. But was that the lesson my father wanted to teach me? Definitely no. For I do not even know what was the lesson I was supposed to learn from there. When he saw me in town much later, when I was in Pre-Degree at college, during the working hours he probably knew that I have bunked my classes to watch a movie. He could not get down there and catch me at the act. So, when he reached home in the evening he started questioning me. I took a stand that I was in the class for the entire day and it could not have been me whom he saw in the town. The stand I took was so vehement that he fell into doubts whether he actually has seen me!! Believe me... that saved me from the repeat of thrashing and I leave it to you figure out as to what lessons I could have learned from these two occasions.
Winning a Quiz contest:
While I was studying in my ninth standard, I got selected to represent my school in a District level quiz contest for the high school students. The contest was part of the district Youth Festival and had participants from all the secondary schools of our district. I was fortunate to get my father’s permission to participate in this event because (a) he normally does not permit me to participate in any extracurricular activities at school and (b) the event was taking place at a school 35 kilometres away from my home.
To my bad luck, the event got delayed and it was already night when that actually happened. Teachers were not willing to send me home alone and they could not accompany me as there were still other items being performed by other students. They forced me to stay back at that school. I was terrified about staying back at that school, without my father’s permission, yet I had no choice. Finally, I gave up and stayed back at the school. There were no ways to communicate about this, as way back in 1980 the phones were still a luxury in our part of the country.
My apprehensions and the predicament, however, did not affect my performance. I won the event and felt like on the top of the world for beating all those bright kids. Next day, early morning, we all travelled back and I reached home by 9.30 a.m. As expected, father was waiting for me; and all my explanations fell on deaf ears. He started beating me for staying away from home without permission. As I distinctly remember, I never cried during the beating because in my mind I was the winner and it was not my fault that I couldn’t reach home in time. May be my stone face infuriated him more and the thrashings went on for a long time.
When it all got over and he left for his work, I sat down and started sobbing. I wanted to do lot of things; running away from home, committing suicide were among the options that were considered. But for some reason I calmed down and just decided to lie down and sob like a hurt dog. More than the beatings, which any way I expected to happen, it was the fact that no one even asked me about the result of event, let alone appreciated my winning it that hurt me more. This was the highest prize I ever won in a school competition as I was never permitted to take part in these activities and therefore, I usually could only participate in the inter school activities without letting my father know about it.
What did my School, for which I brought laurels at the cost of all these beatings, do? It announced gifting me a set of books for my performance. I was so thrilled about receiving books for it was always my dream and weakness to own nice books. But unfortunately, keeping the promises was one of those things to be taught to students but not to be practiced; and my beloved School never kept the promise!!
Beatings at School
It was not just at the home I had to undergo these beatings. Our teachers also believed that force is the best tool for teaching. I being a generally well behaved and studious kid was usually in the good books of the teachers and therefore, not had much experience in these form of teachings. However, I have had some beatings at my schools as well which are really memorable. Frankly, I can’t remember any incidences of getting beaten up in schools, other than the ones mentioned below.
Lower Primary: In the primary classes, I was really fortunate as far as beatings from teachers go. I under the tutelage of my mother was very good in studies and far ahead of my co-students in academic performance. Hailing from a respectable family, and my uncle, who was a prominent figure in the area, being close friends with most of the teachers I always had a preferred student status at that school.
One day, the Arabic teacher was late and therefore one of our favourite teachers named TKG Maniyoor was deputed to our class. TKG, as he was popularly known as, was a poet, an orator and a well known leftist. His thoughts were radical and he had a great influence in making me an atheist. A student of 4th standard, I admired his thoughts though today I might oppose many of his firm believes. He was not teaching us any subject that year. So, when he came to the class and started talking to us on some general topic of great interest (can’t remember what the topic was) we all were thoroughly enjoying his words.
Half way through the period, the Arabic teacher came to class and wanted to start his lessons. Since TKG’s talk was just half way he said he would like to continue for the rest of the period and both were arguing (in jest) as to who should continue. Then we children also interfered and started asking TKG to continue the class and I was leading the chorus. Frankly, Arabic lessons were attended by only a handful of Muslim students and all other had to just while away their time; whereas the speech of TKG was interesting for all of us.
Well, the Arabic teacher prevailed and TKG had to leave class. We were all disappointed but then the class in Arabic resumed. But the surprise came after the class. A teacher named Kannan who was teaching in the adjacent classroom summoned me to his class. Mr Kannan was a close friend of my uncle and as such has shown lot of consideration for me too in the school. But something had really infuriated him that day. To this day I do not know if I have done something really bad in that class. Though my leadership role in the clamour for TKG to continue was not best of the class room behaviour, coming from a nine year old boy it was not something really out of the world as well. Neither the Arabic teacher nor TKG took any offence to it.
However, Mr Kannan thought otherwise. He got a rod and started beating the hell out of me. That was the first time I was being beaten up by any teacher. Three things pained me; (i) the first time experience of getting beaten up at school, (ii) not appreciating my fault warranting such harsh punishment, and (iii) the glee on the face of other children who were jealous of me. The last was the most terrific of all. I had to undergo the insults for many days from other students and I learned a lesson very early in my life: the more popular you are, the people around you will enjoy your fall even more!! That is true even for one’s friends.
Class Leader: As many other things, student elections and politics also were taboo for me. If ever it comes to my father’s notice that I have indulged in these sins, well I don’t know what could save me from his wrath. But that did not stop me from being in active politics while in the High School. The fact that the school was little far from home and all others children around my home went to another school than mine gave me some freedom there, knowing that it would not be easy for some news to reach the ears of my father.
One thing led to another and I contested the student election while in the tenth standard. I won the election and became the class leader and also the Speaker for our School Parliament. It is another story that I never got to preside over the so called parliament because it was never in session and the position was rather ornamental.
Our class rooms were just thatched sheds with no walls. So, it was quite normal to find the benches and desks of a class room missing one fine morning. One day this happened in the adjacent class room that housed one division of ninth standard. The students of that class complained to their class teacher and he came inspecting the scene of crime. Based on some secret intelligence that he must have received there, he came to our room and said that one set of bench and desk was in our room. We children pleaded with him, but he refused to listen to us and asked the boys from the other class to pick and carry the bench and desk in question.
Our class teacher has not reached the school yet and it fell upon me to defend our honour (in front of the students of a junior class!!) and property and all other students started nudging me to do something about it. All my pleadings found no effect with that teacher. I then said to someone; “Let them carry it; when our teacher is here we will get them back in the similar fashion”. Unfortunately the teacher overheard this and he slapped hard on my face. I think it was not a reasoned reaction from the teacher; it just happened!!
Then the problem erupted. The whole school (except may be the students of that ninth standard) wanted the teacher in question to apologise to me for slapping a student leader for no apparent reason. The decision was taken to go on a strike at school if he refused to do it. Strikes were a norm than an exception in schools of those days. I had no control over these events any more. No doubt, I enjoyed the new status of a victim or hero, whatever it was. But I was also scared in my mind that if the strike really happens and my father comes to know about my involvement that would definitely result in another one of those ‘memorable beatings’.
The school was suddenly so tensed that the news spread all over. Some miracle happened and the Head Master of the school summoned me and enquired about the whole issue. That was a way out for me. He after hearing the story apologised to me and asked to make sure that this incident does not result in one more strike. I held on to this immediately and pacified all the agitated students and requested them to go back to classes. The strike was averted and I escaped from the memorable beating that was sure to take place in the aftermath.
The sweet memory: Well, my memories about beatings were not all that sore. The most memorable beating of my life probably is also one of the sweetest memories of my life. As I stated above, with all the restrictions that my father imposed on me, I still managed not to remain a boring perfect student. Wherever I could manage, I got myself involved; be it student politics, extra- curricular activities, or even sheer naughtiness befitting a teenager that I was. I am proud to say that no restrictions could stop me from being the best male performer at school level Youth Festivals in all the three years of my high school.
All these extra activities had their adverse impact on my studies. The rebellism that was slowly taking route in me reduced my interest in studies and my performance was falling short of the expectations of my teachers. Many of the teachers used to advise me to concentrate more on studies and reduce all student politics activities. Some of them were really upset with me over this.
Indira teacher was a very young teacher just out of training institute and was really fond of me. She used constantly chide me about my lack of concentration in studies and openly declared in the class that she would give me maximum punishment if and when she catches me for even the smallest of mistakes. However, I could keep away from such a situation easily as I was attentive and extra careful in her classes.
One day finally she got the chance. I had forgotten to bring the text book to the class and she promptly caught me at it. Then she made a big show of the satisfaction for catching me once. She asked one of the boys to get a rod to beat me and believe me; he got the worst one that could be found. Then she gave a lecture as to, how I was straying from my studies, how I was more interested in other activities, how bad I have become and so on. The whole class was enjoying it; seeing the teacher getting ready to punish one of the favourite students, that too, a student who hardly gets any punishment at all in the class.
Finally she came near with the rod in her hand... and asked me to show the palm of my right hand. I was not scared.... for beatings were not something new to me. But I was definitely embarrassed to be at the receiving end of one of my favourite teachers. I raised my hand. My face was white from the embarrassment. Then, she raised the rod and brought it down on to my palm. It was the softest beating I ever got in my life!!!!!
I was taken aback. I was ready to get a hard beating the way she built up the scene and probably to hate her for doing this to me for such a silly mistake. What I was not ready for was this softest beating and it me directly at my heart. I didn’t know whether to cry or to laugh. My face turned as white as a ghost.
Looking back, I realise that this teacher has achieved easily what my father or the other teachers could not achieve through those cruel and hard beatings. I have never felt affected as much by a beating, howsoever hard it may be, in my life. This was unbelievable.
The teacher left our school and moved to some other school closer to her home which was in South Kerala, and of course, I have lost touch with her. But all these years her beating has continued to affect me and her memories remain as sweet as ever. It is one of my greatest wishes to find her again one day and tell her about the difference she made.
As I stated in the beginning, it is not my endeavour to make any judgements here. I just share my experiences and leave it to the readers to reach their own conclusions on the effectiveness of beatings, as a method of raising children.