Stories about class

Teacher, don’t stand so close to me

We’ve all done it when we were awkward and fourteen. The teacher was probably not even young or good looking.  But we did it for approval, for love, for a better grade, to be admired.  A student of mine alerted me to an interested phenomenon recently. There was this girl who was most sober in my class, did her work, took copious notes, wrote at college level, her glasses high on her nose, she looked like she had just stepped out of Hajj.   My student told me in reference to her: “You should see her in the Eco teacher’s class. ...

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Ten reasons why football is better than cricket

1. It is a game of one single format rather than four formats. You don’t need a test football or a one day international, T20, first-class, second class, third-class or umpteen class football, just a simple game of 90 minutes and a nail-biting penalty shootout. A timed game is acceptable to a game that lasts for days. 2. It garners more television coverage. The 2010 FIFA World Cup was watched by an estimated television audience of 700 million people around the globe compared to a meagre 65.6 million people (out of which 80% of the viewership was from India alone!) ...

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Who cares? Not me

I am a Pakistani. Don’t confuse me for an illiterate, poverty-stricken person. Or a displaced one in that case. Not at all! I can assure you, I live quite comfortably. I did my schooling from one of the best institutes in the country. I speak English very well, and I only wear branded clothes. I buy them from the US or Europe during my annual visits abroad. It’s annoying how people assume I’m needy just because I’m from Pakistan. Oh no! I’m a first-grade citizen, albeit of a third world country. Apparently the fact that our power generation is less ...

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The djinns at Pakistan’s public schools

As part of my work, researching the academic standards of public schools in Lahore, I sometimes visit the Government Primary School in the Township area of Lahore. Township is a working class neighbourhood – most of the people who live here work in factories in the Kot Lakhpat Industrial area. It’s relatively clean and less congested than other neighbourhoods. The Government Primary School has an area of nearly 5,000 square yards – the covered area is less than 1,300 square yards. The rest of the area is occupied by thorny bushes and burning dumps of garbage, enclosed by a low-rising boundary ...

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I know a secret: Of former handlers

The chief minister announced ahead of the World Cup semi-final match that every member of the national cricket team would get 25-acre agricultural land if they win. After the team lost the match, he announced cash awards. Why is the chief minister so inclined to doling out public funds? A former manager of the cricket team advised his friends against betting on Pakistan winning the semi-final. He claimed that he had seen a bowler with a notorious bookie about four years ago. The former manager claimed that he saw the bookie come out of the player’s room. He also claimed he saw ...

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Selling Faiz to the rich for Rs1,000

Lahore’s mall road was as crowded as always. Beyond the zooming vehicles and amongst the old silent trees, I saw him walking slowly on a footpath. There was something dramatic about the old man’s appearance. He reminded me of realist Soviet paintings; ragged dusty clothes, long gray hair, wrinkled face and clutching a small piece of scarlet, a little red flag. He was heading towards the Alhamra Art Complex which was covered with life sized posters of the legendary socialist poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz. The poet’s centenary celebrations were about to begin and the parking lot was almost full. The old man stood ...

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A Bakistani in Cairo

My Egypt moment wasn’t when the protests started or when they ended. It wasn’t during CNN’s live coverage, and it wasn’t in the 100 or so ‘Can this happen in Pakistan?’ discussions. It was when someone casually yelled out in the school corridor, “Hey Meiryum! Your hometown’s burning!” Cairo was my hometown. Tahrir Square was a 45-minute drive from my apartment. I lived in Cairo from the age of four till eight years – four years of my life. I was old enough to remember and store away memories and young enough to still understand nothing. My first day at the ...

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How bad was your first day after winter break?

There’s pandemonium in the car as you put on your socks in last-minute uniform rituals that should have been performed at home. You try not to strangle yourself with your ID card as you are spat out from the car and propelled across the courtyard and through the chilly corridors. Your sweater was made for mild Karachi winters, not this 6 am Murree-like cold. “I made it,” you gasp as you hit the homeroom threshold. The class collapses in laughter. The teacher is comforting: “Beta, aur late aao, koi baat nahin.” It’s the first day after winter break. There are ...

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Under the knife: The ethics of anatomy

I’ve been told the first two years of medical college are the hardest because of anatomy. The subject reminds me of spiders. When a cluster of spider eggs begins to hatch, that which was a single entity turns into a swarm of scurrying, formidable creatures. It becomes General Anatomy, Histology, Embryology, Cytology and the black widow queen herself, Gross Anatomy. Most students have similar complaints. They are expected to memorize so many books that it becomes a Herculean task. The ones that try to understand concepts from Keith . Moore find they can’t pass tests without memorizing Chaurasia. The bright faces of ...

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The man who taught us to be afraid

Learning that adults aren’t always as virtuous as we expect them to be is a rite of passage. One teacher exemplified this lesson, presenting himself as a patriarch. He told his students they were like his children and he would lecture them on morals. His tarnished reputation preceded him and this was his way of overcompensating. One girl dropped his class because he made her uncomfortable. When she asked a question he would come around and “accidentally” brush his hand against her. He’d pick up a book, place it on a lap and write with one hand resting on a ...

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