When cane was sane

One cannot help but muse about how sensitive and fragile today’s children are...
Much murky water has flowed into the Sankey tank since our hot-tempered teacher flung a blackboard duster at a student in class but which unfortunately hit the wrong target.

The teacher, realising his folly and infuriated by the wrong aim, dashed to the errant student and rained a couple of blows. After venting his fury, he apologised sheepishly to the wrong victim and continued teaching.


Not much was made of that incident and after class some of us consoled our friend whose right cheek bone had turned blue for no fault of his. He took it in his stride, even saying he wouldn’t complain to his parents lest he gets rebuked by them. After all, a teacher is always right. Or so it was believed in the good old days.


Those were the days when getting punished was par for the course. A smack on the neck or slap on the cheek, a pinch on the arm or ruler raps on outstretched palms was inflicted unabashedly, which students suffered without a whimper of protest. At our all-boys school, we bravely coped with the famous or rather infamous benders, a form of caning across the buttock with the victim made to bend forward, head down, fingers touching the toes.


Corporal punishment was more the norm than the exception during our school days for misbehaviour, indiscipline, not doing homework or even talking, laughing or munching in the classroom. Curiously enough, we had teachers known for their unique ways of dispensing punishment. Our sports master, with a strong Yul Brynner resemblance, always carried a thick, twisted leather cord. Any misconduct was met with a stinging whack on some part of the body.


The vice-principal, who could pass off as a movie villain, not only terrified students with the rattan cane he carried but also his excruciating belly pinch. There were others who had mastered the art of ear twisting. Even during punishing moments, many of us were up to some mischief on the sly. There were times when we enjoyed getting punished. Did we contemplate jumping into Ulsoor Lake? No way! We went there and spent the entire day relaxing and cracking jokes.

We weren’t spared at home either for wrong doings. Mum was known for her knuckle knocks on the head while army man Dad’s hard stares and warnings were enough to freeze us. This was  bearable compared to some of my friends who got thrashed with sticks, brooms, belts and even slippers. Despite such punishment, we never retaliated, felt ashamed or escaped forever from it all. Nor were we affected psychologically.

And so the recent news report of two high school students in Bangalore killing themselves after being reprimanded by their teachers was rather distressing. One cannot help musing about how sensitive and fragile today’s children are and how they might have reacted if meted out the punishments of our days.

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