Class is never dismissed

Published: Aug 25, 2019, 07:00 IST | Paromita Vohra

We may leave school, but I don't think we ever stop behaving like school children

Illustration/Uday Mohite
Illustration/Uday Mohite


A friend of mine recently started Spanish classes and soon began responding to photos of my shoes with 'es muy colorido.' As a very smart person, she began to do very well very quickly. Shortly, she reported that the moderator of the class WhatsApp group was not adding her to the group. "Heh," I replied. "Mean Girls was clearly the truest movie ever." "Truest," she agreed (in English). Later, a man in her class expressed consternation that she was actually revising the materials at home. "Hmff, those types," she said. "Pretend they don't study, then will come first in class." I was extra silent. Finally, I said, "I feel he is my friend. I am also like him. I'm suspicious of you front-bench people."

We may leave school, but I don't think we ever stop behaving like school children. Front-benchers who used to study on time and have fun on time go on to excel in proper jobs and have money to retire to Provence. Back-benchers who tucked in half their shirts and were too cool to study became rich, because, you know, start-ups. Then there's us: the middle-benchers, who won't commit to being good and aren't cool enough to be bad. When we grow up, no one can properly understand properly what we do. We like everyone and no one. We mean to write our columns on the plane but then our phones say, "Episodes downloaded," so we write them in bars, half having fun, half-stressing about work.

Once I joined a yoga class, a fantastic one, with an amazing (also, handsome) teacher. He was very young, but we all gravely called him Yogesh sir. Now, he had a teacher's pet in the front row. Her form was great and we were constantly exhorted to emulate her. There was also someone in class named Eureka, and every time Sir called her name, I giggled, like that kid in the class who giggles whenever the teacher says 'sex'. During any asana that required us to raise our hands above our heads, the entire class would stand earnestly straight as Yogesh sir inspected us. As soon as he passed our row, we would immediately collapse from erect rectangles into woozy trapezoids, like those kids punished with 'stand with your hands in the air' who keep leaning this way and that like malfunctioning windmills. As soon as Yogesh sir turned around, we would straighten up looking as innocent and cherubic as Baby Tabassum.

To my dismay, one day Yogesh sir made me move from my back row skulking position to the front row. Due to being short and also sometimes being mistaken for a padhaku due to being a chashmish (eyes spoiled from reading Mills & Boon, not War And Peace) I have sometimes been made to sit in the front row. It does not suit me. Yogesh sir's purpose was to monitor my progress. Trapezoid behaviour became impossible. I had to focus and rapidly improved, like the naughty student who is made class monitor, until one day sir said, "Excellent, Paromita." (Joy!) The teacher's pet smiled at me with beady eyes and subsequently began ignoring me. Unable to cope with her cold vibes, I slowly and slyly began moving back, but not too far back, till I was comfortably middle-row. Class, as you know, is never dismissed.

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at

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