Calling A Spade A Spade
by Paresh Shah

Sometimes an RVite, just like kids all over, can be very unsympathetically direct and to the point. While calling a spade a spade is generally considered a virtue, it can lead to unpredictable situations -- some embarrassing, some humorous.
What follows is the description of a true incident that occured in RV.


The setup: Early 1984. Cold, cloudy, dreary, winter day. Senior school building. First period before breakfast. Sunanda akka teaching Shakespeare to the 12th standard.


The incident: The class is reading a particularly depressing scene from Richard II -- where one of the books more likeable characters, John of Gaunt, or JG as he is wont to be called in RV, is dying.

If memory serves right (it usually doesn't, but Google helped out in this case), JG also knows that he's dying and has already made a very famous speech in praise of England. After making this "England speech", JG turns his thoughts towards his own plight and then makes what I call the "Gaunt speech".
Sunanda akka reads ...


John of Gaunt, in Richard II (Act II Scene I):
O how that name befits my composition!
Old Gaunt indeed, and gaunt in being old:
Within me grief hath kept a tedious fast;
And who abstains from meat that is not gaunt?
For sleeping England long time have I watch'd;
Watching breeds leanness, leanness is all gaunt:
The pleasure that some fathers feed upon,
Is my strict fast; I mean, my children's looks;
And therein fasting, hast thou made me gaunt:
Gaunt am I for the grave, gaunt as a grave,
Whose hollow womb inherits nought but bones.

(Dear reader, You didn't read the whole speech, did you? Skipped a few lines? Went a bit over your head?
That's OK, not to worry; apparently it has been determined that while Shakespeare actually used the Latin script, his language was not English. As a result, students the world over heaved a collective sigh of relief and said to their parents "See, I told you I was not stupid!". In fact, many students went back and sued the ISC board to revise their English marks in the final exams. They also wanted to add other charges to their lawsuit, such as: unfairly causing mental anguish, torture by means of an alien language, and fraud because the syllabus for an English subject included books written in an undefined language. That's definitely fraud.

Linguistic scientists and other linguists have since given his language a very scientific name.
It is now called: What the #!@* ???
This name was chosen following extensive scientific research, such as watching the reaction of someone who is reading Shakespeare for the first time.)

Anyway, back to our story ... where Sunanda akka has just read this speech by JG.

Under normal circumstances, this speech would have had about the same impact as Dr Kumaraswamy explaining the Mathematics behind the Theory of Relativity to a class of wailing pre-KG children. But in this case, the speech had been "explained" in a prior class. Every instance of the word gaunt in that speech had been given a corresponding synonym and the whole speech had been transliterated into English (that's right ... even I know some big words. Take that, Shakespeare-meare!). So the students more-or-less understand what has just been said by JG.

Now keep in mind the situation -- a depressing day outside, sleepy/hungry kids inside, and a depressing story where a well liked and respected character is on his deathbed. It is only to be expected that a reader in such a scenario feel very sympathetic to this character's condition.


"What do you think?" Sunanda akka asks, as she finishes reading the speech.

There is silence.

After some time, she asks again, "Any opinions?".

More silence.

"What did you think about his speech?" she persists.

"I think he's putting sauce", I say.

It takes only a moment for that statement to sink in as the class erupts in laughter.

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