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.
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?".
"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.