Mathematics, villain of my boarding-school life at Nabha, always subtracted my joy and added to my worries. Every day, I'd pray that my mathematics teacher, Mr Jain, was absent, but my face would fall when I'd spot him outside the classroom five minutes before time.
I would be a front bencher in all periods except the one I dreaded. I don't remember if I ever understood any mathematical formula indeed. My other homework would be perfect but for this subject was always incomplete. "May I go to the toilet, Sir?" I would ask the teacher at least twice during the 45-minute lecture.
Even the simplest calculations would fail me. Mr Jain and my friends tried to help me out but I was not worth their time and patience. Growing up, I almost gave up on this subject; and in the mathematics period would write school-chronicle articles and letters to the editor; prepare a speech; or rehearse the dialogues of the upcoming play. My trick to keep my gaze fixed on the blackboard wouldn't fool Jain Sir, and he would not only turn me out but also let my parents know what I was up to.
Even holidays wouldn't give me a break, as this was the time when those long, boring tuition classes would start.
Weeks before the vacations, mother would scout tutors and the best of coaching centres. Once, she paid three times the market price for private tuition so that I'd be taught alone. If these classed helped my confidence I don't know but these sure made me a laughing stock in the group, as often my tongue would roll out with an elementary question. "Who discovered mathematics? Why the teachers of this subject never report sick?" I'd ask. I now laugh at that impetuousness.
My friends and relatives knew I hated this subject, so they'd flood me with long calculations whenever we'd meet.
"Change the topic," would be my only answer, or I'd just run away. My parents never forgot to ask teachers about my progress in mathematics. Thankfully, in Class 11, I could opt for the arts stream to go with my interest and aptitude, and get rid of the fear of mathematics.
Long after those whimsical experiences with the odd subject, whenever I recall those moments now, it reminds me of the proverb "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink". I advise all youngsters today to consider this while choosing career. firstname.lastname@example.org
(The writer is an HT correspondent based in Ludhiana.)