During my schooling, I had three distinctive Damascene moments that changed my ability to grasp things, concepts, ideas and so forth. One of these moments improved my ability to read and take in the structure of the queens language as well as accustoming myself to written English text and its subtleties.
I am in class two. When the teacher is not in, the class prefect uses a big ruler to point to wall charts reading the texts as we repeat after him. We did this lather, rinse, repeat until you could read those charts with you eyes closed.
So one day we are reading in a chorus mode and the prefect points for the umpteenth time a text that read “Miki Biasion.” But wait a minute, I can now see the words clearly and I can read them one by one
I AM NINE YEARS OLD.
I had been saying Miki Biasion (The legendary rally driver of the eighties and early nineties) throughout first term and second term and halfway through third term.
From that day, I was able to read English words and simple sentences.
You might not believe this but it actually happened.
I have joined class eight. We have a new mathematics teacher, the headteacher.
He is writing simple arithmetic on the blackboard and calling people randomly to go and solve. Guys are solving the problems with eyes closed. The teacher is mesmerized.
My turn. 3+a=6. Solve.
I take the chalk. I am clueless. Had this been in Chinese or heriographics, it couldn’t have made any difference to me. I can’t solve it for the life of me.
“Ikara thì ngui ìno”, the teacher says in his characteristic calm but often inglorious tone. He looks at me condescendly and wonders what type of a cow can’t solve such a basic maths problem. (He could actually call you anything on God’s green earth but that notwithstanding, he is among the best teachers whose hands I went through. Loved even by parents)
When I got back home that evening, I told my mum that math to me is greek. She goes to school a few days later behind my back and asks the deputy headteacher to do something regarding me and maths. But there is a problem. The deputy head is our music teacher. Not our maths teacher. Nonetheless, he starts offering guidance and encouragement and simple assignments that change my whole perception about maths and though I don’t end up becoming razor sharp, I improve my maths from a-gone-case to somebody who can safely get himself out or troubled mathematical waters albeit with some bruises.
This is in secondary school. I am in form two. It is PE time. I walk to the staff room to fetch the balls and the net.
I find two teachers sitting under the shade outside the staff room.
“May I have the football and the volleyball balls.” The guys break into a hysterical laughter. They laugh themselves silly. I am wondering what bhang they have been smoking.
My Muita catches his breath and asks me, “Eti what do you want?”
I repeat with confidence, “Football and volleyball balls.”
Another five minutes of hysterical laughter. Even rolling on the ground.
After the laughter,Mr Muita who was our teacher of English tells me, “there is no such thing like football and volleyball balls. It is Football and volleyball. Full stop! Okay?”
From that day, any English sentence I write or utter has at least gone through some sort of processing to remove glaring absurdity.