Bookish Witch

The Chalkboard by Jyothi Seshan

Blurb (as on Amazon):

When does a cock-tale become a mock-tale? When you don’t mix the ingredients right!

Hind Grammar School (HGS) is a reputed high-profile school for children of the expatriate Indian community. It practices the policy of segregation of students and boasts of separate facilities for boys and girls within the same spacious campus. The administrators of the school are more interested in the income the school brings than creating ideal conditions for children to develop holistically. A lot of emphasis is laid on discipline and the school endeavors to keep the boys and girls strictly apart. However, interstices occur and the boys and girls find enough chinks to mingle. This bottled-up environment results in an unbelievable tragedy involving a rather bold and outspoken girl called Henna. Her friend, Deep, is her teacher’s son and a bond develops between them. Aaron, the third figure in this triangle, is also a staff child and has a romantic interest in Henna, but she refuses to encourage him. Enraged by her attitude and rejection, he becomes aggressive.

Deep’s mother, Mahima is Henna’s class teacher. The school sends her to Dubai to attend a workshop, organized by the Central Board of Education, India. The Board wants to bring about a paradigm shift in the teaching of English and had sent a number of high-profile teachers of English to be trained in the UK and act as a resource force in India and abroad to train teachers in the new methodology. New textbooks with tailor-made lessons for the purpose, was going to be released in the next academic year. Mahima finds herself caught in the crossfire between her conviction that classes in English should be interactive and the conventional attitude of the authorities that classes should be teacher-centered and there should be no noise in the class. The contradiction between the old lecture method preferred by the school and the new student-friendly approach as suggested by the board puts Mahima in a dilemma.

In the midst of this, unfolds the human drama of Henna, Deep and Aaron.

Genre: Fiction/School Drama/Teenage Relationships

Pages: 178

Format: Kindle eBook/Paperback

Price:

  • Kindle eBook: 300 INR/$4.03
  • Paperback (available only on Amazon.com): $12.00

My Rating: 4.6/5

Mahima is an English teacher at the Hind Grammar School (HGS) in Abu Dhabi. The school is quite stringent about ensuring no interaction between the boys and girls. Despite this, the children do intermingle. Henna, a student of Mahima’s, is quite notorious and is also friends with Mahima’s son, Deep. Aaron, a classmate of Deep’s and a son of another male teacher at HGS is jealous of the friendship between Henna and Deep. Will this jealousy lead to dire results?

What I liked about the book:

  • I loved the portrayal and narration of Mahima’s struggle of being stuck between age-old teaching methods recommended by the school, and a new student-friendly approach suggested by the board.
  • The environment of the school, including the staff room and classroom, is quite apt and intriguing. It was particularly enjoyable for me as I was once a teacher myself and was able to recall my teaching days and could relate to most of the anecdotes in the book.
  • It truly shows that the administration of the school is mainly interested in income generation rather than creating values.
  • The author has tried to touch on a really sensitive topic and the overall attempt in bringing a much-needed topic to the fore is quite appreciable. Writing about teenagers and the problems of adolescence is never easy and many negatives of this phase are often not talked about. This makes the book a highly commendable effort and a recommended read.
  • The higher authorities and their attitude has been truly shown. I particularly liked one scene where we understand how it is always about ‘Blame the bad work on someone and take all the credit for the good work’, in whichever and whatever job we work at.
  • The book is a true dedication to the undermined heroes of society, aka, the teachers.

What I did not like about the book:

  • I felt that certain instances did not make sense in the entirety of the plot or story. They felt out of place and unnecessary.
  • A few sensitive scenes could have been written more delicately or in a moving way.

Quotable quotes:

  • No parent wants to hear the truth about their ward.
  • Time is a great illusionist.
  • Teaching English Literature required one to have analytical skills.
  • Real learning can only take place when there is discussion.
  • Our voice is a pointer to our emotional balance and intellectual refinement. A calm voice shows that the person concerned knows the art of modulating and is using the voice to his advantage. Such a person is in control and wins people over. There is more conviction and credibility in what he says.
  • A change in thinking is ultimately realization and that only comes from within.
  • A pyramid of ticks and crosses in red ruled the life of every teacher.
  • Children forget things so easily. As adults, we often wish we could be more like them.
  • Everybody commits mistakes. As long as we acknowledge the mistake and repent our actions, we will be forgiven.
  • The human ego is very fragile and the lack of recognition of our worth takes away our dignity quite easily.
  • Sometimes, our mind magnifies our troubles.
  • Life is precious and only when we are at the point of losing it, we realize how precious it is.
  • Memory plays its own little game on the mind with the passage of time.

Check out the book here:

Author’s social media links:

I’m participating in Blogchatter’s #TBRChallenge

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