Friday, September 17, 2010

Frustrating Aunty

If you're playing poker, deftly winning one hand after another, there will soon be a time when luck will desert you and you will start losing badly. If you've been getting a superbly high GPA in your previous semesters, there may soon come a time when it plummets to shockingly low levels (sound effect: nerds gasping in horror). When Headband retired to God knows what forsaken corner of the world, I heaved a sigh of relief. I expected things to go smoothly for a while, but like all good things come to an end, so did this interval of peace.

Yesterday, Bilal and I were teaching the students as usual when Frustrating Aunty walked in. I hardly looked up, but she made a beeline towards him and started explaining something in an embarassed manner. Minutes later, Bilal scooted over to where I was busy mulling over fake compounds and modifiers.

'She's an old student of ours....has studied for four months and STILL hasn't given the GRE," Bilal rolled his eyes.

I just shrugged and made my way over to the table where she was sitting. Not that I was bothered- not giving the GRE as planned wasn't really a crime.

Plain looking, clad in a black abaya, she looked like a serious student. After introducing myself, I casually asked her why she hadn't given the GRE last time.

She looked at me attentively and heaved a sigh of despondence. 'Miss, ab kya bataon (yes, it is freaky when a woman ten years older than you calls you Miss), I was teaching  at that time, and I wasn't able to devote as much time to prep. But now I've left the job, I colleague of mine has taken over, and here I am. Oh and I just have till October 7 to give the paper,' she beamed happily.

I gave her a faltering smile, all the while thinking er, there's no need to get so happy about that. Freaky over-enthusiastic lady.

 'That's hardly three weeks from now,' I frowned. ' You need to be done with Math and English by then.'

The ridiculously huge smile on FA's face wobbled. Just a teeny weeny bit.

'But I remember all the words,' she perked up. 'I just completed a test right now, and I got 18 out of 20 right!'

Apparently Frustrating Aunties think that knowing the meanings of eighteen words out of twenty merits them a Nobel Prize. For Synonym Guessing.

If only over-enthusiastic aunty had given me something to be enthusiastic about in return. But my hopes were soon to be dashed. Like a body flung over the side of a cliff, battered into a gazillion bloody pieces.

Frustrating Aunty began reading a Reading Comprehension passage. Ten minutes elapsed. My pencil impatiently beat a staccato on the wooden table. Ultimately, we started on the questions.

'Read the question, and then revert back to that particular section of the passage,' I suggested, as she skimmed through the whole of it with a panicked expression.

Eons passed. I looked at the walls. I looked at the ceiling. I looked at the seconds hand merrily ticking away in the wall clock. I scowled at Bilal shooting me sympathetic glances over his shoulder.

Just when I was about to die from extreme boredom, FA motioned me over. Exhaling sharply, I hunched over her book and asked 'Yes?'

She looked at me as if the question she was about to ask me posed one of the most riddling dilemmas known to mankind. 'Should I read the question before I read the concerned paragraph or vice versa?'

I looked upwards, hoping something would come down and smite me there and then. A piece of yellowed plaster hung precariously from the ceiling, but decided to stay put. No such luck.

'Erm, you can't know what paragraph the question is referring to unless you read the latter first, right?'

FA stared at me with big, black, beady eyes and then averted her gaze back to the book.

Two minutes later, she beckoned to me. 'I don't know the answer to the first question.'

I rephrased the question for her. 'It says "From paragraph 1, what can you deduce about bla bla bla....?' I hinted. 
FA stared back at me blankly. Apparently FA's don't deserve hints.

'That's it,' I pointed to a line in the text that had been copied word for word as one of the answer choices. FA nodded contentedly and began poring over the passage again.

Five minutes later, she lifted her head. 'Miss, I don't know what the answer to the second question is.'

I hated the way she kept on calling me 'miss' in that wheedling tone of hers. By then, her voice was wreaking havoc on my nerves.

'Ok, let's go over the comprehension again,' I suggested before she could get another one of her whiny 'miss's in.

FA began reading the passage. Haltingly, with the utmost concentration.

Within two minutes, I wasn't sure whether she was reciting the text in Greek or French or Gobbledygook.

I decided to spare my ears, as well as those of all the other students in the room, and read the passage aloud myself.

I'm pretty sure class had never been that long before. FA interrupted me at regular intervals to ask me the meaning of every word in the comprehension. For someone who had memorized the entire word list, she was surely coming across as an enigma.

Bilal looked annoyed by the end of class. 'She can't solve even a single Math question!' He hissed exasperatedly. 'She's forgotten everything!'

I sighed, rubbing the heels of my palm against my forehead to get rid of the Frustrating Aunty headache. 'Tell me about it. She doesn't know how to pronounce "archaeological".'

Bilal wasn't surprised even a little bit. 'Tumhay pata hai inhon nae kya kia hai?' (Do you know what her qualifications are?)


'A Masters in Economics. She used to teach MA Economics in KU.'

I snorted. 'She needs to go back to sixth grade and study Junior English first.'

We cracked up. I winced. My headache hurt. I'll get back at you for this, Frustrating Aunty, I thought ruefully.

Luckily for me, Mr. Extra Super Nerd (who substitutes for me) will be handling FA for the next three weeks while I'm on break. Muhahahaha.


Kanwalful said...

MA Economics? Teacher at KU? Seriously? No wonder Pakistani academia is so screwed up.

Faizan Yousuf said...

bahahahahah sounds like you really EARN your pay at annu =p

Mehtaz Sultan Khan said...

Maybe the present government can make her an MNA. Aisay logon ki aaj kal bohat demand hai politics mein.

H.G said...

i love the images you set in your posts...

p.s. atleast he HAD a degree which wasn't FAKE... =P

- H.G.

Amal Kamal said...

Okay. I feel SO sorry for the poor guy replacing you. Three weeks! He won't have any hair left by then =p

MK said...

Kanwalful: I know! It made me feel so angry! I wonder how she's been teaching her students for all those years. For AH, I wasn't even hired until they were sure that I knew the entire course really well. We're talking about a university in this case, not even a prep center.

Faizan: Yeah, perks dekho. Diss the student and make money :)

Mehtaz: MNA? I think even they should be able to read their speeches, let alone understand them.

H.G: Haha, some consolation! I should advise her to become an MNA at this rate :S

H.G said...


Yumna said...

The english comprehension part reminded me of a 7th grader I once tutored!

MK said...

Amal: Haha, yeah he is a bechara. He comes to our campus now, remind me to point him out to you.

Saima Merchant said...

oh my gosh.....thats ridiculous...MA in economics...teacher at KU...cant solve a dumb comprehension....??????

MK said...

Saima, it isn't about solving. We're talking about reading plain English here.

Yusra Zainab Laghari said...

The most reproachable part is the fact that we recruit people who themselves lack fundamental education and knowledge as teachers and tutors. How can we expect our educational standards to improve then? It's truly lamentable!

Bilal Saeed said...

maryam you so lucky :P
on a side note, she is appearing for PhD

MK said...

Haha, yeah she told me. I wonder how she's going to study out in the States :S

The One and Only Roxie said...

That picture at the bottom just made the WHOLE blog. You'd be surprised how many AMERICAN COLLEGE STUDENTS still don't know the difference.

P.S. I had to make my blog private, so send me your email somehow? I'll send you an invitation.

Anonymous said...

Maryam no wonder that FA is so INTELLIGENT (MashAllah)..... don't blame the Economics KU, even an MA English makes spelling and grammatical mistakes, furthermore, in my deptt. , my class mates still cant put 'e' before 'i' in receive, perceive, etc !!! This makes FA not so guilty !!!:P

Lee said...

Nice blog! I like your writing way. I'm doing practice GRE here: . I hope it's useful for GRE test takers.

Farhan said...

hahaha dat was hilarious :P
btw i too wana prepare for GRE. .Miss kab se aaun ?? :P hehe