A Schoolboy’s Diary and Other Stories by Robert Walser
My Rating: 3 of 5 stars
That is the most useful thing about school: It tires you out, upsets you, gets you going, it nourishes the imagination, it is the anteroom, the waiting room as it were, of life.
Neat Poster. And a far neater mind who put this right at the entrance of this school. Alright then, let’s get in.
A gentleman walked into the class and took the teacher’s chair. He introduced himself as Robert Walser. Not bad for a name. He was impeccably suited, with sober, black buttons wrapping his moderate build but the creases at the wrist were conspicuous. Perhaps he writes a little more than everything else he does; he writes without care.
He didn’t ask for opening of text-books or jotting notes. Nor did he ask any questions that would have sent me home. Instead, he asked us to look out. Yeah, like out of the window. Funny fella. But anything that keeps me away from textbooks, yay! to that! So, I looked out with a glint in my eyes and saw hundreds of juxtaposing images. The sky, the trees, the playground, the sand, the tar roads, the buildings, the cars, the gardens, the chatter, the boys, the girls, the flirting, the peeking; they all dancing in my eyes like a man-made fume blazing down a theatre stage. But what was I to make of them? I wanted to ask Mr. Walser but he looked content in sending us into our imagination trail. Perhaps he wanted us to come back and initiate a discussion? Who knows.
I was glad it was time to gorge on my tomato-lettuce-cucumber sandwiches. Having not found any singularly concrete piece of mind-boggling or sense-sweeping substance throughout the last session, I was determined to draw strength from the food for tummy if not the food for soul. Ha! Watch out Mr. Walser. I ain’t listening to your tricks anymore.
And Mr. Walser was back! I wondered if he stepped into our class by mistake. I quickly checked my time-table and it appeared to be allocated to a different subject. But the teacher was the same! What? How can that be? But… well, ok; perhaps I had underestimated his degrees. But the same teacher meant our gazing continued. I was sort of getting used to that activity when all at once he quipped: “What do you hear?” I am sorry but did you say hear? “Listen carefully and you will hear voices.” “Voices? Yeah, the banter of school kids” “No, voices that are not as easily audible; voices that aren’t exactly there but yet, they seethe in invisible pockets.” What? Am I in a school or a cemetery? Anyway… I threw my earlobes into the air, opening them full to detect voices. I heard some rustling at the best. The voices (that of my fellow students) were a useless cacophony. But Mr. Walser insisted that voices of wondrous textures lurked in the air and only those with the heart of a musician can catch the notes. I wanted to be first one to raise my hand and announce my musical bent. But I heard only fleeting sound. Was I hearing it wrong? Wouldn’t Mr. Walser consider telling just how am I supposed to position myself, calm my hyperactive mind, tame my fickle heart and focus? To aim for that one point where music was spurting out in fountains? But he remained in the background, saying not another word.
I jumped out of my seat and set on a short stroll across the school corridor. When I reached the next turn, I ran into our bulky notice board. A new notice was up: Mr. Robert Walser invites application from students to undertake a day tour on Friday, the 15th. Interested students may collect the form from office and drop them into the box placed near Hall R. Whaaaaa..? That’s it? What is the day trip about? Not a word on that?
School is the unavoidable choker around the neck of youth, and I confess that it is a valuable piece of jewelry indeed.
Lo and Behold! Mr. Walser! For taking this session too! I sprung my hand minutes after he entered and asked him about the day trip. ‘My dear girl, how did you fare in the first two sessions?” “I don’t know” I said. “I liked your approach but I am afraid I couldn’t detect any motivating lessons. You refreshed my vision by pointing me to a world vivid with activities and perhaps, learnings. You were not the other teachers I am used to and I was excited at the prospect of being taught in a foreign albeit promising tongue. But you never prodded, never interrupted, never pushed tantalizing comments or arguments that might have set my mind into action. I don’t know if I am reading it proper or pushing my judgment prematurely but with a full 208 minutes dedicated to a world of visible beauty, I wasn’t quite sure how different you made it out to be. I mean in this class, all of us read and all of us are taught. But every student learns things differently not just because he/ she is different but also because the teachers are different. You, Sir, presented to me a picture which was gorgeous when you began revealing it but regretfully, turned routine by the time the whole was disclosed. I am afraid I might not be ready to go on any elaborate day trip that you might organize in near future. But believe me, I would like to sit in another of your class and attempt to understand exactly what you intended to showcase in the movie whose trailer was worth every minute,” And without waiting for his reply, I walked out of the class.
Remain, dear question, nice and unanswered, I beg of you.
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