Bad Tools And Twisted Brinjals

Sonia Thomas 

Trust is the foundation of any relationship, more so in the relationship you share with your father. For someone with a severe Electra complex, it is a lot more than that. This man is the yardstick by which I have measured every other man I have encountered (real and otherwise). Loving him is also precisely how I learnt something vital – we are mere fools when it comes to love.

As I sat at the dining table that fateful evening in the 6th grade, trying to complete my Hindi homework, my father came up to me to ask about it. It is always assumed a child has nothing better to do than loaf around. This was work. I was in deep and now, disturbed. But, I did not care. Dada was here and I would be okay.

“Dada, have a look at this muhavra (idiom). Naach na jaane aangan tedha. How am I to use this in a sentence?” I asked.

He looked at the notebook intently, and instantly replied, “Beta (child), this muhavra is wrong. It is actually Naach na jaane baingan tedha.

I had watched too much television for my own good. These ten years of exposure to Bollywood, Hindi television, and a bunch of friends from the North could not be wrong, could they? But my father could not be wrong either!

I argued, “Dada, I have heard this on TV very often. I am just confused about usage. Don’t mess with me. Please help me out?”

“No, it’s a common error people make. Why would I mess with you? Have I ever told you anything but the truth?”

I persisted, “No, but still, I mean… How co-“

His eyes shone with truth, through his old spectacles. How could those eyes lie?

This is when I chose to look at his face for the first time since he entered the room. “I would never lie to you. You know how I am always right, don’t you?” His eyes shone with truth, through his old spectacles. How could those eyes lie? He reassuringly (and in a challenging tone) added, “If you still doubt me, ask your teacher.”

Looks aside, we also tend to inherit our parents’ qualities. If he was always right and prided himself in being so, so did I. Challenge accepted.

The next day, all hands were raised when enquired about the homework.  Except mine. I got up and declared it.

Yes, teacher. You are wrong. This system is wrong. You all are wrong. My father is most definitely not.

My moment of infinite glory had to end, and my fragile pride had to fall. And how.

The whole class laughed at me, while my teacher decided to act against her instincts and instead, asked me, “Why would you say that, Sonia? You could just admit that you were unable to use the idiom in a sentence.”

“No, teacher. My father told me that your muhavra is wrong.”

I fought for my father with all my might.

Being South Indian ensures that you always get a comment on how good (or bad) your knowledge of Hindi is. So, it was natural for my teacher to suspect my father’s knowledge of Hindi. I fought for my father with all my might. I argued to the point where my teacher and classmates would have burst a vein if I repeated myself anymore. (“But, MY Dada said.”)

Needless to say, at the end of this, I was humiliated. How could my father lie about something like this? Why would he want to humiliate me in front of my class? Was I really ten years old? Was I really his daughter?

My head swirled with these questions all day, and soon, my humiliation mixed with anger and a sense of betrayal. I needed to give him a piece of my mind.

I reached the car when he arrived to receive my mother and me from school, and burst out in a series of rhetorical questions – How could he, Why did he, Did he not think of the consequences. The works. His only response was to laugh at me with a glint in his eye which I had earlier mistaken for truth. When my mother eventually entered the car, she told us about how the Hindi teacher approached her after class and asked if my father really thought the idiom was wrong.

My parents then ganged up on me and laughed as I sulked in the back seat of the car. Once home, Dada looked at me (while still laughing) and said, “I cannot believe you actually had the guts to ask your teacher that. While that is commendable, I hope you now realise that you cannot trust anything anyone says. Even if it is me. Get your facts right.”

Journalism 101, right?

From an idiom that meant “A bad worker always blames his tools”, my father concocted gibberish to unconsciously teach me something I could use in a profession I had little knowledge of, or any intention to be a part of. I learnt I could never use my tools/lack of knowledge as an excuse for a job badly or half done.

All because of a tedha baingan (twisted brinjal) that never existed.

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