Wednesday, October 14, 2009


‘Thou shall not confuse a rained on lion with a cat.’ This was the sound advice the Prime Minister gave some of his colleagues in the former government who thought that he was in the political woods. Today, true to his word he is back in the limelight. I am thinking of ditching the horoscope pages once I get a direct line to him.
Lion’s stories always captivated me when I was a child. I would ask grandma to repeat them over and over. I liked the lions’ fearless side and just how they overcame all their enemies specifically by eating them.
Sometimes I fantasized about being a lion. These thoughts usually came upon me when I was involved in what my mom referred to as ‘monkey business’- which means that I came home looking like I had used sand to bathe. The result was that the business always earned me a proper spanking.
It was during such moments that I wished I had a button that I could press somewhere on my body that would convert me into a lion – not to scare my mom, but to gouge on her. I shudder at the thought of this wish having been granted.
The other person who roused these wishes was my primary school English teacher. She seemed not to have heard the popular saying about ‘English having come by ship and the fish never learning it’. She demanded that we write and speak proper English. She made us write compositions over and over until she was satisfied that the composition was not a cross breed of our mother tongue and English. These repetitive compositions almost always roused my man-eating desires.
There is one incident that I will never forget as long as I live. We were taught the names of the young of things, for example the young of a dog is a puppy. The following morning, we revised the previous day’s lesson and unfortunately the question of the young of a lion landed on me. I had the word. But such words have the tendency to disappear when you need them most. Hard as I tried I couldn’t remember the word cub. So I feigned great thought and as confidently as I could, answered ‘baby lion’. It was as if I had stabbed the teacher with a knife right through her heart. She gave a long speech on why we should speak English and not think in our mother tongue. She later gave me a punishment of writing the word cub 100 times while kneeling down. Your guess is as right as mine. This is one word I will be whispering on my death bed.
She is the same one who introduced the ‘monto’ in our school. I am not sure but probably it was meant to be a ‘monitor’. It was a dirty piece of wood that was inscribed on all its six faces ‘MONTO’ with a ballpoint pen. It also had a dirty string by which it hang from the neck. It was given by the prefect to the first person who spoke ‘mother tongue’ in the morning, and passed on successively. The culprits were rounded up in the evening and given severe beatings. Most of us became dumb in school.
We were given the monto irrespective of whether we had quoted a word. Then, we didn’t know how to quote vernacular words with the index fingers in the air.
Sheng developed around the same time and though it was vehemently opposed by language teachers in school, it became an equalizing tool because those who spoke it were looked upon as ‘high class’ while those who spoke proper language scored the marks in class. I think it was developed by Frequent Monto Handlers.

I thought I had killed and buried those man eating thoughts in a part of my brain that bears the epitaph ‘Childhood Escapism’. The problem is that things buried in the mind resurrect at the slightest provocation.
These thoughts are now directed towards my editor. My editor is a good person and non-threatening. She is the opposite of my former perceived ‘prey’. You can imagine my confusion when I first thought of eating her. This got me real scared and I went to see a Psychologist. She called my condition a Same Sex Seniors’ Predatory Instincts Syndrome which she said is common in lions. She says it can only be cured by my spending more time with the editor. I want to trust her treatment but if you don’t see this column next week, guess what, the worst will have happened.