The Oath

Back at school, when I was in the 3rd standard (the pic is from my 7th, but most of the characters were common till then), we had this Social Science teacher. Carol Ma’am. One of those Taare Zameen Pe-ish teachers whom you remember till your dying day. Taught us some of the foundational lessons of life without letting us get wind of it. I still remember, when we were on the chapter of the Prehistoric Era in geography, she brought 2 flint stones to the classroom, switched off all the lights and struck them together. And there we were, a bunch of kids in our checked red shirts and khakhi skirts and knickers, staring open-mouthed as we relived early man’s discovery of fire. I’m writing about it today, so some of us evidently never forgot the lesson. I’ve forgotten whether it was the Mesozoic era or Metazoic Era. But the serendipitous discovery of fire is etched in my memory for life.

There was this other exercise she had us undergo that I remember clearer than yesterday. It was a Civics lesson. She was supposed to be teaching us a chapter on Social Evils. Whenever I think of any social evil (like Harish‘s child marriage, slated for later this year), my thoughts wander to that memorable lesson, 18 years ago.

She had us all stand up, right hand on our heart, left hand outstretched, and had us take an oath. There we were, our heads set atop our diminutive figures, religiously reciting our favorite teacher’s words after her. It makes me sad that I cannot recall the exact words anymore. But I do remember what the oath was. And it is only now that I am able to appreciate the full nature of the responsibility she entrusted us with that day.

All the girls pledged not to give dowry when we got married. All the boys swore not to take any.

I wonder how many of my classmates remember that promise today.

I wonder how many will be able to keep it.

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