Happy to be back!
Having an intellectual exchange with your students is a great pleasure. I was blessed with that too. During one of my english lessons, we were discussing descriptive writing and the usage of images involving senses. The general sense in the class was , it is difficult to involve senses to describe things. These from those students who have a standard reply for everything- “fine”. They are in dearth of words and imagination to expand that ‘fine’.
But a few creative minds were challenged enough when I proposed that they use the visual sense alone to describe the Soft Boards that were on their class walls. To motivate them, I included myself as part of the challenge.
When their work was submitted(only 2 ventured to write), I was thrilled by my stduent’s eloquence, one in particular. Her name- Meghana Kamat. Inspired by her writing I rewrote my piece and here it is.
Meghana Kamat! This is for you.
Soft boards! What a name! A definite misnomer. Highly deceptive. There is nothing soft about them; neither in their looks nor in their character. Maybe soft to touch; soft only on the surface, but, hold within a strength that belie all perception.
Those screaming red boards with a silver gilded border beckon you louder than any other structural add-ons in that room (A-Level 2013 A). They have a strong character which pulls you like a black lodestone would a piece of raw brown iron ore. You cannot miss them by any chance.
They make their presence known with or without the multi-coloured sheets of paper pinned on to them. Even a plain soft board waits patiently for the hands of time to pin and unpin information. They bear all pain through years with a stoic face that beats the aging sandpapery dark faces of sages and saints who endeavour to conquer the soul. How do they do it? So easily done, than ever. They are just there, regally hoisted on the broad expanse of white-washed wall, proclaiming their presence silently and yet screaming nonetheless (as good as a clarion).
They have such an unbiased way of treating the white papers pinned on them. No questions asked. What, why, and why not? All are welcome. All sizes, shapes, and colours. Any type of information or misinformation, either scribed neatly in blue or black, printed red or green, or drawn grey or rainbow coloured, whatever; they hold with equanimity. Broad smiles, always projecting the same bright foil to all and sundry. True communists who treat the gold, silver, yellow, green, black, and white the equal way. No partiality shown.
I like them; like them when they are empty too. They seem to invite me to put up all sorts of things. Even if one doesn’t, the deep colour can easily portray a kaleidoscope of information in all ways possible in the mind’s eye.
With the papers pinned up, voila! Each one takes a character. Each of them is like a new person now, taking on a new role on the stage of the classroom. Each one is an emissary of science, stiff collared and starched, dressed in all insignificant colours , yet prominent in stature and bespectacled holding all complex structures and formulae, come to tease the brainys, and commune with them privately under public scrutiny. Of course, the artistic bright flowers and the dark green gilded leaves that border them are a mere camouflage or a make-up, a show within the show.
The others with black and white timetables, rules, and regulations, stand as an office peon solemnly giving the data with a serious dull face – very prosaic and yet, the red behind all that data is too glamorous to be ignored. Is there a twinkle I see in their dark eyes in the corner; a twitch on their red lips when both students and teachers alike do not see their worth and ignore what they try to communicate? Maybe, yes. To me it seems that they mock us when we don’t use them for what they are worth, when we misuse them, and when we ignore them.
I see them. I notice them, and I perceive them. I know their worth, so I develop a yearning to go near and say ‘Hello’; to get to know them better and so I touch them.
Now I see why they are named as ‘Soft Boards’. Soft to touch so beguiling that makes you want to run your finger along their surface; to feel the smoothness caressing your fingertips. There! They invite you again:
“Come on. Pick us and prod us. Pin us up, and cover us, but we shall remain the same.”
A new board is a virgin Earth all brown and unploughed, ready to yield to different types of papers that may come on it.
Even after years, the smoothness remains, they may have taken many pins, many rough handling, but still stand proudly; ever ready to portray whatever one wants to see on them. They are like an empty stage set with different scenes of bright and bold colours, a nude pale mannequin, waiting to show what one wants to see. Rectangular “soft boards” that stand the test of time to give and give equally, their service to all.