Spare rod please

aik Rozan writer
Dr Satyapal Anand

Spare rod please

(Satyapal Anand)

A news item this morning from the interior of the state that is Punjab in the land of my birth made me shudder. It says that a school teacher kept his twenty school kids standing for two hours and then caned them mercilessly because they had failed to answer a school inspector’s questions about who Iqbal was.

“How heartless!” said the elder of my two grandsons.

“How cruel!” said the younger one.

“Beat the kids? The kids should beat him up!”

I couldn’t tell them that caning was a matter of course during my days at school, both in village Kot Sarang and in district Chakwal and Nowshehra, a town in NWFP (now Khyber Pukhtookhwa).

Spare rod please

Late for the school, two strokes on your palm. One stroke each for an incorrect spelling. Five strokes for mischief and on top of it, standing on the bench for the whole period.

Who, in my age group, would forget the ignominious and humiliating, turning-into-a-cock punishment, making oneself into a “murgha”, looking more like a figure 8 than a cock for hours together?

Caning school children used to be a favourite pastime of the British. No great political leader or army “general” in Her Majesty’s service can boast of not having been caned in his school days.

Spare rod please

Licking a cub into shape, through the birch cane was the specialty of the schoolmaster all over Europe, not England alone. The poor cubs may yelp with pain or writhe in agony, the schoolmaster’s rod did not spare them.

He was the law giver – indeed the schoolmaster was! Lord Byron, the incorrigible Young man who never himself experienced himself the strokes of the school masters on his palms, nonetheless palmed off these memorable lines to his European posterity:

O Ye! Who teach the ingenious youth of nations
Holland, France, England, Germany or Spain
I pray ye flog them upon all occasions,
It mends their morals, never mind the pain!

Byron must have taken his cue from Proverbs (XIII-24), “He that spareth his rod, hateth his son”, but not John Taylor who presented a novel comparison.

The children and walnut tree
The more you beat them, the better they do.

I remember my days in my village school in Kot Sarang. The Primary school was taught by a single teacher, Maulvi Rustam Ali Khan, a warrior clan progeny, a Rajput. He was reputed to go to sleep while sitting in his chair while his “danda” the Maula Baksh, lay casually on the table in front of him.

It so happened that one day the son of the patwari, a petty revenue official, kept scratching his ear again and again. Twice the teacher checked him:

“Hey Fazlu! Stop it!”

What could poor Fazlu do but scratch his ear again for a wasp had stung him there. Pat sprung the Maula Baksh and landed twice with brute force on his palms.

Spare rod please

The next day Fazlu came accompanied by his father, the proud Patwari. His ear as also both his hands were swollen. The proud father must have been taught by the same teacher in his own school days, for he just said:

“You won’t have to take this trouble in future, Maulvi Sahib. I have got the wasp hive removed from the ceiling of the school room.”

And, well, that was that!

Also see this: Peela School (a short story) by Naeem Baig

Well, now caning might be prohibited in schools and spanking may be frowned upon at home but how do the parents go about reforming their children?

One may look forward with apprehension to a repetition of what a Punjabi parent said about his male progeny:

“I have, by God’s grace, four sons, and mind you, each one is strong, obedient and good natured. I have never had any cause to lay a violent hand upon any one of them except in self-defence!”