Funny, it is wide of the mark!

Navneet Kaur

My mother was a professor of English. Every year, she would receive a heap of answer sheets of university examinations for evaluation. As kids, we used to get repelled at the very sight of the postman unloading the burden at our doorstep. Immediately after receiving the bulky consignment, mother would take up the task of evaluation with utmost sincerity. She would never allow us to touch a single sheet and would herself wrap it up, stitch it in a cloth bag, seal it properly and then meticulously dispatch the consignment back, with all its paraphernalia.

Naturally, we were annoyed with her for not sparing time for us. Whenever we began with our fretting and fuming, she would try to cheer us up with some hilarious responses she would come across in the answer sheets. One of the questions posed in a university examination was: ‘Name the word that represents the sound each of the following animals makes: donkey, monkey, dog, horse and lion’. While the correct answer should have read as, ‘bray, chatter, bark, neigh and roar’, the answer given by an impish student had us in splits. The imaginative, if incorrect, answers were: donkey — honhunhonhun; monkey — gurrrrrrr; dog — baw-baw; horse — burrrrrrr; and lion — hauuuuun.

Another question asked students to ‘write a letter to the editor of a newspaper complaining of non-working of hand-operated water pumps in their residential area’. A student had discharged straight from his heart, thus: ‘In my area, there is one hand-pump. When I press it, with the noise of dhadak, dhadak, it goes down without any pressure. From the pump, water does not come. Only zzzzzzz sound comes up. Many snakes mistake this pump as their worthy companion as both the snake and this pump hiss heavily.

‘Once, when an old lady pressed the handle of the pump with a big dadakh, an irate snake came out of the pump. Since then, every Friday we have been performing snake puja to the pump and offering milk. But the milk which we get from vendors contains only water. After we complete the rituals of this puja, municipality officials visit the area and declare that water does come from the pump. I can only request the municipality to remove this hand-pump immediately and save us from the dangers of the deadly snakes.’

I am tempted to conclude that the letter could have passed the editorial muster of any newspaper those days, but I am not sure whether the same degree of favour could have been expected from an exacting examiner.

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