teacher was Mrs. Virjee. She had a brisk, no nonsense air about her, and her looks echoed her personality with short, black hair, an angular face with acne scars and a pointed nose. She embarrassed me terribly, making it clear to the class she knew my mother. I had tried to keep the fact that I was a teacher’s daughter as secret as possible, but her chatting to me made some of the children taunt me and call me a teacher’s pet. I soon got my revenge.
Mrs. Virjee was a good teacher but often got frustrated at having to control a class of thirty, rambunctious ten year-olds. She would let off steam by cursing us in Gujarati when we were misbehaving. Until I joined the class, no one had understood what she was saying. Well, Mila did but she was a goodie-goodie, who kept quiet about it.
The next day before the afternoon classes were due to begin, I gleefully translated the Gujarati words and told the class, “She calls us ghaadera, which means donkeys and vaandra, which means monkeys. Sometimes she says ‘salla,’ which is very bad.” I was puzzled why salla was bad as I knew it meant brother-in-law but it was a bad word.
Mrs. Virjee entered the class with a swish of her dress and the clatter of her heels and saw us all chattering away. “Be quiet, children. Why are you making so much noise? Take out your exercise books,” she said.
The class never let on that we understood her to swear words, but they would giggle when she said them and sometimes even mime a monkey eating a banana if she called us vaandra.
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