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Hattrick

2006-07-13 22:09

  “There are two more in today's paper” said Mrs. Nerunji Nanjundan, the principal of the Little Learners School, as the correspondent entered the room.

  The correspondent, Mr. Musiri Mani, pulled his chair away from the table before sitting, since his huge paunch needed more space. He took the newspaper clippings that the principal handed over to him. The two clippings were announcements made by a couple of schools.

  The first one was by Mangal Matriculation School. There was a photograph of a girl and one of a boy. 'School Toppers' said the caption.

  Musiri Mani looked at the other cutting. He seemed to like this one better. This was from Pickwick School. The caption said: “Pickwick Higher Secondary School congratulates Ms. S. Anamika, first in the District in S.S.L.C.” There were five photographs - one of the correspondent, one of the principal, one of the local M.L.A., one of the councilor of that ward, and last, in a corner, a tiny photograph of Anamika.

  Mr. Mani gazed at the clipping for a long time. He imagined his own beaming face staring back at him from the newspaper.

  “Why can't we have an advertisement in the papers, too?” he asked Mrs. Nanjundan.

  “No one has come first in the district or state from our school” she explained.

  “Let me see some other advertisements like this” said the correspondent.

  The principal pressed a bell, and a horse-faced office assistant came in with an enquiring look.

  'Aswathy, bring some more newspapers“ said Mrs. Nanjundan. Aswathy stalked away with long strides worthy of a race horse.

  She came back after while carrying several pages from newspapers. Mr. Mani glanced through them. M.C.P. Boys School, Sonagiri Secondary School, Sandalwood Secondary School, Theevana Matriculation School, Eaton School - they had all put in advertisements in the papers. Some school boasted state firsts, some others district firsts, some just had school toppers.

  Mr. Mani gazed at these advertisements with envy. “I think we should put in an advertisement too” he said.

  “But we will have nothing to say in it, Sir” the principal said.

  'Well, we could have the pictures of the first and second rank holders in the school' said Mr. Mani.

  “We will have to mention the marks they have scored, and then we will be laughed at.”

  “The less said about our school the better' said Miss. Aswathy.

  “When I want your opinion, I'll ask for it” the correspondent snapped. Miss. Aswathy tilted her nose high up in the air, and trotted off to the next room.

  “Call for a meeting of the school managing committee” said Mr. Mani to the Principal. Then he pushed his chair back, rose and waddled away, giving a good imitation of a duck moving in a hurry.

  The next day the managing committee met in the Principal's office. The meeting opened with a prayer song, sung completely out of tune by a couple of teachers. It took a couple of minutes for the committee to recover from this musical onslaught.

  The principal rose and welcomed the gathering. Then she went on: “We are meeting today to discuss the advertisements that have been released by various schools in the papers. Our revered correspondent is very keen on having a few advertisements for our school too.”

  At this point, the correspondent gestured to the principal to sit down, and then he stood up to speak. “Dear Friends,” he said. “We have been putting in a lot of effort in running this school, and we deserve some recognition……”

  “I thought we already had government recognition' said Mrs. Ganapthy, a member who had just then come in.

  “I don't mean government recognition. I mean recognition by the public. For which we have to advertise.”

  “It pays to advertise” said Mr. Alok Kumar, a businessman.

  “I thought we had to pay to advertise' said Mrs. Hamasathvani, a retired collage professor.

  “Yes, yes, we pay first and then reap the benefits” said the correspondent rather irritably. “I want you to help in writing out an advertisement which will claim that out school is different from all other schools; that it is unique.

  The principal said: “If we could form a sub-committee, we could entrust them with the writing of the ad.”

  Three members were selected for the sub-committee. “If you will write out the advertisement, Miss. Aswathy will have it typed in no time” said the principal.

  Tea was served while the sub-committee members scratched their heads, bit their lips and gnawed at their pens. Finally they succeeded in writing an advertisement that was approved by the managing committee. Miss. Aswathy came in briskly and took the matter to be typed.

  “It will be nice to have our correspondent's photo in the advertisement” said the principal with a smile that showed all her teeth and gums.

  Mr. Musiri Mani blushed and blustered: “No, no. Not necessary at all. I mean no…… not……”

  “We can have the principal's photo, too” said Mr. Alok Kumar smoothly.

  “Well, well…… in that…… that…… case……” Mr. Mani stuttered.

  “How about the photos of the managing committee members?” asked Mrs. Ganapthi.

  “You can have your photographs framed and kept in the office” said the principal. And that was that.

  A few days later a quarter page advertisement appeared a couple of papers.

  “The Little Learners School” said the advertisement between the smiling photographs of Mr. Musiri Mani and Mrs. Nerunji Nanjundan. “A unique Distinction”。 It went on in very large types. “The only school to have had 100% failures for three years in succession.”

  All the words were printed in very bold types except the word 'failures', which was in such tiny print that one needed magnifying glasses to see it. The advertisement ended with the boast “No other school can match this record.”

  A hat trick, no doubt, and a unique distinction indeed!

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