Total Pageviews

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The board that defined yesteryear kindergarten days

It will not be difficult for most Bhutanese to imagine attending kindergarten classes without a notebook or a pencil. Most of the middle aged and older Bhutanese have done exactly that, thanks to the small rectangular slate boards that used to fit comfortably in the traditional hand-woven Bhutanese bags hanging on one shoulder which served as school bags.
Using the slate board, popularly known as slates, was, to say the least, adventurous for toddlers then.
They used to write on the black slate with a white chalk, rub it off when it was full and write on it all over again. Excuse sanitary lessons, but spitting on the slate and cleaning it with the gho or kira cuff was more than normal.
Unlike the notebooks, the children couldn’t afford to drop the precious slate because it would break and they would then invite the fury of both their teachers and parents. Thus, if a child wanted to get back at any of his classmates, breaking his slate was the first option. As a result, most of the fights among children would be because of the slate board or the precious slender white chalks that inked the board.
Slates with wooden frames and white chalks were provided by schools and better endowed students used to show off by buying colourful chalks and carrying fancy bags.
The advantage of slates over paper was that it could be wiped clean and used repeatedly.
But it had more downslides to it. It was more than a challenge to remember what was written earlier. Once it was rubbed off, there was no turning back to the lessons learnt. It was a one way sport and there was no solution to it.
Homeworks used to make it even worse and remembering what was taught in the class and writing it back was a nightmare.
Children were encouraged to bring a damp cloth or sponge to clean the slate in the classroom but it would be stolen which ended up in fights.
It was also a challenge for children to reach home and face their mother with a chalk-smothered gho or half the homework missing from the slates. If one dropped a slate on his way home, he was probably heading for a beating back home.
If one broke his slate, getting another was difficult. Therefore, it was not uncommon to see children carrying broken slate boards. Something was better than nothing after all.
The above experiences can only be inscribed in memoirs today. With notebooks, the experience of classroom learning has been transformed and much more coordinated.


Mind you, I have been around for a very long time. I am some 200 years old, French in origin. I came into existence out of man’s sheer quest for invention in science and technology. Although I was a crude stuff like a hearing trumpet, if Wikipedia is to be believed, over the years I have made an impressive evolution. If not in purpose at least in terms of sophistication. That’s my history in short.
Hanging around a doctor’s neck, I have the pleasure and pain to witness varying experiences of suffering and agony. It is a pretty horrible job, no refuting that. But experience has been a good teacher. I have done this for ages, almost for two centuries now, and I have grown indifferent over time.
Before I forget, my memory isn’t too good (age does catch up), let me introduce myself. I am Stethoscope, that instrument doctors plug into their ears to feel your heartbeat.  So, there you go. I am an instrument designed to feel the inner workings of a human body. I tell you, I am just a medium as I can’t interpret or understand the meanings of the sounds.
But at times, I feel, the heartbeats have an effect on me, going by the way I have started to feel different emotions. Moments of pain, suffering, and happiness. Happiness, at the time of birth of a new born. It is a miracle. Life.
Yet again, dragged into the normal humdrum duties of every day, life can be so boring. It is a clash between long endless queues of patients and overworked doctors. No wonder, doctors get it wrong at times. Blame the faulty equipment. Poor fellows.
I recall one of the incidents which I thought was not fair, not from a Stethoscope’s point of view.  A few years back, I was hanging in around a doctor’s shoulders, while he talked to a seven year old girl. After running a few tests, the doctor admitted the sick girl at the hospital. Her veins were pierced by needle and connected to pipes that fed fluid to her fragile body. She was in lot of pain.
After three months, she was discharged. It was only a mere infection. She did not have a hole in her heart. Wrong diagnosis. It happens. This is part of the medical history. How many would have died because doctors made a mistake during a critical operation?
There are also times when doctors are at the receiving end for no fault of their own. One time, a rowdy group of men, seemed like relatives of a deceased, charged the doctors, even threatening vengeance and lawsuits. That was uncalled for. Surgeons do their best but often death is too powerful.
Any ways, a little break from the morbid stuff of life, let me share you a secret. I am a feeler, I feel different parts of a human body! I am sure other instruments envy me. That’s the brighter side of the story. I connect to a body and in its internal workings. I feel the beat that keeps life going. That special sound without which there is no life.