The best Instant Messenger conversations take place after midnight, but that’s only when there’s actually someone to talk to. I don’t know what you do if you’re up at that time without food to eat or an improving book to read, but, me, personally, I start Google searching for names from the past.
Look what I found this week: www.sunnysingh.net
If you bother to click the link, you’ll find out that this is the website of an Indian-origin writer called Sunny Singh who’s doing her PhD at the University of Barcelona. It invites you to downlaod Sunny Singh wallpapers, buy books by Sunny Singh, and read the reviews of her books and plays.
What this website does not tell you is that for about half a year in the spring and summer of 1999, Sunny Singh was a substitute teacher in Modern School, Vasant Vihar- my old school. She is also the brother of Sidharth Singh, who… but we won’t go into that.
Many of my teachers have been eccentric; Sunny Singh’s distinctiveness lay in raising the bar for creative looniness. She wasn’t just loony by herself, she carried an aura of inasnity about with her that infected all in the classroom from the moment she entered and shouted “Time out… cut it out!”, which was how her classes would invariably start.
Let me clarify a point here- Sunny Singh was not my substitute English teacher. She was Ishaan and Balram and Madhav and kMac’s. But her classes were so interesting that I used to bunk mine to attend English with these blokes.
This came about in the following way. Sunny Singh set XI-A a writing composition- a paragraph on the most eccentric teacher who had ever taught them. At the time, XI-A didn’t know Sunny Singh all that well, or they would probably have written about her. As it happens, they all decided to write about Naomi’s dad, Mr. Satish Chandra. Naomi, embarassed, persuaded Sunny Singh to change the topic to the most eccentric student they knew.
That was where I came in. On Wednesday, Sunny Singh was submitted forty paragraphs, all on Aadisht Khanna. On Monday, Ishaan took me to the XI-A classroom to exhibit me as a sort of visual demonstration to accompany me to his paragraph- Aadisht Khanna, the walking talking android from Mars.
That class was very interesting.
It rapidly became a three way contest for attention between Ishaan (who was trying to show me off to the class), Sunny Singh (who was trying to get XI-A to appreciate an article written on exotic diets), and Balram (who was trying to exoticise his own diet by biting Zubin).
That, in fact, was actually one of the tamer classes.
In other classes, the diversions would include Balram giving Zubin menacing looks, Zubin squealing in terror: “Maaaaaaaaaaaaa’am! Balram’s looking at me!”, Vikram hitting Rishi on the head with his chunky stainless steel watch, and, of course, the note passing incident.
It all started with Rohan Manocha passing notes to Prakriti Shukla. I don’t remember what was actually written on the notes, but it was something Prakriti used to be quite offended by. She tolerated it for a day, two days, a week. And then she snapped. She passed Rohan Manocha a note back. And as her luck would have it, that note was intercepted by Sunny Singh.
Sunny Singh opened the note and read it out to the whole class. It read thus:
“You piece of shit, if you pass another one of those notes, I’ll shove it up your fat ass.”
The class never really recovered after that.
After that, I saw her on the last day before the summer vactions, when she extended us an open invitation to come and listen to her reading out the draft of her debut novel, Nani’s Book of Suicides, and then again, of all times, at MODEM, when she told me to calm down and not worry too much about things going wrong. Excellent advice, in retrospect.
And now, four years later, I find out about her on the Internet. It’s a funny old world.