What is half of 12?

by Guruguhan Iyer

“Seven!” he repeated firmly even after his teacher struck his closed fist with a wooden cane for the fifth time.

“Alright, you seem like an arrogant boy, Egghead. Let me ask you another question. Are you dumb or deaf?” she quizzed sarcastically.

“I can give an explanation, madam.” He replied humbly.

“Ah! So you’re deaf.” She laughed sarcastically. “Answer my god damn question, Egghead!” she barked.

“Alright, as you wish. I don’t know whether I am dumb or deaf, but I can surely figure out that you’re deaf.”

Snob Kumari could sense a mixture of nervousness and intelligence in his voice. She ignored the latter and yelled furiously, “How dare you speak to me in this tone. Is this the culture that your parents taught you?”

“No madam, I am afraid you taught me in two minutes what my parents couldn’t teach me in thirteen years.” He spoke firmly and the nervousness from his voice disappeared in no time.

She was dumbstruck; she couldn’t digest with the fact that her own student out-classed her in an argument even though his answer was wrong. “You deserve rustication.”

“Ah! Mrs. Snob!” he was surprised to see her in his cabin. After all, it was the first time she visited him.

“You can’t guess how pleased I am to see you in my cabin. Ah! You have brought Mr. Egghead too, I must say he is one of the cleverest students in the entire school.”

“And arrogant too.” She snapped back.

“Arrogant? Mr. Egghead, what am I hearing?” his face didn’t carry the warm smile while he spoke.

“Ask him what half of twelve is.”

Before Mr. Humble the headmaster could turn to him, “Seven!” said Egghead.

“No! It is six my boy. Mrs. Snob, you should have explained to him before you brought him here.”

“I did, Mr. Humble but he has repeated the wrong answer more than once. And he is not ready to listen to me.”

Mr. Humble turned to Egghead and said, “Explain.”

“Sir, Innocent is my best friend. However, unlike other students, he is having trouble with studies, especially Mathematics. When under pressure, he gets regular panic attacks. That is the reason why he was underperforming in Mathematics last year, and in the final exam, he needed seventy-five marks out of hundred to pass. To add more fuel to his fear, Mrs. Snob predicted that Mr. Innocent would not pass his exam. So to help him sir, I started to train him, it took him no more than a week to master every chapter. I am sure he did perfectly in the exam too, because nothing could have stopped him from scoring a hundred, and furthermore after the exam, we discussed every sum and he did not get even one answer wrong. Still his mark sheet showed his score as twenty-five. He applied for a revaluation. Again, it was Mrs. Snob who had done the revaluation and he his score went down by another ten marks and his mark sheet showed just fifteen in mathematics. So coming back to the question asked by Mrs. Snob, if Innocent has really failed, then the answer for half of twelve is Seven.”

“Just look at his arrogance, Humble.” Mrs. Snob cried.

Humble slapped the table bell, within half-a-minute a man dressed in Khaki shirt entered the cabin. “Yes Headmaster?” he enquired humbly.

“Mr. Caretaker, I want you to go to the storeroom in library and fetch last year’s answer sheet of Mr. Innocent. Wait let me check his roll number. The answer sheet doesn’t ask for a candidate’s name.”

“It is 128489, sir,” replied Egghead.

“Very well then.” Mr. Caretaker left the cabin.

“I will check the paper in front of you Humble.” Mrs. Snob’s voice turned pale.

“There will be no need for that. I will check the paper myself. Egghead, why didn’t you complain about it earlier?”

“Sir, I did come to your cabin, when the result was declared, but it was Innocent who stopped me, he said let’s apply for the revaluation, and when the revaluated marks came, I was very furious and I wanted to complain about Mrs. Snob, sir. Again, Innocent stopped me. He told me not to complain. When asked, he said he wants to master the earlier syllabus too. Therefore, I turned my back again. Now I couldn’t keep quiet. The day doesn’t pass until Mrs. Snob strikes the wooden cane on his closed fist. I can’t see him fail again sir.”

Mr. Humble didn’t speak a word. He asked Egghead and Mrs. Snob to stay in the cabin while he corrected the paper.

“You disgust me, Snob. Look at his paper. There is not even a single mistake.”
Mrs. Snob couldn’t stop herself from weeping, “Please do not rusticate me, Humble.”

“I won’t, I understand you have a family to feed. However, let me warn you, I shouldn’t hear such kind of a complaint again. As for you Egghead, half of twelve is not seven.”