THE INTERVIEW – Funny Short Story
I was posted in Nagpur, Maharashtra. We were living in a three-room tenement. My wife was a housewife and tending to her household chores diligently. Our first daughter was in her fifth standard and was going to a good girls’ convent. Our second daughter was three-and-half years old and we were seized of her admission to Lower Kindergarten (LKG) in a good school. Nagpur wasn’t in the same league as Mumbai or Pune but it was still difficult to get admission in good schools. However, we were sure of securing an admission in her elder sister’s school since preference is given to children whose siblings were already on the school rolls. Our overconfidence did us in. As our ill-luck would have it we somehow missed out on her admission into her sibling’s school.
When we came to know that the admissions were complete we approached the Principal of the Convent who firmly said, “Sorry, the admissions are finished. We have announced in all the classes that all the girls who had a younger sister must inform her parents about the admission process, since we give preference to children with siblings already on our rolls.”
I was a little wary regarding the direction the discussion seemed to be taking. I evaded a direct answer and said weakly, “Sorry Madam, somehow we missed out on the announcement.” I thought the discussion would end there. But the Principal thought otherwise.
“Which standard is your elder daughter in?” She asked firmly.
“Then she is old enough to understand the seriousness. She should have informed you people. What is her name?”
That was a serious warning bell for us. My elder daughter could be taken to task by the school administration. I decided to end the discussion and our request for admission then and there.
“It is OK madam. We shall take leave. Sorry for the trouble.” Saying those few words we departed, without giving her a chance to repeat her question.
“Phew. That was close.” I said to my wife after we escaped from the Principal’s office.
“Yes.” My wife agreed and continued, “We have to try in other schools seriously.”
The elder son of my office colleague and family friend goes to another very good school. I referred to it and told my wife, “I shall submit application form in that school. But I heard that the interview for admissions is very strict. Parents are not allowed to accompany the child. Our girl is smart but can she face it?” I expressed my doubt.
“We have to train her; ask her questions and make her respond; conduct mock-interviews. She is very smart. Maybe I shall become the Principal and you bring her in as her parent. Let’s conduct interviews and prepare her. What do you say?”
“That is an excellent suggestion, dear but I pity the girl; she is just three-and-a-half but has to go through all this in the name of admission.”
“We are helpless, honey.” My wife concluded and went into the kitchen.
For the next few weeks the poor little girl was put through the grind and rote of the preparations for the interview; the questions and answers about the family, identification of colours, alphabets and numerals, nursery rhymes and, as if all that wasn’t enough, the mock interviews. We could see that the girl was vexed and fatigued. But as parents we had no other option; otherwise she wouldn’t get admission in that good school. We coaxed her, cajoled her, and caressed her into another question, another arithmetic problem, another word and another interview.
We concentrated on the one topic, “My family”. We prepared her response as “My name is… My father’s name is… My mother’s name is… I have one sister… her name is…” and so on. She seemed to have picked up the spirit and had fallen into the groove.
But what none of us expected were the little girl’s ingenious innovative skills.
One Sunday afternoon, after we had had our lunch and my wife was clearing the dining table, I passed by our children’s room and heard the voice of our second daughter ‘practicing’ her lines. I was stunned and quickly dragged my wife by hand and we stood outside the room and listened stealthily.
“My name is… I have one sister… her name is… I have one mother… her name is… I have one father… his name is…” she was reciting in a monotone, sitting on the floor and rocking forwards and backwards.
Our jaws dropped and we stared at each other aghast.
P.S. For all those who would like to know if our second daughter got admission in that school; she did well in the “interview” and got admission and went on to complete her eighth standard, when we were transferred to Chennai.