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Never fake illness

Sumitra Raghavan
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This storyteller learnt it the hard way...

People often ask me what inspired me to be a storyteller. When I think about it, I realise I've been making up stories and acting since I was a little girl. So, I've actually been a storyteller all my life. I distinctly remember trying to convince my mother that I was ill one day in class 6.

The summative assessment answer papers were due be distributed at the end of the day. There was tension in the air, and by the seventh period, I was trembling and sweating profusely. Ms Radha, our class teacher, entered with a sheaf of answer papers. She began distributing them. “Mynah.” Ms Radha handed over my bundle of answer sheets.

I started with the Mathematics answer sheet then moved on to Hindi, History and Science: so far, so good. Finally, I reluctantly looked at my English answer sheet.

It read 33%.

What! It can't be true. There must be some mistake. I flipped through my answer sheet to see if there was a counting mistake or if any of the sheets was missing. Nothing like that had happened. Instead, some of my answers had been scored out.

Ms Radha made an announcement: “The parent-teacher meeting will be held on Saturday. Students who have failed to make the grade must bring your parents. Mynah, make sure to bring your parents.” Everyone in class stared at me. I felt very ashamed. Tears welled up in my eyes.

I met Ms. Radha after class. “How will I tell my parents? They will be very angry with me. Please may I do the test again?”

Ms Radha patted my shoulder sympathetically. “My dear. We can't allow that. I am sorry but you will have to find some way to tell your parents.” I walked away wondering how I could tell my parents.

Perhaps I could fake an illness - but it didn't work the last time. Last year I had accidentally broken my English teacher's glasses.

To avoid telling my parents, I pretended to have high fever. However, Rama Auntie, our family doctor, saw through my act.

This time I had to think of something new. Perhaps a headache or a stomach ache? A stomach ache might not require a visit to Rama Auntie.

“Mynah, you have been standing outside for the past 10 minutes. What's the matter?” It was Amma. I was so lost in my thoughts that I hadn't realised that I had reached home. “My stomach is hurting badly,” I whispered.

“Did you eat  chaat  again? Let me call Rama Auntie.”

“No, ma. I didn't eat any  chaat . I'll lie down for a while.” I went to my room.

In a little while, Amma came in and announced that she was going to drag me to the hospital.

Great! Now I had to keep this act up for Rama Auntie as well. In twenty minutes, we reached Rama Auntie’s nursing home. Auntie’s nursing home was like any other hospital, except that it had an antique pendulum clock in the waiting area.

“Mynah.” It was my turn now.

Rama Auntie was Amma's childhood friend. She was petite and bespectacled. Today, she was wearing a dark green cotton saree under her white coat.

“Hello Mynah! No fever this time? Only a stomach ache huh? Come, lie down.” Rama Auntie pressed my abdomen asking me where it pained the most.

“Ouch. It's hurting when you press there,” I said. I put on my best pain-face.

“Oh! That's bad.” She paused. “That's where your appendix is.”

Amma was worried. “Rama, does she need an operation?” she asked.

“No. It doesn't seem that bad. But, I'll give her an injection,” Rama Auntie turned to Amma.

“Injection?” I asked nervously.

“Yes. A big one too,” Auntie said, and smiled.

I hate injections. They are painful. Just as Rama Auntie turned to take out a syringe, I jumped out of the bed.

“No, I don't want an injection.” I ran towards the door.

Amma blocked my way. “But it'll make your pain go away.”

I started crying. “I don't have any pain.”

“You said your stomach was paining?”

I hugged Amma. “No, I lied.”

“Why would you lie about your health? Look, you wasted Doctor Auntie's valuable time too.” my mother said.

“I faked a stomach ache because I failed in English. I got 33%. You have to meet Ms Radha on Saturday.”

“Why didn't you just tell me the truth when you came home? Why did you stage all this drama?” Amma asked.

“Because you and Appa would have been angry with me for the poor marks. You would have banned me from watching television, from combined studies, and from sleepovers. You would have asked me to study all day.”

“We might have been angry,” admitted Amma. “Now, let's go home. I won't tell Appa about this stomach ache of yours. Don't worry about Saturday. I'll help you with your English studies.”


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