Amrita Rajpal



Amrita Rajpal


To Lie Or Not To Lie

To Lie Or Not To Lie

8 mins

Tina sat on her chair, tension wrinkling her brow. Her hands were clammy. Surely she would get caught today. Maybe she should just come clean and say the truth. 

 It had been two days since school had commenced after the summer vacation. Tina was in the sixth grade now. All the excitement of getting into a new class, reuniting with old classmates, covering books, organizing classes, etc had simmered down and things had got into a routine.

 It was the time between two class periods. Everyone except for Tina was out of their seats clustering together with their peers exchanging snippets of gossip, copying undone homework and borrowing stationary while waiting for Mrs Batliwala to come for the math class.

It would have been ideal if Tina was born in any other family. Or rephrasing that to life would be wonderful if Tina could just change her mother. Tina’s mother was the daughter of a lawyer and she took great pride in being just like her father which was strong headed (or rather bull headed was more like it), opinionated, and a disciplinarian.  She was also a staunch exponent of the ‘truth’. Tina’s grandfather had regaled her mother with stories of ‘Gandhi ‘and his experiments with truth and she had taken every opportunity to ingrain it in her children. With no contextual indication Tina’s mother would impulsively spurt out ‘truthful’ stories at intermittent intervals.

 Anyways this being beside the point, Tina had more important things to worry about now. During the summer vacation Tina with her family had gone to visit some friends in Calcutta. Since Tina only had one pair of casual regular shoes, she had decided to carry her sports sneakers along also. Unfortunately, while packing her bags on the way back she had neglected to put back the pair of sneakers and they got left behind there. Now Tina’s mom’s disciplinary facet showed up. She insisted that Tina wear her regular shoes till someone came from Calcutta with her sneakers. The sneakers were the cheapest shoes available. Couldn’t she just buy a pair of new sneakers. Tina’s mother was adamant that it wasn’t the cost but the principle of the thing. This meant two weeks which translated into 8 sneaker wearing days of evading the class monitor and Mrs. Baltliwala. And saying the truth meant she would have to talk to Mrs. Batliwala. Mrs. Batliwala who was known for her copious sternness and penchant for dispensing just deserts. Everyone one in the whole school shuddered and shook at having a dialogue with Mrs. Batliwala. To top it all Mrs. Batliwala was her math teacher. Tina was awful at math and any chances of scoring brownie points with her were over and done with instantly.

 Two days had passed with excuses of shoes being wet and one of forgetting to wear the right shoes. To pass 6 more days seemed like a task equivalent to scaling the summit of the Everest. Tina grappled with the situation. If she came clean what would she have to lose. One was that everyone would know that she had an ogre for a mother. All her friends would think that her family was stingy or worse still -poor. The ramifications of which, would be that her classmates would ostracize her, not call her to birthday parties and generally leave her out of everything. The other was that all the teachers would know. She would become the butt of staffroom gossip. Her favorite English teacher would start hating her. Oh My God! What a quandary she was in.

 Now that the situation had been weighed in favour of not telling the truth, the question was what lie could she invent.  She’d already used the two fool proof ones – shoes being wet and forgetting. Now what ? She couldn’t say she forgot or wore the wrong shoes again. She had the same routine of wearing her sneakers for 4 days of the week since the past three years. She would have to had Alzheimer’s or dementia to keep forgetting the same thing. She would have to wrack her mind for something unique. She could say she tore it yesterday or that she fell into a mud puddle just as she was getting out of home.  That seemed about it. There were only so many excuses you could make up for a shoe. The tearing one was the best and would have to work for today. She felt a sense of relief as she looked at the door.

 Mrs. Batliwala walked in briskly. With her no nonsense demeanor she Started with taking attendance. After that ,as was routine she sent the monitor to check nails , shoes and uniform of the whole class.  Anita, who was the monitor set about checking the first row. Two more rows to reach her. Anita was a person who was friends with everyone in the class but was quite clear about her duties as a monitor.  There was no way that she would not tell on Tina. Anita was now in the second row. One more row to reach her. Tina started sweating again. She knew the drill. She would be called in front of the class. Mrs Batliwala would stand in front of her with a wooden foot ruler in hand ready to dispense with the first round of punishment which was two sharp raps on the knuckles. The next round of punishment would be to minus 5 marks from the weekly math test paper. The 5 minus marks would tilt her dangerously probably even make her topple the edge between passing and failing.

 And then suddenly she thought of the next day. Today her shoes had torn but tomorrow what excuse would she make up. A wave of despair washed over her. She felt hopelessness in every fibre of her being. Was there no end to this. And in that instant Tina made up her mind.  There surely must be some truth to the Gandhian philosophy. She would just come out with the truth the way it was and take responsibility of her actions.

 At least it would absolve her of this pressure. Suddenly she experienced feeling light.  Her face cooled down. Her frown eased out. She felt calm and relief.

 Anita reached her and Tina calmly stood up and walked to the front of the class with her. She held her head up high with dignity. Today she was going to perform a brave act. An act that would possibly go down in history just like Gandhi’s had.  Her mother would be proud of her. Her deceased grandfather would also be proud of her. This act would shape her character and would be her first step on the path of truth and integrity. A strong wave of emotion shook her with the thought of the magnanimity of her act. She stood tall and calm ready to face the onslaught of any ruler.

Mrs Batliwala looked at her with narrowed eyes. “And what is your excuse Tina for not wearing the right shoes today? “ she snapped.

Tina stood calm. ” Miss I went to Calcutta in the holidays ….” Began Tina confidently.  “ Tina I’m not interested in your holiday , come to the point and answer my question “ snapped Mrs Batliwala.

“ Yes Miss , I’m telling you that. I went to Calcutta in the holidays and …” Tina started again.

“ Tina , I will give you two raps on the knuckles if you don’t stop this holiday nonsense at once “ said Mrs Baltiwala exasperatedly.

“ Yes miss , I’m telling you that.  My shoes are connected with my holiday so I have tell you that “ said Tina.

“ Okay , but make it quick “ said Mrs Batliwala. “We don’t have all day “

“ Yes miss. I went to Calcutta in the holidays and we stayed in an uncle’s house. And I left my shoes there “ said Tina.

“ What , are you expecting me to fall for that story. That you left your shoes in Calcutta ? “ said Mrs Batliwala incredulously. “And how are you planning to get them back child “

“ My uncle is coming back to Bangalore in two weeks , actually one and a half so I will get them back then “ said Tina. She was actually feeling the strength in her character growing.

 Suddenly the unimaginable happened. Mrs. Batliwala’s face softened. Her mouth started twitching. Was she actually smiling? And then Tina heard the class snickering. She could hear some muffled guffaws.

 “ Let me understand”, said Mrs Batliwala “ You are saying that your shoes are in Calcutta and your uncle will bring them back in two weeks “

“ One and a half miss “ said Tina softly , quite confused at what was happening around her.

 The class started roaring with laughter. Some of her so called friends were even holding their sides.

 Mrs Batliwala had a huge smile on her face. Tina now understood the meaning of transformation. It was like a grumpy frog had turned into a beautiful princess.

“So humour me child. Tell me why you have not bought a new pair of shoes and have to wait for one and a half weeks for your uncle to bring them for you”

“ Because…. my mother …wants me to realize my mistake “ said Tina haltingly.

By now the class was a riot. Some of the children were on the floor laughing.  Mrs Batliwala was wiping tears of laughter from her eyes.

Tina was perplexed. Wasn’t this supposed to be her character defining moment. The moment of truth.

 Mrs Batliwala put the foot ruler down. She smiled at Tina. “ Go back to your place girl. In 25 years of teaching I’ve never heard of a more creative excuse. You are a master story teller”.

 Tina walked slowly back to her place. Her friends patted her as she passed whispering “ story teller, tall tale teller, liar, excuse master…”.

Tina walked in home confused and angry. All through the way her friends had teased her , no not only her friends , all the children in the school bus had teased her.  By tomorrow the whole school would know the story.

 Anyway everyone would realize that she was saying the truth when she didn’t wear her sneakers for one and a half weeks thought Tina with some relief. This would prove that she was saying the truth all along.

As she walked in , Tina’s mother smiled at her “ I guess you’ve understood the value of money and have learnt your lesson. We’re going to buy you sneakers for school today”.

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