Saturday, 27 September 2014

The Rocket Science Of Mr Fardy – Part 2

If you have not read The Rocket Science Of Mr Fardy - Part 1, please do so before reading this article.

In summer Mr Fardy rode his bicycle wearing a unique contraption: a post-war Indian pith helmet, commonly called Sola hat. This clever ‘home service helmet’, now out of vogue, helped the colonial British beat the oppressive Indian heat. The thick hat covered in khaki cloth came with an inner shell made out of cork and featured two rubber side-holes on each side to allow entrapped hot air to escape. It is important to note here that there was hidden symbolism in a pith hat made out of cork. Let it be known that the English word pith has a Punjabi equivalent: pith, which means one’s backside.

Needless to say, Mr Fardy’s cane had an invisible scope whose crosshairs were always locked on our backsides. And since his Sola hat was made out of cork, he was silently telling us where his forefathers originally hailed from: county of Cork, Ireland. In any case, the boys at school knew from personal experience that the sun hat failed miserably in keeping Mr Fardy’s head cool because he lost it completely in the face of our naughtiness. None saw him ever laugh heartily but he did loosen up a bit while being stationed at the OUT-gate at every ‘full-break’ to ensure the boys went home peacefully.
Aerodrome in Amman, Jordan (April 1921): Col. T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia, 2nd from left) and Sir Herbert Samuel (centre) wearing a pith helmet

Each morning at the designated time Mr Fardy would walk up to our class with sheets of hand-written notes firmly tucked under the left arm. Three steps behind would walk a ‘khota-boy’ carrying a load of checked copybooks. Hearts pounded heavily when this load was unloaded at the teacher’s desk for distribution to the students. Those who had done the assignments correctly received the copybooks without pats on the backs but the miserable few who showed disdain for Mr Fardy’s scientific efforts received doses of fine ‘benders’ at the same location. 

A thick cane always remained in our teacher’s right fist, occasionally swinging at invisible buttocks that no boy was able to see. Like a consummate cricketer or golfer, he regularly practised his imaginary strokes in the air before entering our field. Brylcreem was in vogue with a promise of “a little dab of Brylcreem on your hair gives you the Brylcreem jump in the air”, yet some boys exclusively applied mustard oil to their hairs in order to keep their rural fathers happy. The same lot suspected Mr Fardy applied the same oil to the deadly cane in order to keep it pliable because upon hitting its intended target, it bounced back with unbelievable efficiency as if following Newton’s second law: To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction.

Instrument of (m)ass terror
Boys worse than shrews
With great bewilderment the fraternity of students noticed that whenever the end of that cruel cane split, the next morning Mr Fardy either came with it fully repaired or had a brand new piece in his right hand. Nobody knew who the corporate sponsor was or where he got the canes from—perhaps from the fabricators of cane furniture opposite Data Sahib’s darbar outside the Bhaati Gate. Whatever the source, the cane reminded us of James Bond’s regally-sponsored and licensed-to-kill handgun excluding the voluptuous bond-girls. Fully authorised was Mr Fardy’s mobile laboratory, painful were his experiments, and irrepressible were our revolutionary hindquarters. Before global war on terror became the most popular method for repressing the masses, butt-terrorism taught all twitching buttocks a thing or two about Anthonian discipline. Our Freudian slips regularly attracted the wrath of the Fardian whip, and we shall return later to describe in greater detail Mr Fardy’s method of taming us little shrews.
St. Anthony of Padua

One day in the middle of a lecture, Mr Fardy was summoned to the principal’s office. Someone quickly hid the cane but upon returning the teacher recovered it in an instant from behind the door. The Christian boys believed he prayed to Saint Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of lost and stolen articles and a powerful Franciscan preacher and teacher, in whose name our very own school was established in 1892. But Mr Fardy’s science lectures were complex compared with this saint’s simple Godly messages which, according to historical records, were delivered to the fishes in the sea when humans showed signs of temporary deafness. While medieval painters have depicted St. Anthony holding a book, a lily, a torch, the infant Jesus in his arms, a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament in front of a mule, preaching in the public square, and lecturing under a nut tree, Mr Fardy borrowed no compassionate ideas from the pious man.
Artisans with a scale model of St. Anthony's church

The stage, the actors

Let us now visit section-B of class eight which, if one stood facing the school’s building with Lawrence Road to the rear, was located to the left side of the principal’s office. There, yours truly occupied one of the rear-most seats, quite fed up of sitting in the front row for years inhaling the chalk dust clouds that the masterly scribbling on blackboards produced. There were two others in the class who shared my first name. One was Tahir Malik Sheikh whose disciplinarian father worked in Pakistan Railways while the mother headed the Fine Arts department at the University of the Punjab on the Lower Mall. The family lived on the Upper Mall behind the American School. The other Tahir was Tahir Shamim who resided in Samanabad. His father owned the Lyric cinema hall on Multan Road where we watched a loud Punjabi movie free on only one occasion. It was much easier for the three Tahirs to giggle incessantly at the back of the class because the teachers seldom strayed that far into the trenches to punish talkative boys, but when their shouts of “stop whispering” produced no results, they unhesitatingly home-delivered to us a large pizza of punishment.

St. Anthony's High School - front view
Such was my musical memory I firmly believed that if lessons were Urdu film songs, I would be the top student. Much to my parents’ relief, academically I mostly remained in the top ten students but it was discovered I was gifted in other fields as well. Occupying a strategic rearmost location in class naturally inspired yours truly to sing at a low level, film songs of the day. A neighbour always accompanied me by playing tabla over the desk. This soft sangat (accompaniment) was interrupted only on one occasion when the teacher converted my artistic partner’s head into a tabla and played a very long and complex taal (rhythm) over it. Ultimately, we remained undeterred and insisted on acting like human juke-boxes that played the right tunes without swallowing copper coins.

WMD or weapon of m(ass) destruction

Anthonian heads made great tablas
Mr Fardy’s cane, a mean instrument of unbridled power, was as thick as a heavy-weight wrestler’s thumb. Before he meted out punishment, he viciously swung the cane back and forth in the air to check its flexibility—much like a hangman would check a rope. There were times when despite the boys having committed no war crimes his Nuremberg cane still cooked our rear steaks to the well-done level.

Nobody needed an exorcist’s eyes to see the devil himself enter into Mr Fardy’s cane and prompt him to commit butt-atrocities that made the obstinate fall prostrate in full submission, though only for a short period. Our science teacher only occasionally dished it out to the boys on their hands; the bull’s eyes always remained our sensitive hindquarters. On happier occasions he caned the entire class—I suppose that was to bring all the students to the same level of subservience to the system that they refused to join and hoped to beat one day far into the future.
A flying 'khota' (donkey)

Whenever Mr Fardy caught red-handed a misbehaving culprit, he would shout, “Hey khota! Come, I’ll give you six.”

Nobody in his right mind could argue with Mr Fardy and if he did he heard: “Want to argue? You’ll get double!” ‘Double’ meant two rounds of six strokes of the cane, or double the victim’s pain and double the laughter for the on-lookers.

In winter we wore blue school blazers with double-slit backs and Mr Fardy was too much of a gentleman to lift those slits up on his own. Instead he always demanded, “Dumm ka parr ooper uthao (birdie, lift up the feathers of your tail)”, and proceeded to dish it out. Such oft-repeated remarks convinced us that our true collective identity was that of a strange beast which was half khota (donkey) and half chirrya (bird). Later in life, at least one of us, overcome with the desire to understand the human mind, joined the army to retire as a psychiatrist brigadier.
A grounded 'chirrya' (bird)

Mr Fardy’s method of dispensing instantaneous and inexpensive justice was so truly unique it required no bloody revolution or peaceful sit-ins outside the parliament. When a young criminal stood next to his desk to receive punishment, an eerie silence fell over the entire class of over forty-five students. Then, according to purely scientific calculations, Mr Fardy made the guilty party bend over at a precise body angle to receive not one but six strokes of the thick cane.

The Christian boys who knew the Bible swore that 666 was the ‘number of the beast’ mentioned in Book of Revelations and that the devil, out of consideration for our tender age, was kind in having Mr Fardy deliver to us only one but never all three ‘sixers’. Nevertheless, Mr Fardy always delivered his dose while observing how calm or agitated the poor student’s petrified face and his twitching rear remained. His infamous ‘sixers’ or ‘benders’ always landed directly over the oh-zone layer which was a point where the spine vanished into the buttocks. The hits sapped one’s energy in an instant and left one feeling as if the cane was powered by 220 Volts electric current of the alternating kind.
220 Volts A.C 'sixers' and 'benders'

If the victim moved his buttocks hoping to sabotage Mr Fardy’s countdown to ecstasy, the counting restarted, and instead of getting a ‘sixer’, he ended up with eight or twelve ‘likes’ on the rear page of his Facebook. There was no rest for the wicked. Mr Fardy displayed a controlled smile during the caning session and would return to being serious as if nothing significant had ever happened. Quietly he would watch the victim return to his wooden seat and unable to sit comfortably on a numb rear for the entire duration of the science period.

Everybody had his own mantra which he religiously recited just before and during caning; it never worked. One such incantation that is attributed to Hanunmanji was: Jal tu jalal tu; aee balaa ko taal tu. No matter how pious a boy sounded, Mr Fardy always suspected that something wicked was being mumbled between the lines in a strange language. In an Anglo-Urdu accent, he would challenge, “Khota, kia bola tum? (Donkey, what did you utter?), and then dish out more parting shots to the poor boy. Now decades later, this might seem like recounting horrible human rights related atrocities but when it happened, each boy in the class covered his face with the palms, turned red as a tomato and finally bent over the desk laughing. Who in his right mind would wish to cry when another fellow was ‘getting it’ in public?

1857-style mutiny against ‘Pa’

Long before we knew who Mr Fardy really was, our seniors taught us a nickname: Pa. In those days, Bonanza was a very popular American television programme and in it Ben Cartwright, the father, was addressed by his son Adam as “Pa”. The boys at the school somehow linked “Pa” with Mr Fardy but pronounced and wrote it as “paw”.
The original source of 'Pa': Bonanza

Sometimes when Mr Fardy approached the black board, much to his distress, he found the P-word chalked over it. The verbal abuse of the word went like this: as Mr Fardy walked down a corridor, some little devil after loudly shouting “paw” hid behind one of the pillars. Furious, Mr Fardy would attempt to spot the culprit by stopping dead in the tracks and turning his head like a main gun in a tank’s turret. But unable to spot anyone and as soon as he turned around, another shout of “paw” would resonate followed by muted student laughter.

Wracking our brains over Mr Fardy’s homework was difficult enough; having our rears whipped red was impossible to bear. Those who owned part-time girlfriends never told them what happened to their macho rears in the science class. And nobody had any doubt that the scientific formula of force equalling mass times acceleration (F = ma) actually stood for Fardy = My Arse.

Enough was enough. One day the boys decided to have an emergency meeting at ‘full-break’, meaning, right after school. By then, all the good boys had gone home to their worrying mothers and what remained in a secluded corner was a trace of the ‘bad elements’. The veterans who had patiently withstood Mr Fardy’s “sixers” and “benders” up until then decided to prepare an anarchist in the art of sabotaging the unkind act of caning. Through a secret ballot, Ali ‘baby-face’ Ahmed was chosen as the messiah. He was my neighbour on Temple Road, his sister Shamim Hilali was a television actress and elder brother, Hasnat Ahmed, appeared in Shoab Hashmi’s Taal-Matole and Suchh Gup TV comedy shows with the adorable ‘gentleman-lady-Billu-paiyan’ comedy routines. Ali’s family having excess talent meant he had a considerable amount of it within and which required early promotion at the school-level.
Mutiny, Anthonian style

And so it came to pass one fine day that Ali Ahmed ‘fidgeted about’ in his seat and caused Mr Fardy to summon him with a customary “You khota, come I’ll give you six”. Ali quickly donned his secret armour like a brave knight and faced the punishment without an iota of pain on his face. Since Mr Fardy’s trained ears had heard bullets, cannon fire and everything in between, after delivering a few strokes of the cane his ears told him something was not quite right. Why was Ali’s spine sounding like cardboard?

He looked Ali straight in the eye and asked, “Hey khota-man, masti karta?” (Hey donkey, are you up to some mischief?).

He then went on to uncover Ali’s deception by pulling out a copybook from inside the trousers which was placed to shield the buttocks. Worse, Ali had not done his homework. The judge raised both his eyebrows and decided that since the cane had hit an artificial surface, Ali deserved another ‘sixer’ with his protection gear removed.

We had deception in mind, never defence. The childish rebellion failed miserably and Ali was left quite alone with not a soul rising to defend him. Feeling utterly outfoxed by Mr Fardy, the class had no choice but to roll on the floor laughing at poor Ali who received an unheard of ‘twelver’ that fateful day. The sight of watching our valiant soldier face court martial dissuaded the brotherhood from ever attempting to cross Mr Fardy’s path again. Even the standby idea of wearing quadruple underwear was never put into practise. The truth dawned upon us: one could cheat death but not Mr Fardy.
IED (improvised explosive device)

We considered ourselves sufficiently naughty but our seniors were a notch above. Just two years earlier there lived a boy who made explosive fireworks for fun. Fed up with the fuse of his rear always being lit up by Mr Fardy’s caning, he decided to bring his explosive talent inside the classroom. The opportunity presented itself one quiet morning right after the science period and prior to the ‘half break’, meaning, recess.

Mr Fardy forgot something in the classroom and returned to pick it up with nobody present inside. The firecracker expert saw him coming, lit up a fuse and made good his escape. Mr Fardy immediately smelled a rat and went around opening each desk’s lid like a one-man bomb disposal squad. In one such desk he found the fire-cracker but before he could run to safety, the thing went off with such a loud bang that he fainted and fell like a wooden log. The entire hardened class was caned en masse and the guerrilla fighter was never found out.

Ancestral links

A few days ago, through a class-fellow, I was fortunate enough to trace Mr Fardy’s older son. While the younger Adrian now resides in Texas (USA), it was Sean Fardy who provided me with important family details which I am happy to share.
Cork, Ireland

Sean’s great-great-grandfather, a genuine Fardy himself, came from the county of Cork in south western Ireland and worked as a gunner in the British East India Company. Cork was known as ‘The Rebel County’ since the fifteenth century. It was the scene of considerable fighting during the Irish War of Independence (1919–1921) and which helped her retain the rebellious title.

Both Mrs Davey, who was our teacher in class four, and Mr Fardy passed away in 1977. His wife Molly joined him in heaven in 1986. Mr and Mrs Fardy—products of Rawalpindi and Multan—now lie buried in the soil of Lahore.

Moving on

Having become accustomed to Mr Fardy’s ‘sixers’ and ‘benders’, life suddenly became less fun and more scientific as Mr Zahid Butt and Mr Khalid took over as our science teachers in classes nine and Matric. Whenever we ran into Mr Fardy we greeted him with the customary “good morning sir” while he reciprocated with the expected, “Hey khota, kidhar jana magta (hey donkey, where are you headed)?” He somehow ignored Darwin’s theory of evolution and never called us ghora (horse). To show that he had lost no love for old students, he swung his cane at us, never meaning to hurt but rather to make us laugh.
St. Anthony's Staff (1958 or before we were born)

I am made out of Lahore’s dust and cannot seem to get the city out of me although I have been out of this city on several occasions. It has been more years than I would care to count since I left St. Anthony’s High School located on Lawrence Road but I still greet many school-friends not with a polite hello but with Mr Fardy’s favourite salutation: “Hey khota!

Although some of us attempt to deceive father Time by dying greying hairs but aged we all have. We might have become immensely wise in our own imaginations, scored ‘sixers’ in business, and tolerated unmentionable ‘benders’ in life, but one thing has not changed: before each one of us evolved into a better human, he learnt the fine art of behaving like a featherless chirya (bird) and a stubborn khota (donkey).

If there ever was a central idea of Mr Fardy’s gruelling epic poem, it was this: learn to face a great variety of public humiliation before serving her in any capacity. Mr Fardy taught science well but to this day I wonder if my best teachers were the mistakes I made in his class. It is quite possible that on Judgement Day, God Almighty’s punishing angels might take possession of Mr Fardy’s fat cane to dish it out to every sinful ‘khota-man’ until the cows of hell come home.

©Tahir Gul Hasan, 2014

Similar articles
The Rocket Science Of Mr Fardy - Part 1
The Amazing T-Pad
The Things I Did For Mrs Davey

Shrew picture:
St. Anthony's - front view (kasim 39)
Picture of a bay in Cork by Rory Deegan

Saturday, 13 September 2014

The Rocket Science Of Mr Fardy - Part 1

On 4 April 1968, the system liquidated Martin Luther King Junior for having an American dream; a week ago I had a nightmare in which I portrayed a boy in distress. I need to share it all with you.

The venue was the school principal’s office in which Brother Henderson sat wearing a missionary’s white robe, his pink hands folded. I saw my father bent over a table signing a contract over which was stamped TOP SECRET, FOR YOUR EYES ONLY. It was hard for me to bend over in a nightmare and read everything in the document but luckily I was able to recall upon waking up the following:

I, the undersigned, being the biological father of the above-mentioned student hereafter referred to as ‘sample 7531’, do fully authorise the school to ensure: that the ‘sample’ shall not be spoilt, that the official rod shall not be spared, that it will be allowed to land wherever necessary on his person, and in whatever manner considered appropriate, and by whosoever might wield it, and that ‘sample 7531’ is my gift to mankind to further the cause of science.

After signing with a quill, my father broke the nib just like judges once did when condemning criminals to death. I saw that both he and Brother Henderson were dead serious. Then without my express permission, father handed over this ‘sample’ and jumped like a quick brown fox out of a window below which was parked his lazy dog-mobile. Other fathers with their boy ‘samples’ waited to be called in. I made a final attempt to escape by kicking Brother Henderson’s shin with full force but instead woke up noisily wrestling with a pillow, “Lemme go, lemme go Brother Henderson!” To my great relief, I found mother by the bedside attempting to contain an early morning rebellion.

A grave new world

I must now enter the time-tunnel to write one more school story for the readers, irrespective of the fact that reading and writing habits have been almost destroyed by misspelled ungrammatical short messages of purely electronic nature. The post box has been taken over by FaceBook ‘posts’ and Karen Carpenter's Please Mr Postman is quite dead.

It was all written in the sky: we needed decent English education along with the customary thought control; we were to face our teachers’ dark sarcasm in the classroom; we were never to be left alone; we were all to be just bricks in the wall. Many years later the British rock band, Pink Floyd, would release their classic song, The Wall, to reflect the harsh realities faced by millions of children spread quite thin across the globe.

I was elated to be gracefully promoted with the majority to class eight instead of being disgracefully held back in class seven. Having become a senior boy I faced ‘ER’ in every possible form: newER but fattER text books, greatER responsibilities and worst of all, harshER corporeal punishment. I derived immense pleasure from Art and music as it, without my knowledge, helped develop the creative right hemisphere of the brain to a greater degree than the left one. Sacred geometry was better than algebra and drawing superior to arithmetic. Besides, practising mathematical ‘sums’ at home was always a quiet activity as it deprived one of the joy of spending perfectly good evenings at play with the loud boys. There were always plenty of other important things to do besides studying.

Science too became hardER to comprehend. Newton, Boyle, Faraday, Bernoulli, and others emerged as villains who began to get on my nerves. The scientists had no business, I thought, burdening my carefree mind with so many of their discoveries, all made within the time span of a few centuries. Had these men of science enjoyed normal childhoods, I and other children might have had more of the ‘normal’ as well. Since I was good at drawing, my escape lay in drawing neat scientific diagrams on the copybook and which left no alternative for the teacher but to bestow upon this budding artist remarks of the ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ varieties.
Science gone mad

With seven years of rock solid schooling behind me, I had three more years in case I chose Matriculation or four if Senior Cambridge strangulated me with Add-Maths and Shakespeare. Students were required to choose between Matric and Senior Cambridge before they left class eight. At this stage, nobody thought of college as it was impossible for us to imagine what it might be like to step out of the school’s womb in the eighth month of educational pregnancy. Disregarding the school brotherhood and dreaming of parting ways for college was taboo. I was in class four when a dear class-fellow, Asim Beg, left for America saying, “I’ll be gone for fifteen years”. In my diary I made a woeful note of the year of his expected return; such were the vagaries of time and brotherly reunions.

Life, a science-lab

Science was a daily chore, not a warm love affair. There were two kinds of laboratories at St. Anthony’s High School of Lahore. For the students the stern Irish ‘brothers’ had erected a science laboratory equipped with round-bottom flasks, test tubes, and chemicals of all sorts. But the same management had another atrocious laboratory where some teachers were given almost similar apparatus to conduct one-on-one caning experiments on young boys’ round-bottoms, encouraged the flow of chemicals such as sweat and tears, and stored observations in test tubes of teaching experience. The Irish brothers were pleased to re-designate the teachers’ canes, foot-rulers and bare hands as official instruments of indoctrination and terror. In an atmosphere of many sticks and not enough carrots, the poor students were the lab rats whose raw supply remained inexhaustible.
St. Anthony's High School, Lahore (front view)

The persuasive means to make us talk less in class always remained in the custody of the teachers. Madam Moti Raam, the dark and talcum-powdered daughter of Mr Moti Raam, was the first female scientist whose foot-ruler landed on my small palms long before American astronauts claimed they landed on the moon. Her class III-B was located on the ground floor, next to the stairs of the junior section at the rear right hand corner of the school.

From class three onward we were daily fed on a variety of hors d'oeuvres of punishment. The most popular act was the loveless slapping on the backs of our heads which, since it was done almost daily and with increasing ferocity, might have done some of us the kind of damage a boxer’s punches do: separate the brain’s thin membrane from the skull. While boxers do sometimes suffer from Alzheimer’s-like symptoms, despite the teachers’ worst efforts none from my class met similar fates—praise God who loves little children more than he does vicious disciplinarians.

Then we had the appetising ear-twisting that turned our listening apparatus into red tomatoes. Equally artful was the pulling of the earlobes as if they were made out of genuine Malaysian rubber. Sometimes we were made to wear comical dunce-caps and made to perform guard duties outside the classroom and which generated not standing ovations but ridicule from passer-byes. And the ‘special children’ who suffered from incurable disobedience were always sent off to the principal’s office to face immaculate suppression. After returning they remained temporarily reformed for only a few hours; there was no such thing as a permanent cure or perfect obedience.

All that wham-bam punishment was designed to make us say “Thank you ma’am!” But there was one problem: the school’s arsenal only had one good-looking ma’am, Madam Shama Atarid, who had by then receded two years into our collective past. We must digress here to describe how she was able to change our lives in subtle but wild ways.

Tigers without stripes

Madam Shama Atarid, throughout class five, remained our utterly harmless and a totally sleeveless teacher. But a year later when her mother, Madam Atarid, took charge of us in class six, corporeal punishment firmly became part of the syllabus.

In those days there were all over Pakistan petrol pumps that displayed the ESSO sign and which represented an oil company called Humble Oil (later Exxon Mobil). To promote Enco and Esso Extra gasoline brands their advertising firm came up with a campaign in 1959 which became so popular that Time magazine declared 1964 to be ‘The Year of the Tiger’.

Esso’s oily product, ‘Tiger’, was represented by a tiger mascot. First appeared bumper-stickers claiming “I’ve got a Tiger in my tank”, and then came handing out of toy tiger-tails to customers who had their car tanks topped up with the product. Since the slogan was 'Put a Tiger in your tank', every man but not necessarily every woman in our conservative society, wanted a tankful of a liquid that promised more miles and speed. The spongy toy tiger-tail was a foot in length, aptly covered with tiger-striped cloth and featured an elastic band that enabled any young child to wear it for fun. They sold millions of these tiger-tails in America alone. All that booming business and animal behaviour found its way into our school as well.  

One day Ma’am Shama discovered a ‘fidgety boy’ playing with one such tail in the classroom. Had he attached the tail to his rear he might have been allowed to go scot-free but instead he affixed the tail to his naughty end. However, the young teacher planted the tail where it truly belonged and positioned the boy outside the classroom for the duration of an entire forty-five minutes period. As far as I can recall, this young back-bencher was a fine example of a perfectly under-loved and over-sexed boy. I do not know whether later in life he married a tigress or remained unmarried cherishing the memory of the one who actually tied a tiger-tail to his rear end.

The ESSO tiger's tail for real men
Punishment is known to sometimes emotionally shut off a person for life but the Creator protected me from such suffering. And if I were to place nine years of schooling on one side and the single year I spent in Madam Shama Atarid’s class on the other side of the scale, the latter would outweigh the former on all counts. She exuded love of such wuthering heights that I said “Thank you ma’am” in my heart almost every day. As of this writing, she still resides, age nineteen, inside millions of Anthonian brain cells spread evenly across the globe.

Armyman of science

Disciplinarian teachers—let us not call them sadists—came in all shapes and sizes. One such unique specimen was Mr Fardy, our science teacher, whose full name was Major Jack John Fardy. He was born in Rawalpindi. As an artillery man, he spent four years stationed in Burma with the Indian Army and was later absorbed into the Pakistan Army. When the British hurriedly partitioned the sub-continent in 1947, he performed border duties to ensure the safety of immigrants from India into Pakistan. Later in 1948, Mr Fardy served at the Kashmir front with Lt. Col. S.M.A. Shirazi who happened to be a class-fellow’s father.
Major Jack John Fardy (1958)

For a while, Mr Fardy taught at the Artillery School of Quetta, then retired in 1957 and finally married Molly whose real name was Maria Teresa. Born in Multan to parents who worked for the Railways and the Royal British Air Force, she taught English at St. Anthony’s High School. Together they produced two sons, Sean and Adrian. While the younger Adrian arrived every morning at school sitting on a baby-seat attached between his father’s crotch and the bicycle’s handle, the older Sean rode his mother’s ladies’ bicycle to indicate that manliness was around the corner.

The Fardys lived behind Taj and Crown cinema halls in Garhi Shahu, an area almost exclusively occupied by members of the Christian community. Syed Muhammad Latif in Lahore – its History, Architectural Remains and Antiquities, mentions on page 165 that originally this suburb was called Khair Garh after its founder Abul Khair of Bokhara who died in 1719 A.D. Shahu Ki Garhi (Shahu’s fortress), being a small village, was abandoned during the Sikh period (1762-1849 A.D.) when it was occupied by a highway robber called Shahu.

We came face to face with Mr Fardy on the very first day in section-B of class eight; he was a mountain of a man—or so he seemed to us. We looked up at him with the kind of awe one reserved while watching a cinemascope film at Regal cinema hall’s foremost row and whose ticket cost only twelve Annas (seventy-five Paisas).

Mr Fardy's all-seeing spectacles
Our science teacher sported an army haircut that made him look like a strict drill sergeant. The round-framed Gandhi-style spectacles that he wore came with comfort wires which he carefully wrapped behind his small ears. The upper portion of his heavy nose had two depressions in the skin caused by the spectacles’ nose-pads. We never saw him lose the spectacles although we wished he did when he efficiently scribbled scientific formulae on the blackboard and whose sole aim was to replace all things artsy inside our brains. Out of habit, at least once during the science lessons, he would remove and clean the glasses, look comical without them, then blink at us blind as a bat, and remain unaware of boys making funny faces at him.

Unlike Mrs Davey from class four, Mr Fardy was more Indian and less Anglo, and had the skin of a brown sahib. There were many distinguishing features in Mr Fardy’s personality. His wardrobe comprised of three pastel coloured Gabardine suits on which he wore ‘shorty’ neckties. What kind of undergarments he wore was a subject that let our fertile minds run wild; at some point we agreed he wore camouflaged ones to throw off scent Indian soldiers who he imagined still pursued him since the Kashmir Front days. Being not at all into French after-shave lotions, Mr Fardy smelled of a germ-killer called Dettol and whose overpowering unpleasantness softly killed us ‘little germs’ on a daily basis.

Made in Ing-Land
I want to ride my bicycle

Mr Fardy’s humble means of transportation was a black Raleigh bicycle entirely ‘Made in England’, complete with a fully encased chain-train. The act of riding his bicycle sometimes produced much needed comedy at the school’s IN-gate whose metalled pathway sloped upwards. The incline forced Mr Fardy to bend his body forward to peddle quite hard and which sometimes produced loud artillery discharges of trapped bodily gases within hearing distance of the student brotherhood.

A consummate cyclist, Mr Fardy always clamped a metal clip over his right ankle to keep the trouser turn-ups in place. Probably it was a carry-over from the days when he owned a bicycle whose chain-train either left stubborn oily smudges on the trousers or chewed the turn-ups. A senior boy once recalled Mr Fardy’s frank admission to the class: “I’ve told my sons if they ever got hit by a car from behind while riding bicycles, they should roll over to the side to avoid serious injury.” This is how seriously he took the bicycle and army training.
Prototype of Porsche 911 'karara'

Major Abdul Mannan Munir Khan was the father of Ghafoor Mannan, a class-fellow whom Mr Fardy teasingly called ‘goofy’. The Major had also served in the Indian Army up until 1947 and was Mr Fardy’s junior by a few years. Whenever Major Khan came to the school he greeted Mr Fardy with “Hi John, how are you?”, then clicked his heels and respectfully proceeded to exchange pleasantries. Always a proud soldier, Mr Fardy once narrated to the class a war-tale:

“I was serving in Burma during World War Two when one day I was caught in a Japanese booby trap. It had me hanging upside down for a day or so. Then a British colleague came to rescue and cut me free with a knife. Close by lay a dead Japanese officer and from around that khota’s neck I took away a camera.”

“Sir, is booby trap a device used by Japanese women to lure wayward men?” came one mature question that was left unanswered but which produced the expected laughter.
A very 'booby' trap

“Sir, do you still have that khota’s camera?” asked another curious mind.

Mr Fardy’s threatening offer had the class in stitches, “Of course I do, you khota (donkey)! See this cane here? It’s gonna take your picture if you just say cheese”.

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©Tahir Gul Hasan, 2014

Read more about the close encounters with Mr Fardy in The Rocket-Science Of Mr Fardy - Part II