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


Anonymous said...

oye khotay....fantastic, Mr. Fardy should be let loose on the GHQ's top jarnail.

Tahir Gul Hasan said...

Dear TGH Aasalmoaliakum,
Thank you for your excellent article on Mr Fardy. It was a fabulous journey down memory lane and brought a lump to my throat.
You are a very gifted writer (no wonder Mrs Davey made you the class monitor & later Madam Shama Utarid too!), musician, writer & also a lovely human being. May Allah bless you for it.
Have tried a couple of times to post comments on your website, unsuccessfully. The last time,only this morning but as soon as I pressed the preview button the whole page & half an hour of my damned hard work wiped off!
You article on Madam Davy is stunning !!!.You are absolutely fantastic.The details are unbelievable.
Allah has endowed you with an incredible Rolls Royce brain.
Can you copy & paste some of my comments on your website?
Love & Regards

Unknown said...

A good read, brilliant article Tahir. Humor is a form of exercise—a way of keeping the brain engaged. Your both articles are par excellence. Comedy extends our mental stamina and improves our mental flexibility .You have an active sense of humor, which helps us to get more from life, both cognitively and emotionally.
You always come up with unique topics. When you write seriously you are not particularly hindered by the reader's knowledge that you are trying to be serious. TGH, you have always been a writer with an eye for the surreal.
Thanks a lot !

Tahir Gul Hasan said...

Miss Ahmed, you have written a good review. This is a great habit which need not ever be given up.
You're right about my approach and whatever it is that you imagine about my work or style. I hope to do tremendous good to the readers' mental stamina and physical flexibility.
Who wants to be serious when there is so much comedy all around? not I.
Thanks for the comments.

Unknown said...

I'm glad that you liked my review, and really appreciate your encouraging comments. Thanks again Tahir !

Too often we underestimate the power of a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which has the potential to turn a life around.

I never give up on my habits.
Reading is to the MIND what exercise is to the BODY !
TC +