My First Duel with English

Addressing my colleagues, I said, “Aavart Saardi Mein In Dhatuon ko Kshariy Mudra Kaha Jata Hai” and the whole class burst into laughter. I was wondering what was up with other UP Board students, did they understand what was being taught in the class? However, once the class was over, I had a realization of the reality.


My class 12th exams were over; My father told me that I should prepare for MNR (Engineering Entrance Test was known as MNR at that time). It would help me become a good Engineer.

As soon as I discussed this with Yogesh, he said that he would not waste a year on coaching and would enroll in college in the upcoming session. The thought of studying without Yogesh did not please me. Since I had already made my mind, I dragged him to one of the prominent coaching Institutes of Agra to explore the available options.

I don’t want to name coaching institute; however, I can say it was on the Hariparvat Chauraha. I met the founder of that coaching institute, and he told me that the MNR exam was a month or so away and I could give the entrance exam if I wanted. This sounded like a good plan to me, and I got myself enrolled. The fees used to be somewhere around 6-7 thousand at that point in time.

First day at the Coaching Institute

I started to attend the classes regularly from the very first day. I had completed my school life in the same school and around same people ( except class 9th ). This was the first time I had come to study with new and unknown people.

I thought we would be taught “ Bhautik Vigyan, Rasayan Vigyan, and Ganit.” However, I was wrong. We were going to learn “Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics.”

I entered the class on my very first day and sat quietly on my chair. I could see a few others sitting alone like me. I could tell that they were also from UP Board just by looking at the way they sat. There were a few groups where students were giggling, and exhibiting a happy and confident personality. There was also at least one girl in each of these groups.

First Class

The first class was of “Physics.” The instructor came in and gave us an Introduction instead of “Parichay”. From his introduction, we learned that even though he looked like a 20-year-old, he had teaching ability equivalent to someone with 50 years of experience and there was probably no one in Agra better than him.

He started teaching. I opened my notebook and tried to write stuff down. However, I couldn’t. I had no idea what he was saying.

Even though I could listen to the words he was using, I had no idea what those words meant as he was using “English.” I could understand some random words like “is, am, are, here, there, up, down” however the words that accompanied them were still elusive to my brain. Those words just kept going to the Recycle Bin of my mind.

I had realized that I was quite literally stuck. I could never study like this. Then I put my notebook aside and focused on what the instructor was saying. Now I was a little bit more familiar with his words; however, I still had no idea what they meant.

Suddenly the instructor’s fingers came into action and drew Criss-Cross figures on the Whiteboard. This was the first time I had seen a Whiteboard. “This is Bhautic Vigyan” I said. The same subject that our Kamendra Sir had taught us. Upon realizing this, I was jubilant. He was drawing figures on the whiteboard and I was comparing them to what I had in my mind. Exploring my mind, I realized that it was “apvartan and paravartan”. He had been teaching my favourite topic this whole time.

Once he finished drawing the figure, he started to explain it. Now that I knew the topic, my mind was more perceptive to his words. I was now able to make sense of it as I was able to relate what he was saying to what I had studied earlier. I could not figure it out completely as I still did not know many essential words. Just the way an umpire’s arm goes up to declare someone out, my arm went up.

“Yes,” said the instructor.

“I do not understand anything in English, please teach in Hindi,” – I said this and the whole class started looking at me as if I was an Alien.

“Most of the kids here are from English Medium hence I can’t teach in Hindi. If you have any confusions just ask I will explain that in Hindi” – replied the instructor.

“I will only have questions if I got any of it,” I said to myself. I also decided to keep calm for a few more hours.

The interesting thing was that there was nothing on this topic that I did not know of. Now that I had realized what this figure was about, I could have explained it to the whole class. I still could not understand what the instructor was teaching. Hence I went into the analysis as to why this was happening and came to the conclusion that this was happening because I could not understand the instructor’s words.

I tried hard to find the meaning of the words he was using. Then the instructor wrote “Refractive Index” on the figure. I identified the word which was bothering me for quite a while. I raised my hand again.

“Yes,” – said the instructor.

“What do you call this word “Refractive Index” in Hindi?” – I asked the instructor politely.

“I don’t know. You call this “Refractive Index.” Have you not studied this in class 12th?” – The instructor replied tauntingly, and the whole class started laughing.

“I know the figure and can explain this to the whole class, but I don’t know the meaning of this word. If I did, I would understand the whole thing.” – I said.

“You’re not the only one from UP board here. The other students have no problem in understanding it. I can’t change the way I teach just because of you. Please sit down.” – The instructor replied. I looked around myself, and all the other UP board students were sitting quietly with a smug smile as if they understood everything. I missed Yogesh a lot in class that day. Class got over, and I had not understood anything.

The Second Class

The first class was over. I was praying for the second class to be of “Rasayan Vigyan” however my prayers were unanswered, it was of “Chemistry”.

My mind was ready to play a Test Match with English words. Let most of them go and score a few runs by taking easy shots on the simple words to make myself feel like I know stuff.

The instructor came in and started speaking. I could understand a bit of Physics as it had figures but how was I supposed to get anything in Chemistry. The instructor kept on speaking, and the whiteboard still had the figures from the previous class. He started to point towards the huge poster of Periodic Table next to the whiteboard to explain something.

I raised my hand a little later.

“Yes,” said the instructor.

The whole class knew what I was going to say before I said it. “Please teach in Hindi,” I said.

“It is not possible to explain the whole thing in Hindi. If you don’t understand anything ask me, I will explain it in Hindi” said the instructor.

This time I was going for it. I said once I understand which element you are talking about I can go home and study it. So when you talk about a new chemical element, could you just write that element’s name on the whiteboard? That will be more than enough for me.

This time the instructor agreed and wrote “Alkaline Earth Metals” on the board.

I raised my hand again.

“Yes,” said the instructor.

“Could you also tell me what this is called in Hindi?” – I said.

Ravana’s Ten heads, Meghnad and Kumbhkaran together could not laugh as hard as the whole class was laughing.

Now I had decided I was going for it, who was going to stop me. I did not sit down until I had an answer. A little later everyone calmed down and the instructor said “I don’t know what this is called in Hindi. If anyone else knows, please translate it.” There was pin-drop silence.

I did not expect anything from the CBSE board students. The fact that UP board students sat with their mouth shut made me realize that they did not understand anything. Their pride was more important than their ambition to become an Engineer.

Then I asked the instructor to point towards the “Aavart Saardi” when he talks about an element. He said,” Point towards what?”.

I said “Aavart Saarni,” and there was a pin drop silence in the class again. This was the silence before the storm.

“What’s that?” – the instructor asked.

“The one that is next to the whiteboard,” I said.

“Oh! The Periodic Table.” The instructor said and the whole class now burst into laughter. The word “Aavart Saardi” was so peculiar to the people in the class that they found it funnier than a Rowan Atkinson Act.

Once everyone settled down, the instructor pointed towards this Periodic Table and my Aavart Saardi and said these are the “Alkaline Earth Metals” I was talking about.

“Alright, we call it “Kshariya mrada dhatu” in Hindi,” – I said.

I was expecting laughter but what followed was smiles and question marks on the people’s faces. Their eyes said they did not get the joke.

I knew a little bit of English but I felt pity for the other people in my class who did not understand difficult Hindi. I stood up from my seat took the marker and wrote “Kshariya mrada dhatu” on the whiteboard. Eventually, everyone started looking at me sarcastically and what followed was a burst of laughter higher than that of Ravana.

I sat back down on my seat. Now I knew what the main word meant; I would try and link everything else to it and revise it at home. I still learned nothing.

After The Class

Once the class was over, I realized there was not going to be a Math class today. Hence I walked towards my bicycle. I suddenly heard someone some once calling me from behind.

“Hey, stop,” they said. I turned and saw a few guys coming towards me. I recognized the faces; they were in the class with me. I stopped.

When they came close, I realized that they were angry. “You made fun of us in the class,” one of them said.

“First of all, I don’t know you. I did not talk to anyone in the class. How could I have made fun of you in the class?” I asked holding my anger.

“You made fun of all the kids from UP board. Now all the CBSE kids will know we do not understand anything in English. They will now make fun of us every day.” One of them said.

“Tease you because of English, Why? Who is stopping you from making fun of them because they do not know Hindi?” I replied.

“I have come here to study. I have paid money for it. If I don’t understand anything, I will ask questions. If you have issues with that, you are free to join any other batch.” I told them abruptly.

“You don’t know anything. Being bad In English is a matter of shame.” One of them said.

“ There is nothing in my life that is affected by me not knowing English. I am getting late and I also have to study as I did not understand much in the class” I said and cycled towards my home.


On my way home I was thinking as to why they are wasting their money if they do not understand English. If it keeps going on like this and they don’t start teaching in Hindi, I would ask for a refund. Moreover, what could be the downside of not knowing English, I did not get.

I felt pity for the people who did not know Hindi. They could not read “Commando Dhruv”, “Nagraj”, Doga”, “Bankelal” etc. Even as kids they must never have read the great magazines like “Nandan”, “Champak” etc. The worst part is that they had spent their life without getting the opportunity to read “Munshi Premchand”. This was all that I was thinking while I was cycling my way home.

All’s Well That Ends Well ☺

Irrespective of how the coaching was, not only did I give the exam, I cleared it. This was not my last confrontation with the Monster we call English but it was the first of many.

This article is just the teaser; Movie is yet to come. I will share my other duels with English as well later. But for now, do let me know what you think about this article. I hope that you laughed while you read It.

Special thanks to Abhishek Mishra and Soumya for translating this blog post. Original article is in Hindi and available here.
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