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‘Swami Is Expelled From School’ is an excerpt taken from the famous novel ‘Swami and Friends’. This scene takes place in Malgudi, an imaginary town in India where Swami and his friends get caught for being absent to school and are punished severely by the headmaster of their school.
About the Author:
Rasipuram Krishnaswamy Iyer Narayanaswami (1906-2001), better known as R K Narayanan is an eminent Indian Author from Chennai. He was the recipient of several awards for his works, including Padma Bhushan. Famous works of his include ‘Swami and Friends’, ‘The Financial Expert’ and ‘Bachelor of Arts’.
The theme of this excerpt is corporal punishment that had been prevalent in Indian schools at that point of time. Young children were hit with cane for mistakes they committed, planting a deep sense of fear towards school in itself, as can be seen when Swami walks away with angry tears in his eyes.
The Head Master:
The excerpt begins with the portrayal of the headmaster, who is shown in a fierce light. The students of Swami’s class tremble with fear as he yells at them and questions them about their absence on the previous day. He insulted those students in front of the class, calling them out and making them stand on their desks as a punishment. Swami was utterly humiliated. If that hadn’t been enough, the headmaster asked each of them for their reason for absence.
Those who were called out tried their best to provide good reasoning, in vain. Those who stated that they had physical ailments had to submit medical certificate. One, who had stated that he had not known that the school had been working was rebuked, with him being marked absent for ten days hence, a fine of two rupees and being forced to stand atop his bench the whole day. Yet another one who spun an elaborate tale on the death of his grandmother was hit on his knuckles and was called names, in addition to being suspended for fifteen days.
The Pink Ears:
As Swami’s turn approached, he was filled with a sense of trepidation. Nervous beyond belief, he directed his frustration towards his friend Rajam who was sitting stoic, or rather, his pink ears. However, the headmaster’s cane brought him back to reality. When he couldn’t give a coherent answer due to his fear, the headmaster had the peon brought in, who revealed that it had been Swami who had thrown a stone on the headmaster’s window. Blows rained down on him accompanied by verbal abuses, even as he pleaded to his headmaster to stop. Eventually, the headmaster orders him to keep standing on the bench until he said otherwise. Fueled by anger and a sudden bout of courage, Swami grabs his books and rushed out, muttering what a stupid school it was even as he ached everywhere.
This extract reveals how imposing heavy punishment on young children does not induce ‘respect’ but rather has the opposite effect. Abusing them physically and verbally does not discipline them but in fact, makes them grow to hate studies and the education system as a whole.