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November 24, 2015

H for 'Hall of Fame v/s Hall of Shame'

I am sure every one of us can recall incidents that leave a strong impact on our lives. Sometimes, the smallest of things bring about a permanent change in our outlook, our personality. We might not realize it then, but years later when the haze of the past clears and that one incident comes shining through, you realize that it is responsible for making you the person you are today.

I remember one such incident from my primary school days. Yes, I know it is not really possible to have lucid memories from so far back then. But somehow this has managed to create a stamp ink memory which just refuses to go away. Our class teacher Ms Suzy was a pretty young thing; a heart shaped face, deep set eyes and a soft spoken personality that not just made her our favorite but also allowed us to take her for granted. She treated all the children with a warm maternal disposition, never once losing her temper on any child. Yet, there were these dare devils who loved trying her patience. They would get their uniforms dirty during sports class, splash ink all over their hands, color outside the lines in their drawing book, leave their class work incomplete, tear up pages from notebooks because they liked the sound of paper tearing, and create a ruckus in the class room (you get the drift, don't you?).

Now, it is with great embarrassment that I have to tell you that yours truly led this pack of hooligans.
Me and my cronies were always up to no good, troubling her with our shenanigans. Nothing she would say or do would cause us to behave. Hitherto, she had tried to distract us off our mischief with all the tricks in the book. But all in vain. We'd take pride in being the cause of her headache. We'd enjoy the surprise in her bewildered eyes every time she saw what we were up to. Troubling her had become a part of routine.

Until one day, Ms Suzy explained the concept of the two halls. We looked at her open mouthed as she divided one corner of the black board in two equal parts. On one side, she wrote the words, 'Hall of Fame', and the other was labelled 'Hall of Shame'. She explained that every time we did a good deed, our names would be included in the former list, and when we committed a shameful act, it would be mentioned in the latter group. She further elaborated that God too maintained similar lists for people. We stared at her in awe. We, kids at that impressionable age, were gullible enough to believe that Mr God was watching us trouble Ms Suzy and keeping tab. We instantly felt guilty over our actions.

On reaching home, I narrated this incident to my mother. I wanted to counter check if this was actually possible. Was there really such halls of fame and shame? My mother smiled. She was only too happy to play along. If sticking with Ms Suzy's story meant taming the brat I was, she would do it.

"Every time you refuse to eating your veggies, your name goes in the Hall of Shame," she said with a serious face.

I looked disdainfully at the salad in my plate.
"And if I eat it, will God add my name in the Hall of Fame?" I asked, slowly raising the fork to my mouth.

"Hmmm...only if you do all your home work on time and stop troubling Ms Suzy," my mother said, suppressing a giggle.

The next day, at school, I behaved like a prize student. I got mentioned only once in the Hall of Shame (for pulling Geeta's pigtails). But I was listed in the Hall of Fame during Arts class. I had drawn within the lines and not chewed off any crayon. I was happy. Ms Suzy looked pleased too.
Soon enough, the enthusiasm spread among all the kids. Each one of us strived to get our name listed in the Hall of Fame. Our uniforms no longer got dirty, our books were neat, and our class work was done on time. The mischief mongers would get into the Hall of Shame and become the laughing stock of the class. At the end of every month, Ms Suzy would award the student with the most mentions in the Hall of Fame with a bar of chocolate. Soon enough, the whole class became an example of exemplary behavior. Ms Suzy had managed to get the whole class in good conduct, without raising her voice. As usual, she had figured the best way out.

I recently met up with a couple of school friends over coffee. We spoke about old times, and Ms Suzy. The concept of the two halls had stayed with us all through our growing up years. We agreed that somewhere at a deeper sub conscious level, we still believe in it. We are no longer as gullible as we used to be. But it does help us stay in check. There is no Ms Suzy to chart out lists and mention names anymore. There are no class mates to tease and laugh at our embarrassed faces. There is no prize chocolate waiting for those of us on our best behavior. All we have now is a conscience that Ms Suzy helped to shape.

And as long as we know where we are going, we will find a road to take us there...

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H for 'Hall of Fame v/s Hall of Shame' is the eighth post in the 'A-Z Series' of posts, a chain of write-up's by me on topics starting with each alphabet of the English language. Read back and forth for the other posts, and please feel free to contribute your thoughts on the subject.

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