I’d gone to wish my downstairs neighbour good luck for her Std. 10 exam. We had the customary conversation comprising of her saying, “Thank you so much! I need all the luck I can get!” and me saying, “Don’t worry, Std. 10 isn’t as big a deal as it’s made out to be!” Her younger sister, meanwhile, was reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

“That’s a good book! Are you enjoying it?” I asked her.

“Yes, I am! Ronald Dale had a very good sense of humour, didn’t he?” she said smiling.

“Roald Dahl. The author’s name is Roald Dahl; and yes, I like his sense of humour too!” I said, the corners of my mouth twitching. I had to apply all the self-control I could lest she feel I was laughing at her. I had had a flashback to nine years ago and the memory of a fiasco of an English Project had resurfaced…

***

Std. 8 was one of the most memorable school years I’ve had, mainly due to that English Project. That year we had to do it as a group project, the group comprising of all the students belonging to the same House. Four well-known authors – Rabindranath Tagore, R. L. Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling and Roald Dahl – were assigned, one to each House. We had to make a handwritten, decorated file with illustrations and photos about the author assigned to us, a PowerPoint presentation and about four or five students were supposed to recite a poem composed by the assigned writer. My House got Roald Dahl.

From the very beginning none of us had taken the project seriously. There’d been a good deal of procrastination. Eventually, since the other Houses had already got started with working on their projects, we had a meeting. So well-developed were our decision making skills! Within ten minutes we’d decided that the girls would work on the PowerPoint presentation and the boys would make the file. Just like that, without giving it any thought or consideration! One of our group members was quite adept at elocution. It was decided unanimously that she could take care of the poem recitation part of the project. There was overall satisfaction at having sorted out a nagging problem so quickly and everyone went off to have lunch.

The weeks passed by. Our House members were all very illustrious and enterprising! So each sub-group was under the misguided impression that the other parties were working harder at their allocated tasks than they were. We felt certain of the other sub-groups producing much better work than we would.  Whether or not we manage to produce satisfactory results, the overall grade would not suffer, we thought. We had such tremendous confidence in each other that we never discussed the status of each others’ work! Blissfully unaware that we were of exactly what was going on, on the day of submission les mots du jour were “Oh No!”

I was in the PowerPoint presentation team. Now the fact was, we girls had rather average PowerPoint skills at that time. (At that time, mind you!) But were we going to admit it? Definitely not! There’s this Girls vs. Boys thing at school level, isn’t there? You know; who are the better lot, that sort of thing. So turning to the guys for help and general tips was completely and utterly out of question! Unfortunately, not only had we ladies taken leave of our common sense but also our artistic sense. I don’t know why or how we chose dull, sick colours like pale green and grayish-blue as a background for slides about a man who mainly wrote humour. We had initially chosen Times New Roman as the font, but thank Heavens we changed it to Comic Sans MS later on. We’d also been rather lazy about gathering information. Hence our presentation had extremely less content. As a last resort, to prevent it from looking too shabby, we’d added a few basic animation effects to the slide show.  Undoubtedly, the presentation lacked finesse, as the boys were quick to point out.

I’m sure we all agreed to it in our minds. But no way were any of us girls going to show our assent!

“Let’s have a look at the file then!” I said, scowling.

The expression on my friend’s face flickered for a moment. He said he’ll be back with it in a minute.

I took that time to compose myself.

“The file will be up to the mark. They must have chosen a bright colour for the cover; maybe purple or orange or yellow. They also seem to have taken efforts to Google lots of information. And two of them are supposed to be good at drawing. The file will fetch us a good grade, despite the ridiculous joke of a presentation” I reassured myself.

My friend returned.

“Here you are!” he said and, with a flourish, put the file into my hands, the cover of which was…

Black!

Black???

Roald Dahl wrote HUMOUR, for Heaven’s sake! Why would anyone choose black? Why?

My best friend and I exchanged glances and then turned our gaze back to the file.

“Oh well, never mind the colour of the cover. The content is more important.” we telepathically told each other.

We turned over the front page. The first page. The second. So far all was well. On the third page, glaring straight at us, were mistakes that were literally underlined. In huge letters, bold and thick, we found written ‘Roald Dahl’, ‘Rohald Dal’ and ‘Ronald Dale’; all three combinations on the same page and placed at equal distance from each other! Also, the size of handwriting, we noticed, was increasing gradually page by page; an obvious attempt to hide the fact that the file was just as short of content as the presentation.

“What on earth are we going to do now??” we asked each other.

Whilst we were coming to terms with the fact that we’d all screwed up big-time and that this was undoubtedly the worst project any of us had ever done, the final bolt of lightning struck us. We’d had a lot of trouble finding a poem composed by Roald Dahl. We’d scoured high and low, hunted through various books and websites, but to no avail. Finally, two days prior to the date of submission we’d reached the conclusion that Roald Dahl had probably never bothered to try his hand at poetry. But there was no getting away from reciting a poem. So we coolly decided to pick any poem at random and pass it off as one composed by our assigned writer. If at all our teacher realized that we were trying to pull the wool over her eyes, we would tell her that we ourselves had been deceived by the Internet, we decided! Now, the thing left unsaid was that the poem had to be a lesser known one by a lesser known poet. It wasn’t supposed to be Silver, a very famous poem by Walter de la Mare – a poem which even a nine-year-old would know wasn’t by Roald Dahl, seeing as it was included in the English textbook we’d had in Std. 4!

At the eleventh hour we were in a state of complete chaos. We were in the soup. There was nothing for it now. We were looking at an E grade if not an F. We handed over the file, gave the presentation and recited the poem, feeling deflated. The pantomime concluded. We began to trail back to the classroom from the computer laboratory. Just as the last of us had reached the door we heard a smothered, choked sound. We turned around to find a rare sight! Our grim, stony-faced English teacher was actually laughing!

Seeing her laugh made us laugh too! We laughed and laughed for fifteen minutes straight, we laughed at our absurdness, we laughed at our mistakes, we laughed at us and we laughed with us!

“Alright students! That’s enough now! Please go back to your classroom and send the next group,” our teacher finally said.

***

Looking back at that day, I realize that complete fiascos often make beautiful memories! Memories of good times, fun and pleasant moments… Memories that brighten a dark, stressful day and refresh the mind! Memories that remind you to first learn the lesson and then laugh off the bad times. Lovely, beautiful memories… 🙂

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Do YOU have memories of a fiasco which, on retrospect provided you with lots of laughs? Tell me about them!

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