Sometimes I wonder if my 12-year-old son and I speak the same language. It could be that I was brought up in England and therefore my vocabulary is slightly different from the Indian English. Or it could be the beginning of the age of not understanding each other!
Whatever the reason, he really gave me a trying time when early one morning, as he was getting ready for school, he told me that he needed an examination board. I was puzzled. Maybe it was a little too early in the morning for me, before my first cup of tea. Or it could just have been the terminology he was using. At any rate, we had an interesting dialogue evolving from this. I would call it conversation but as you'll see, it was anything but a conversation.
On hearing 'examination board' my mind quickly raced through the initials ICSE, CBSE.
'Which board?' I asked him.
'You know,' he said not very helpfully.
'No, I don't. Why don't you explain it for me,' I said.
He had to think for a while before he stuttered,
'An examination board'you know'pad.'
'Oh, you mean like for writing on?'
'Like A 4 size?'
'The long one, legal size,' I suggested, thinking he didn't understand.
'No Mum, you don't understand.'
That was no understatement. Keep your patience, I told myself, take a deep breath and all that.
'All right, tell me again.'
'I don't need paper, I need something to lean on in the exam, and it has a clip on it.'
'So you mean,' it finally clicked, 'a clipboard.'
'I suppose so,' he shrugged, a little too nonchalantly for my liking.
'Then what have you been using so far?' I asked him.
'Then how come you can't continue with that?'
'Because they think we'll cheat.'
Now he was getting rather impatient. Did I dare ask another question?
'How long have you needed the clipboard?'
'Well take twenty rupees and buy one from the bookshop.'
That should be the end of that, I thought. Wrong.
'What if it costs more than that?'
'Then get it tomorrow.'
'But,' he implored, 'I need it today!'
'You've been using a book to lean on so you can use a book for an extra day,' I suggested.
'Then they may say I'm cheating.'
'Which exam do you have today?'
'Then lean on a Math book,' I said quite calmly.
After he had gone to school, I mused over this dialogue. Yes it could be the different usage in language and since then I have heard other children calling a clipboard an exam pad. I actually asked a few children just for curiosity's sake. But somehow I did also feel that this is going to be the beginning of many miscommunications!