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First 'O' Level Class
by Amit Parmessur

1999. Saint Esprit College, Quatre-Bornes. Enter Mr. Kartz, our new Visual Arts teacher. We all stood up in deep respect to him but as he stepped in he tripped and almost fell into the abyss of shame. He should’ve been a successful footballer in his youth as his feet managed to hold his huge advancing jelly-like belly. He introduced himself as Mr. V. Kartz. We stifled our giggles.

“Good morning dear studunts,” he said enthusiastically, putting his old dog-eared books on the table. “Now! Now you are stipping into anuther world. I expect you’re all aware of it.” Pin-drop silence. Not that we were in awe. We were simply shocked by his accent, wondering how the best college of the island could appoint such a man.

Mr. Kartz then went on lecturing on how to behave like grown-ups in ‘O’ level. He even talked about good manners on seeing a boy picking his nose. The boy swore fervently he would never repeat it, at least in class. We were even advised not to let our sketch pads have dog ears. “Sketch pads and books are sicred, not dogs that want to hear!” he exclaimed, sitting in his chair and adjusting his spectacles.

Introduction to Visual Arts. “My dear students,” Mr. Kartz started slowly, “Visual Arts is an art!” One boy jumped and protested that Visual Arts should be rather a combination of arts as the name seemed to suggest. The old teacher immediately knew he was in for a rough ride.

“My sons,” he said calmly, “Visual Arts is not merely something visual. A picture is a thousand words; we should all be able to read and interpret any picture.” I had to calm down my neighbour who wanted to say that his mother might not approve of Mr. Kartz being his father. Another boy jumped from his seat and said that we did have our literature classes, both English and French. He claimed that he chose V. Arts thinking it would be different, about drawing and having fun. Mr. Kartz reassured him that there was no literature involved. In the mayhem we failed to notice his now perfect accent.

Then Mr. Kartz’s took out a photo – a fat man holding a crying baby. “Let your imagination have no bounds,” he said la John Keating in Dead Poets Society. “I won’t interrupt you.” I was chosen to interpret the picture.

“Sir!” I began solemnly, “This picture is telling a story of a million words.” I mused. “The fat man buys more soap than us to wash all the contours of his stomach. His eyes are like two newly-laid eggs of a hawk, suggesting that he has a sharp vision.” Mr. Kartz frowned.

“Can I continue, Sir?” I asked. Mr. Kartz’s nodded. “I guess the child is crying as he cannot pull the short hair of his father!” I said. “It’s maybe the picture of you and your father Sir.”

The bell rang and the class broke for lunch.