The SC/HSC exams for 2017 are presently being held and this unfortunately reminds me of a traumatic experience from my own childhood. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was taking part in the SC exams and that day I had my English papers. My cousin, who is the same age as me, took part in the same exams. When I reached home that day, I saw my cousin waiting for me. I opened the door and invited him inside and we started talking. Obviously, we talked about the exams and, at some point, he asked me whether I wanted to read a copy of the English essay that he had submitted. Honestly, this was the last thing I wanted to do at that time but I did not want to be rude. So I took the essay from him and started reading.
Almost immediately, my eyes fell on a sentence where he had written “I decided to went to the seaside.” This is a mistake; the verb coming after ‘decided to’ is always supposed to be infinitive. Anyway, I kept on reading and saw that he had again said “I decided to went swimming.” I realized this time that it was not an isolated mistake. I quickly read through the rest of the essay and saw that further down the narration, he had written “I decided to went back home”.
This was really embarrassing. I wanted to tell him, “What the hell is wrong with you? How can you leave so many mistakes in your essay and get me to read it like it was an original text from Shakespeare?” I finally chose not to say anything. We still had more papers to sit and I did not want him to lose confidence. So I simply said “Wow, that’s nice. I think you will get good marks for this essay. Keep it safely in your bag now.”
At that very moment, my auntie arrived. She lived in the street next to us and often came to see my mum. She saw us and said, “Bann zanfan, zot mama koté?”
“Mo mama pa ankor sorti travay,” I said. “Zot trouvé. Get ki ler to mama ankor pé travay, li pa ankor manzé nanyé. Sa mem zot bizin apprann bien lékol pou enn zour li aret pas mizer,” she told me.
“Nou bann bon zanfan. Nou aprann bien nou,” my cousin said.
“Bien bon alor. Mo trouvé zot pe fer zot dévwar, kontinié fer bon zanfan.”
“Nou pa pé fer dévwar nou. Mo ti pé montré li mo konpozision anglé. Ou anvi lir,” replied my cousin.
At that moment, I was thinking, “Oh no, please don’t show that, please.” My auntie said, “Non, mo présé la. Mwa ousi mo éna boukou louvraz pou fer. Kan to mama vini, mo pou vinn get li.”
I was relieved. Thank you, God.
But then, on second thought, my auntie said, “Sirma to inn ékrir enn zoli konpozision, samem to pé anvi mo lir. Doné mo lir lir ziska zot mama vini. Mo pansé li pré pou arivé mem la.”
She took the essay and started reading. A few seconds later, I heard her say “Kiété? ‘I decided to went to the seaside?’ Non... pa dir mwa to pa konn sa? Sirma enn ti érer inatansion sa.”
“Oui... enn ti érer inatansion mem sa,” my cousin said.
As for me, I started getting that discomfort you get in your stomach when you feel something disastrous is about to happen. My auntie kept on reading and suddenly, I heard say her exclaim, this time louder than the first, “Ala to’nn ékrir ‘I decided to went swimming...’ Sansé to dir mwa enn ti érer inatansion. Ala ankor la ousi ‘I decided to went back home...’ Koumsa ki to’nn aprann ékrir anglé?? Ankor to éna toupé dir mwa lir to konpozision koumadir bon zafer to inn fer???!!!”
Things were getting out of control and I started feeling sorry for my cousin. I did not know then that matters were about to go from bad to worse. Feeling the heat of my auntie’s anger on him, my cousin decided to deflect the attack by saying, “Li ousi li finn lir. Li’nn dir mwa li bon konpozision-la.”
My auntie was already angry but hearing this, she blew it off literally. “Ki? Twa ousi to’nn lir, to trouv sa bon? Sa vé dir twa ousi to’nn ékrir ‘I decided to went’? Bann fay piti... Zot mama pé travay ziska ki ler pa ankor manzé nanyé, pé avoy zot lékol zot pa aprann, vinn ékrir ‘I decided to went???’ Ki zot al aprann dan lékol?”
It went on and went on till I started secretly hoping my mum will come and put an end to the torture. Which she did, luckily for both of us.
Since that day, I am pretty sure I have not once made that mistake of writing ‘I decided to went’, nor do I give my opinion on anybody’s work. Often at the office, a colleague will call me and say, “Check this text, what do you think?” images from this fateful day flashes through my mind and I deliberately avoid giving my opinion, saying “Sorry, I think the boss is calling me, maybe he wants to give me a salary increase. Let me go and check.”
I then go for a long walk and just disparet lor map for some time.