sunset
Photo: NICK SCHEERBART/UNSPLASH

Annual report

I do not know how it works these days, but during my time, no student liked being handed the annual report card at school. That official-looking document, you know, which documented a pupil’s academic performance for the year.

There was no joy in being told, especially by a stern-looking headmistress, that one’s work was substandard and one could do better by putting one’s heart into it.

By what method exactly to put your heart into solving unsolvable mathematical calculations was never explained. It was just assumed that, by rigorous practice, one would somehow grasp the basics of Sine, Cosine, Tangent and Theta of trigonometry.

Childhood traumas, meanwhile, take a long time to heal. I had a friend in South Africa who ran a successful restaurant business because of failing his tenth exam at school. Even after a span of three decades, he recounted the incident to me as if it had occurred only yesterday.

He was weak in Arithmetic, he said, so he had slogged doubly hard for it during his board examinations. He thought he had done pretty well in the test, so when the results were to be declared, he dressed in his favourite white shirt and dark trousers and waited at the entrance of the house for his father to bring the report card home. It used to be delivered by speed post back then.

When his Dad arrived, my friend rushed towards him, hoping he would get a congratulatory hug, but as he got closer, his father swung around and gave him a tight slap instead. Back in the day, it was not illegal to smack your kids if they did badly at school and my friend had flunked, miserably so.

Subsequently, he walked out of the house and asked around to get a job as a waiter in a coffee shop in the next town. Thereafter, he slogged and worked his way up to become one of the wealthiest restauranteurs in the African continent.

However, my personal annual report, detailing the year I had spent in sunny Portugal, was rather sketchy. I had succeeded in putting my house in order (took two months), cleared my car at the customs (10 months), planted a flowery bush by the desolate front porch (took five months) and hung the paintings and pictures on the appropriate walls (several months). But what I had been completely unsuccessful in doing was figuring out the erratic predictions of the weatherman.

Tempest-type of thunderstorms were a regular feature here. So, Fien visited us in January while Oscar, Babet, Aline and Bernard made their presence felt during the next few months in quick succession. Nevertheless, when Storm Domingos (Fred) was supposed to appear and cause severe devastation over the weekend – with the metrological department raising a red rain warning – I took note.

Accordingly, on the following Sábado, I secured the doors and windows, kept a lot of candles handy, stored drinking water, followed the regular bulletins on TV and waited.

On Domingo, nothing happened!

“The sun’s shining brightly,” my husband announced.

Pointedly, I ignored him.

“It has stopped raining too,” he continued.

Stoically, I picked up my diary.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Filing my annual report,” I snapped.

“Write, next year whatever the plan,” he dictated.

Patiently, I waited for the punchline.

“Never trust the weather man,” he supplied.

By Nickunj Malik
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Nickunj Malik’s journalistic career began when she walked into the office of Khaleej Times newspaper in Dubai thirty-one years ago and got the job. Since then, her articles have appeared in various newspapers all over the world. She now resides in Portugal and is married to a banker who loves numbers more than words.