"... and that's a fact," said Mr. Banerjee to sum up his understanding of moral science. Mr. Banerjee loved making a point, and he invariably ended his arguments with these very words. After all, if it was a fact, you couldn't really argue about it, could you? It was in this way that Mr. Banerjee inducted morals into his children. "It is not good to eat your food with your left hand, and that's a fact."
"That's a very dirty habit. Don't pick your nose. It's indecent, and that's a fact."
"Don't speak back to your elders. We know more than you, and that's a fact."
"If you keep doing that, God will surely punish you, and that's a fact."
Finally, we got so tired of Mr. Banerjee and his facts that we decided to do something about it. So between Sanjay and Radhika and me we discussed it to death. "Put a frog in his lunchbox," I said, "Maybe he'll swallow it and choke." But Radhika said that was a kiddish idea. Just because she wears glasses she thinks she has lots of brains. So we asked her what she thought, and she wanted us to burn our moral science books and leave the ashes in his drawer. She said it would be like making a statement (She had just finished a book about the Russian revolution, and 'making a statement' was her new goal in life). So we told her that that sounded like the worst idea in the world, and that was definitely a fact. Sanjay didn't say very much after that, just chewed his nails and thought very hard -- his eyes darting all over the place in that funny way they always do when he's grappling with a problem. So we all sat around quietly, and I made designs in the sand with a twig. Then Radhika and me played Tic-tac-toe. I hate the game, but she likes to play because she always wins.
Anyway, Sanjay finally came up with an idea, and we all agreed to his plan. That night we slipped out of the hostel and ran over to Mr. Banerjee's little cottage. Radhika and me hid in the branches of the big tree near his house. Sanjay went and knocked on the door. When Mr. Banerjee opened the door, he buried himself sobbing into his chest and mumbled, "Sir please, please sir, help me sir..."
"What happened?" asked Mr. Banerjee. "Sir, sir ghost, sir. It chased me across the field, and is not allowing me to go back to the hostel, sir," came the reply. Mr. Banerjee laughed condescendingly, the light catching him at a strange angle -- making him look like some character from a carnival horror shop. "My dear boy, there's no such thing as ghosts, and that's a fact."
"Sir, please, sir, walk me back to the hostel, no sir. I'm very scared. If you come with me you can fight with the ghost sir."
So Mr. Banerjee put on his coat and began to escort Sanjay across the field. Then we started on our portion of the trick. Radhika cooed softly like a ghost and I shook the eerie sounding African drum my father had bough for me on his last business trip. Mr. Banerjee looked sharply around and we stopped our noises for fear he might see us. "Sir, sir, what was that sir?" trembled Sanjay. "Nothing, my boy, nothing. Don't worry, I say. There's no such thing as ghosts, and that's a fact." Mr. Banerjee did not sound so convinced any more. They walked on.
When they reached the next bend Radhika let out a blood-curdling scream and I twirled the drum furiously. Mr. Banerjee looked around wildly, and when he turned back -- Sanjay was gone! He had slipped quietly into a ditch close by and yelled so Mr. Banerjee thought he was in terrible danger. Mr. Banerjee suddenly looked very frightened and staggered about with his arms flailing wildly, trying to fight off the attacking ghosts. We led him a merry chase for the next hour or so, with Sanjay calling out to him at intervals -- "help me sir please", Radhika laughing and cackling like some crazy old witch, and me twirling my drum. When Mr. Banerjee had panicked, and his eyes were ready to pop out his skull, we decided that enough was enough. So we proceeded back to the hostel, and went to bed, after laughing ourselves to death over the prank we had played.
We found out later that Mr. Banerjee had searched frantically for more than half the night, and then made a report to the police about the missing boy and the ghost that had snatched him. They did not take his story about ghosts too seriously, and when they came to make their enquiry Sanjay was back in the dormitory anyway. And that is how Mr. Banerjee, our moral science teacher, became the laughing stock of the entire town. Well, we were suspended for a week, but Mr. Banerjee never ever uttered the words "...and that's a fact" again.
- Deesh Mariwala