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I don’t know why, but I have always been interested in skimming different textbooks. In my childhood, when after every academic year I used to get new textbooks, I would just sit down with them and go through their pages and contents, even when I knew that by the end of that new academic year, I would be hating most of them. (I also used to think that the books smelled nice. Weird, I know, but I really like the smell of the pages of a new book.)
My interest in an unseen textbook used to make me skim my siblings’ textbooks as well. I used to examine the contents of my elder brother’s textbooks to see what I would be studying in the coming years, while my younger sister’s books used to make me reminisce about different things… like, for example, the chapter that was really, really boring.
So naturally, I am also interested in textbooks that my younger brother (who is the youngest of us all siblings) has to study. Much of my interest is also triggered by the changes that have been made into the curriculum during the past 10 years. I don’t reminisce much because of these changes, but I still enjoy the skimming.
It was quite a surprise then when I noticed that English Grammar & Composition for Classes 9 and 10 (published by the Punjab Textbook Board) was, for the most part, unchanged. It still had the same essays, the same stories, the same letters, and the same translation exercises.
It even had the same Aabi.
I was introduced to Aabi in the following Urdu-to-English translation exercise:
عابی میرے بچپن1 کی دوست تھی۔ اکٹھے2 کھیلا پڑھا۔ پھر میری ایف-اے کے بعد شادی ہو گئی اور میں اپنے میاں کے ساتھ لندن چلی گئی۔ عابی نے آگے پڑھا یا اس کی شادی ہو گئی مجھے کچھ خبر نہ ملی۔ جب میں پانچ برس کے بعد وطن لوٹی تو ایک روز بازار میں اچانک3 عابی کی بڑی بہن سے میری ملاقات ہو گئی۔ میں نے بے تابی4 سے عابی کے متعلق5 پوچھا تو ان کی آنکھوں میں آنسو6 تیرنے لگے۔ میرا گھر نزدیک ہی تھا۔ میں ان کو اپنے ساتھ لے آئی تاکہ وہ اطمینان سے مجھے عابی کے بارے میں کچھ بتا سکیں۔
1. childhood 2. together 3. suddenly 4. impatiently 5. about 6. tears
I remember it very clearly: our English teacher had read aloud the above quoted paragraph, and all of us had cried together, “Ma’am! Translation can wait. Please tell us what on earth happened to Aabi!”
To this day, I have been unable to find out the truth about Aabi. Maybe she died. Maybe she got married and her husband turned out to be a nutcase. Or maybe she left for college one day and never returned. The textbook doesn’t mention the source, but I doubt that the paragraph belongs to a proper story. And if my doubt is correct, how hard it really would have been to add a sentence or two, explaining Aabi and her family’s ordeal?
Okay, so maybe I am over-dramatizing. Because now I am certainly not as curious about Aabi as I was 10 years ago.