A Million Dollar Question- How Do You...?

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A Very Happy, Healthy, Peaceful and Prosperous 2019 to all my readers and to even those who haven’t stumbled upon the blog yet or have given up reading it altogether! Before I unravel the mystery behind the million dollar question I would like to apologize in advance for beginning the year with this blog but then this question has bothered me for the past three months and now it is crucial that I get an answer to it. Also, just in case you think I have a million dollars to give, if you help me out…well, I am sorry again!

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Here goes…How do you tell a person that his socks stink? Do you find that funny or outrightly ridiculous? Well, if you do, it is obvious you haven’t been subjected to such torture. Saying anything unpleasant to anybody is difficult, especially if the person in question is sweet and unobtrusive. The situation I am in is particularly difficult.

Three months ago we engaged a tutor to teach our daughter mathematics. Maths is the only subject I cannot teach and her father seldom has time to teach her regularly. The problem gets compounded with the fact that she despises the subject and never reminds us that she is in soup till a few days before the exam (history does repeat itself!!). With the test results being nowhere near decent, I quietly checked on “Just dial” for tutors near my location and within half an hour I was given two tutors of which only one fit the bill.

I broke the news to father and daughter after they had lunch that afternoon and while the father had mixed emotions between displeasure and the inevitability of it, the daughter let out a wail. Her mother had just betrayed her. “I thought they were just empty threats. How could you really do this to your only daughter?” She stomped out of the room in a huff. I pacified the father first and then went to work on the fireball! I managed after promising her that I would only engage him if she liked him and felt she could learn from him.

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He came on Sunday half an hour after the stipulated time making my alarm bells ring about his lack of punctuality. A short man of medium build, receding hairline, a moderate moustache and a quiet disposition, Mr. R, arrived at our doorstep with no shoes. As is customary in many parts of India, particularly, down South, people remove their footwear outside the home before entering so that they don’t bring the dirt inside whether or not there is a doormat lying outside. He came and taught my daughter for half an hour and I was sure she would say she didn’t like him so I was totally surprised when she said a happy “Yes! He is good. I grasped what I hadn’t understood all this while. It is so simple. I like him. He is so expressionless and doesn’t realize when he switches to his own language which I cannot understand. Ha! Ha! I’ll learn from him.”

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Rather doubtfully, we asked him to begin the following Tuesday for three classes a week; evening classes each on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the third being, a morning class on Sundays. I was right about my intuitive alarm bells ringing. He was not punctual. This irritated me no end. A teacher cannot afford to be unpunctual. I would keep pestering him with incessant phone calls till he made it home but it was of no use. People in this part of our country do not understand the importance of time!! I stopped calling him and resigned to our fate for he was at least doing a good job of teaching our daughter. Of course, I did miss his “Hello” every time I called where he sounded exactly like  Mr. Bean.

The first few weeks were uneventful and then came the first set of tests and my daughter did amazingly well. Her confidence levels rose and she made it a point to practice her problems every day, a ritual that we had hitherto been rather unsuccessful in imbibing.

And then it began! One evening he came in as usual, and sat down to teach. As was customary, I walked into the kitchen shortly after to offer him water and tea. I was horrified at the stench I encountered. I felt guilty that the poor tutor was subject to this at my home. He would think we live in unhygienic conditions! As I was holding my breath and readying his snack, I also threw open the balcony door despite the threat of mosquitoes. I barely managed to hand over his tea and I exited feeling sorry for my daughter and him while wondering what was responsible for the stink- a dead mouse was a scary thought but it couldn’t possibly happen from zero to 100 percent stink. It would take time to decay and stink so I mentally ruled that out. Lost in my thoughts of who/what the culprit might be, I heard a faint bell and was shaken out of my deliberation due to the inevitable need to go back via the stinky dining hall to answer the door.

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My husband entered with a smile after a long day’s work and within minutes puckered up his nose. He exchanged very basic courtesies before entering the bedroom and saying, “That man’s socks stink! Do something. My daughter is getting tortured!” I couldn’t believe my ears! I had never smelt such a terrible odour before. It was the tutor all along and I had remained unsuspecting! If anyone has travelled by crowded local buses in summers then you must have experienced the stench from men’s armpits especially as they hold on to the railings above for support (my height being such that my nose reaches the armpit of tall men, I have had my entire nasal hair burnt under such prolonged torment!!) and take my word for it, that miasma was any day better than this!!

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He left presently and all we could discuss was how to prevent this from happening. Over the next few classes, we realized that this problem occurred during weekdays as our home was his last stop after a long days work.
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On Sundays ours was the first stop so he was prim and proper and devoid of odour. We tried everything from incense sticks to running the fan at full speed, from mosquito repelling camphor sticks to room fresheners, but his stench rose above everything! I tried standing at the door and telling him to keep his shoes on since cleaning hadn’t been done but I guess his mothers’/wife’s influence was stronger and he wouldn’t listen. Every time he left, the family was less interested in what he taught and more as to how to deal with his toxic fumes. We came up with bizarre ideas of breaking a glass (inspired by an actual incident that happened earlier) and scattering the pieces before he arrived and to warn him to keep his shoes on. My husband and I kept telling one another to have a talk with him but simple men have fragile egos too and neither was ready to bell the cat.

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Shortly after, my daughter became unwell and went through a whole lot which I do not want to talk about yet. As a consequence, the tutor’s services had to be terminated with a promise that we’d contact him when she got better. That time has come and there’s little more than a month before her final exams. How do we get him minus his stench is the million dollar question that we are dealing with, as the clock ticks! My daughter cannot afford to have an infection but this tutor teaches so well. 

Any ideas, anyone?
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  1. ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚Humour at its best! Guess what, I'm in the same predicament wrt my daughter's mathematical abilities. She can dance with elan, enact with humour and argue her way out of trouble but work on maths?.... Never. But I was fortunate to find a 'female' tutor for my feminist daughter who was also 'young and energetic' and appealed to her suave taste.
    Regarding the smelly socks, Why don't you gift him a few pairs with a kind, message written to spare you of the agony? Or maybe ask him to put the fresh ones on while he is at your place?

    1. Thank You Anu :) It is such a eureka moment when you manage to get somebody your kid accepts! As far as the socks suggestions go, I think he would get offended!! It just struck me...I think I'll ask him to stick to only Sundays, what do you say??

  2. Ha ha.... Had a good laugh while reading!
    The teacher should be politely told about the smelly socks. Period.

    1. :D I feel the same way but it hasn't happened yet. Will keep you posted!!

  3. Hmmm...tough one this time๐Ÿ™„

  4. Just the right read for the sporty kids/adults around me.


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