Come, let us visit the Moin family. Here we have the parents, Mama and Papa, who divide their time equally between worrying about their children and being pleased with them. Here we have Leena, the eldest child, who attends college online after being dropped from her bricks-and-mortar college roll. Here we have Inaya, the middle child and the second girl, repeating a year to get better grades in her O Levels. She is waiting for the result of her mock exams any day now. The youngest, Jasir, prefers to spend his time doing things like figuring out how to get back at cousin Arisha for making a fake Instagram account of Inaya. As far as school is concerned, Jasir must choose between Matric and O Levels to proceed with his studies. Now let’s look at another day in the lives of the three siblings.
“My dear sisters!” Jasir’s voice boomed into the room before he did. “Now is the time that you lead me on a journey-of learning.” He shuddered. “Let’s get this over with quickly.”
“What on earth are you talking about, Jasir?” Inaya asked, peering over the top of the book she was reading.
“I think he’s asking for his tour of our textbooks, your O Level ones and my Matric ones,” Leena said, closing the laptop and turning around to face Jasir. “That’s what you’re asking for, isn’t it?”
“Yes!” Jasir made a face and shuddered again. “The less time I spent around textbooks, the better. So, this bookshelf here is where we have the goods?” He pointed.
“That is a bookshelf of cookbooks and comic books,” Inaya said, suppressing a smile. “It’s the overflow shelf that has the books that don’t fit anywhere else. Now, let me lead you to the area of interest for this textbook exhibition.” She made her way across the room to a low shelf crammed with well-used textbooks. “We begin this exhibition with the compulsory subject books. Here you have the Maths books, but next to them, wonder of wonders, the Maths help books! Whenever you can’t untangle an equation, you can consult the help book to get it untangled for you.”
“I’d rather avoid numbers altogether, but as I can’t avoid school, it’s good to know that you can look the answers up,” Jasir said, bending down to look at the books.
“Next subject.” Inaya spread her hands out over the textbooks in question. “Here you have...Urdu! Have no fear, if you don’t know what the poet is saying, you can open up the answer books and find a good explanation for you to read up.”
“Inaya.” Jasir tilted his head and looked sideways at her. “Is the story behind every subject the same? Help books and answer keys and solved practice papers and so on?”
“You got it.” Inaya smiled. “You’re quick on the uptake.”
“There must be more to these books, there are so many.” Jasir bent down and picked up a worn Biology textbook. Flipping through to the end, he let out a giggle.
“Hey, that’s private!” Inaya suddenly leapt forward and snatched the book back.
“So, this is what you do in class,” Jasir said, grinning. “Have written conversations in the back of your books with the people sitting next to you.”
“Don’t say that like it’s a new discovery that nobody knows about,” Inaya said, annoyed. “Everyone has something they do to make the class time pass quicker.”
“But still!” Jasir shook his head and kept grinning. “Aren’t you supposed to set a better example for your little brother?”
“Stop arguing,” Leena said, flapping a hand irritably in their general direction.
“I am going to uncover some secrets in your textbooks, too!” threatened Jasir.
“Uncover all you like,” Leena replied smoothly. “Are you done looking at Inaya’s textbooks? Do you want to see mine now?”
“Yes,” Jasir said. “I’m not particularly interested in going into too much detail. I just want an overview.”
“Sure. Just let me get them. You didn’t give us advance notice that you wanted the book tour, so let me bring them out from storage.” Leena walked over to the cupboards and opened them, looking around inside. Then she looked around some more.
“Inaya, did you move my old Matric textbooks?” Leena asked.
“I didn’t move them,” Inaya replied smoothly, “I sold them to the old textbooks reseller as soon as you were done with your exams. I knew you’d never miss them, and I got to enjoy a few extra ice cream cones into the bargain. What was there for me to lose?” Inaya beamed with a grin that was as bright as Jasir’s.
Jasir laughed loudly. “Now I know where I get my drive for mischief from,” he said. “Deep down inside, Inaya, you’re just like me!”
Leena frowned at her siblings. “Oh, well,” she said. “It’s not that much of a loss, but I always assumed my old textbooks were in the store room or something. I have a fond memory of putting away my textbook after each exam was over, with the feeling that I was done with that textbook forever.” She straightened up and looked at Jasir with concern. “How are you going to get an idea of what Matric textbooks look like now?”
“I’ll get an idea soon enough,” Jasir said, shaking his head unconcernedly. “I got assigned to the Matric class by default. My class teacher said she thought it was a good match for me. She sort of gave me the unofficial result of my qualifying exams that were meant to sort us into Matric and O Levels. We’ll be getting the official result soon. That’s when I will tell Mama and Papa.”
Both girls looked at each other and then back at Jasir.
“You kept it a secret from us!” Leena said.
“You should have told us,” Inaya said.
“I’m so glad you’re going to follow in my academic footsteps,” Leena said happily.
“I’m so glad the long-awaited decision has finally been made and now you can commit yourself to a couple of years of classic scholarly torture,” Inaya said brightly.
“I’m glad you both are happy for me,” Jasir said. “Thank you, thank you,” he added, motioning with his arms like a superstar asking his fans to settle down.
“Now that the suspense of your high school academic track has finally been resolved,” Leena said, “We can focus on other matters.”
“Yes, very urgent matters, thanks for bringing that up,” Jasir said.
“What are you talking about?” Leena asked, confused.
“There’s another journey you must go on,” Jasir said. “Showing Arisha around your ex-college without letting her know that you no longer study there.”
“Oh,” Leena said. “That.” Arisha was their annoying cousin who was always doing something irritating to someone. Their mother had promised her mother that Leena would show Arisha around the Women’s Community College, where Leena used to study before being dropped from the student roster by a clerical error.
“Hmm,” Inaya said.
“We’ve deliberated that Arisha was the one behind the stolen selfies,” Jasir said. “Now the question is, how to get back at her for what she did to Inaya?”
“We’re getting back at her?” Inaya looked surprised.
“Don’t you want to?” Leena asked her. Considering that Leena was usually the most rule-abiding and grown up of the three, her question came as a surprise to Inaya and Jasir, who just looked at each other in amazement.
“Leena being on board with this plan means that it’s all right,” Jasir said excitedly.
“We don’t even have a plan yet,” Inaya said, frowning. “What are we going to do?”
“Leena taking Arisha on tour of the Women’s Community College is the perfect chance to strike,” Jasir said.
“OK,” Leena said slowly, “But how do we strike, exactly?”
“Just do as I say,” Jasir said, rubbing his hands together with glee. “You have to take some bad pictures of her in just the way I tell you to. Leave the rest to me.”
“But why pictures, Jasir?” Inaya asked.
Jasir grinned. “She messed with us in terms of photos, we will mess with her in terms of photos, too. Just wait and see.”
Mama and Papa were happy to hear about Jasir being assigned to the Matric class at school.
“Now that’s a good boy,” Papa said cheerfully, patting Jasir on the back. “Work hard and avoid failing your exams, son.”
“You should tell him to succeed at his exams instead of avoiding failing them,” Mama said, surprised.
“Just being realistic here,” Papa said, smiling. “I am sure Jasir will put all of his energy into sports and mischief and leave the barest minimum for his textbooks. Which reminds me, we should go get him his new books soon.”
“Don’t be in too much of a hurry to do that, Papa,” Jasir said quickly.
“What about you, Inaya?” Mama asked. “When is your mock exam result coming out?”
“They will let us know soon,” Inaya said, looking worried. “They’re taking their time checking our papers.”
“Your midterm results were fair,” Papa said, remembering. “I am sure your mock exams will be good as well.”
“My daughter wears herself out studying yet doesn’t earn high enough grades.” Mama sighed. “I suppose not every child can turn out as bright as Leena...”
Inaya rolled her eyes in the general direction of her elder sister. Leena pursed her lips and didn’t say anything, observing that Inaya was truly annoyed.
“Hey Inaya, by the way, your phone was lying on the kitchen counter again,” Jasir said, holding it up. “Look what text message you just received - it looks like your mock result has been out since this morning.”
“Jasir!” Inaya shot up from her seat and sped to Jasir to get her phone back. Jasir cackled and jumped away, holding her phone aloft.
“Mocks results, mocks results, come get your mocks results here,” he sang.
What results did Inaya get for her mock O Level exams? Will Jasir’s plans to get back at Arisha bear any fruit? Let’s wait and see what happens in next month’s instalment of Hackschool Project.