Mr Leyburn's Speech

Aman Kapila

It’s humbling to stand here and to try and sum up a life in words. In many ways it’s impossible and I’m not going to assume that I knew Aman as well as his close friends and family, but he was the kind of person that made you feel like you knew him.

Aman possessed a talent for English. If you look through his reports from year 7 onwards, it seems universally agreed that he produced excellent work, insightful contributions and was enthusiastic, energetic and talented. Other comments the English department has given him over the years include ‘v chatty’ and ‘easily distracted’. What the reports don’t mention is Aman’s habit of getting himself into mild trouble and then grinning his way out of it.

What I’d like to do is to read you some of his own work. Aman worked hard on his original writing piece and he has left us at least a part of the record of his thoughts. I should say that he has exaggerated some incidents and feelings for comic effect, and that what I am about to read was written with Becky’s approval.

Those teenage girls: what are they? Being a boy, life is simple: lots of food, girls, drink and sleep. Then... a little: school, homework, revision and family time.

As for my female counterparts, life is full to the brim and ready to collapse at the first sign of trouble. One minute you think “Wow, she looks good,” the next “what is this crazy, unreasonable, unmanageable creature?”

Take yesterday. Things were going great. We went back to our own houses and I couldn’t wait for tomorrow. When I next saw her I got a massive earful about how I didn’t call, how I didn’t text, how I don’t care. Come on, Woman! What’s wrong with 10 hours of peaceful sleep?

Don’t get me wrong. I love the company of my female companion. I just feel sorry for the people raising the unladylike creatures, constantly in demand for a lift here or a couple of quid there. They seem to think of their parents as the Royal Bank of Scotland and London Cab Service combined.

I, being behind enemy lines, can inform you that even top-of-the-range models can be quite a handful. I would much rather you select a male version, for example this fine, young Indian writer. In my essence I am a male campaigner fighting to keep just the few teenage years free from the female market, though I’m not sure how this should be approached: perhaps by locking them in a vault on the bell of their thirteenth birthday with the possibility of release if they are of sufficient quality at the sound of their eighteenth.

My complaints come from a state of awe about how anything can come to be like this. I blame the parents. If a boy was to come in half an hour late the sole question would be “were you taking drugs?” In my female counterpart’s case it’s “are you OK? Shall I run the bath?”

Where is the fairness in that? I’m not implying that boys are perfect at all, but how can something of the same race, age and education be so different?

In the days after Aman’s death, we tried to set down some of our thoughts and memories about him. Like in most classes, some people knew him better than others. A large part of the messages recalled various exchanges between Aman and me, most of them impressed by what he could get away with. I’d like to read out three of those memories now for you:

I didn’t know you that well, but you were always nice to me. You were nice to everyone.

I will always remember Aman ringing Becky in the middle of an English lesson. Leyburn would be mid-word and you would hear Becky scream Aman, and then Aman burst out laughing.

You managed to cheer me up all the time. Even when I was angry with you I wasn’t serious because I couldn’t be.

The last one is probably nearest to my experience of teaching Aman. Pretending not to be impressed or laugh so that he’d try harder.

I don’t feel that I’ve come close to doing Aman justice, and I apologise for that. Perhaps what made him such a rare sort of person is that he was happy with himself and he wanted everyone else around him to be happy too. So when I remember Aman, I hope it’ll always be with a sense of pleasure, and I’ll finish with a very short poem in that spirit about what it was like to teach Aman.

A Pleasure to Teach

Ever-present, effervescent, non-delinquent adolescent
Inquisitive, sensitive, rudely inoffensive
Could try harder, multi-tasker, have a guess at the right answer.
Charming blagger, cheeky bugger
Original writer, verbal fighter.
Front row student. Teacher’s orders
Now I’ve got you at close quarters
Untroubled by the trouble you’re in,
you’ve got your get out of jail grin,
Forgot your book, forgot your pen, left anthology at home again
With a sigh I lend you mine, I get it back. Now it’s signed.
Aman Kapila was here.

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