Its Teachers Day today, and my wall is inundated with messages from both teacher and student communities wishing each other. Some of those messages are rather sweet and uplifting. I took a trip down memory lane, trying to recall my teachers.
Funnily enough, I cant recall the good ones. The awful ones are deeply imprinted on my memory. Its rather Harry Potter-ish. Snape overshadows all the others apart from Dumbledore – who (in my opinion) was insane. Why else would he put Potter and his friends into danger all the time eh?
I remember Sister Lydia the one woman army upholding the modesty of Indian women. She frowned upon my walking to school with my brother and his pals. Her sexual segregation alarm pinged rather violently then. My father had to come to school and tell her strongly that he saw nothing immoral in that. I was all of 7 years old then. She also made us stand on a desk while she let down our skirt hems to the length she found modestly suitable.
I remember Palit sir. He loved to declare that girls did not have the sporting gene, so we girls should not be allowed to play volley ball and basket ball. Play chess – he would tell us. Hey Palit sir, what about Mary Kom, Sania Nehwal and their ilk eh?
I remember Miss Punj at D.P.S. Mathura Road, who decided that she would punish us by refusing to let us go to the toilet while she was teaching. We were little kids and could not hold on – it led to many interesting moments in class.
And I remember Shastri Sir, our Sanskrit teacher when I was in Class XI and XII. Sleazy character. Once a fly was buzzing around me, and he found that a brilliant time to tell us the story of Shakuntala and her tryst. “Makhi toh madhu khojti hai,” (the fly searches for honey) he quipped looking at my lips. Ewwww.
Now that I have re-read my memories, I find a single strain running through all these cases – a lack of compassion and empathy. It is as if these individuals who shaped my student years found themselves in a position where they had power over a group of kids, and abused it.
I had some lovely teachers, Mrs Luthra at Little Flowers, Shillong, who made geography so interesting. Sister Florence whose passion for Shakespeare and other literary giants infected me. Your way of teaching me H.H.Monroe’s short stories made me feel like writing short stories, and guess what, I did. Thank you Sister.
There are many others, mostly average teachers for whom teaching was a job they had to do.
The teachers that leave a lasting impression on a kid’s mind love their job, it is their vocation for them. And they are compassionate and empathetic. They love the kids, and allow the kids to learn at their own pace. I realize that its easier to be didactic, mostly because they have a huge syllabus to cover in a short time. But in doing so they don’t teach.
And you know what I find funny?
I remember the cruel and nasty ones more clearly. They sure as hell left an imprint on my mind