My first memory of a teacher is of my Grandmother, when I was not even 3 yrs old. She was the one who taught me alphabets, numbers and colours. Whilst some of the memories have faded away, what I do remember is that when I went for my nursery admission interview, I already knew alphabets, and could write my name. And that teaching was done, staring out of a first floor window, facing the street, watching the world, or rather the traffic, go by. That was my favourite place. It was the days when ikka or tonga used to ply passengers, there were bicycles, few scooters, fewer buses and almost no cars. There was no brown colour in my vocabulary, so it was white horses or red horses. The matras in Hindi alphabets either faced right or left, I had by then mastered right and left directions. Lot of it was taught while having food, she feeding me, I throwing the spoons down the window to the grounds. She was my first teacher, and she had loads of patience.
However, once the school started, my mother took over the responsibility of making sure homework was completed every day. And I think we both learnt together … I, the course and she, the patience. (She would need many more chapters to do due justice to what she means to me in my life.) Moving to higher classes, my father mentioned lot of times of teaching me himself, but except for few sessions, chapters of science, it really didn’t happen. He however made sure he taught me bicycling starting from trainer ones, to two wheels child cycle to a fully grown up cycle. In later years, even the scooty. And I learnt from him to stand up for the truth always, and not give up even in adverse circumstances!
The transition from primary to secondary school brought a new teacher in my life … My masi. She taught me English, Hindi, Social Sciences, Maths and even Sanskrit. Looking back, I wonder she knew so much, I think I would not be able to attempt to teach even one subject to anyone. And lot of discussions and revisions happened while waiting for the school bus in the morning. She is the only one who also taught me formally at college, when I had Geography as one of my subjects. It was a very different and difficult to be present in the class knowing her so intimately and yet remaining aloof. We managed the two years by she not calling my name out any time during the class except for the roll call. And she stayed away from the examination and evaluation process for the two years I had Geography as the subject.
Moving back to secondary school, I had met lot of teachers who knew either my mother or my masi, 35 plus years of teaching in the same city does that to its residents. Many of them continued to excel in their subjects and had an impact on me. I remember them with fondness today on Teachers’ day!
One of the teachers who I can never forget was my English teacher in probably class 8 or 9, and that too for a short period. She used to only take higher classes, and took few classes with us as substitute teacher for absent ones. My love and interest for the subject came because of her. Being taught almost my whole school life in government schools, English was not the medium of choice. I could have learnt English at home, the language being my mother tongue … My mother is convent educated by English nuns and is a English professor ;)… But it didn’t happen. Call it fate or destiny, I picked up English speaking because of her; painstakingly reading newspapers, forcing myself to think in the language rather than translating before speaking, writing as I was thinking instead of learning it by heart. And by the time, I finished Class 10 and changed schools, I was proficiently speaking, talking, writing, walking English!
Class 10th in my times, was generally torturous, primarily because of hype and pressure surrounding it. Two of my weakest subjects in the class were Economics and Maths. While I was glad to say goodbye to maths after Boards, Economics followed me till MBA, including two of my major degrees in the subject, I don’t joke when I say I mastered Economics! My support system to take me through these two subjects in these terrible times was my two mamajis. My elder mamaji was an Economics professor and had written simple books in Hindi on the subject which were lot easier to undertstand than the language the teachers spoke. And while my Maths teacher helped me quite a lot, the credit for my first class in the subject in Class 10 goes to my other mamaji. I don’t remember the circumstances of why he was in Banaras that time, but he made me revise the whole course before the Board exams in a very simple way. My grandmother was amazed that at no time, he raised either his voice or temper while explaining the concepts to me. She remembered him taking a very different route with his children in their times! I guess the only time I enjoyed the subject in my life was in those 15 days with him.
The graduation years was equally difficult, I knew almost all the teachers because my mother and my masi taught in the same college. It was difficult to bunk classes, the information would eventually flow down to them. And there was no chance to sit around with classmates and gossip about teachers or the college either. I guess compared to others around me, my college life was pretty boring.
And so was post-graduation, being in the same campus, there was no escaping the fact that there was a line to be toed since your teachers were colleagues to your parents, and there was a reputation to mange and hold. However, there have been few teachers who have contributed to what I am today, have been responsible for my education and my beliefs. Thank you.
In the last 13 years of my career and 3 and half decades of my life, I have had many bosses, colleagues and some friends. Some were completely forgettable, erasable; some have lingered on the memories – bitter-sweet experiences; for some I have loads of respect and some have become close friends and confidants. All of you have made difference to my life in some way or other, taught me some of life’s lessons, have been responsible in making me what I am today … My good and bad sides combined.
So on this day, Happy Teachers’ Day to the first teachers of my life, my grandmother, my parents, my masi and to all those who have crossed my path in their various avatars and with whom I continue my learning journey.
September 5, 2014