Yet another teacher’s day has passed by and I am left wondering whether the profession so very glorified in our epics to the extent of placing one’s Guru even before God has lost its revered place in our society. I’ve cribbed and complained enough about the plight of teachers as well as student/teacher relationships in earlier posts than to mention them here would be repetitive. I have therefore decided to look back and remember those teachers and mentors who have made me what I am.
The first teacher in my life was of course my mother. Apart from instilling values in my life she was the one who taught me to read and write Tamil thereby encouraging to read good Tamil literature. I remember the time in Mumbai when my father’s transfer did not coincide with my school session and we landed there in mid September. I had to wait till the following June to resume school. My mother took the opportunity to teach me Tamil. In no time I was reading books like ‘Ambulimama’ (Tamil version of Chandamama) and the interest remains with me till date. I am currently reading Kalki’s ‘Sivagamiyin Sapadam’ and enjoying it to the core. My mother was herself a voracious reader and even when she could read no more due to poor eyesight one of us would read out to her. Her concentration was such that she would correct us if we ever mispronounced a word or skipped words. Amma was great and she continues to be my mentor in absentia. Even now I think twice before being uttering a harsh word and in all probability restrain myself. ‘Amma would not have liked it’ I say to myself.
I remember Miss Rose my second grade teacher who would make us read aloud texts from English and correct our pronunciation and accent. She was never critical and her gentle reproaches ensured that we remembered her corrections for life. Then there was Miss Claire, my fifth grade teacher, about whom I have mentioned in this post. She taught me to respect people not for their good looks and fair skin but for whatever good qualities they possessed – not necessarily academic excellence.
How could I ever forget Ms. A. Cheriyan who taught me to love Mathematics and numbers. She was my Mathematics teacher for four long years in high school and I can still visualize the way she explained problems on ‘Time and Distance’ and ‘Work and Time’. She was a little disappointed that I dropped Mathematics after school. We corresponded for six years but we lost touch after my marriage. I met her daughter in Bangalore three years back but unfortunately she had passed on and I lost an opportunity to tell her that I had now become a grandmother to 4 grandchildren but my love and respect for her remains in tact.
Then we had Mrs. Jessie Rajan in my 11th grade who would give us 4/10 for a good essay in English composition. Every composition class would be a test and if one got half a mark more he/she would feel so elated that we’d pull up our collars and strut around like proud peacocks. I was in awe of the way she carried herself and as a senior school student I often wished to be like her if and when I ever became a teacher.
College days were fun but I don’t think I was drawn to my teachers in college as in school. By then we had almost reached adulthood and nothing seemed the same as school. We had very good teachers and they were experts in their subjects. But a certain amount of aloofness had set in and I don’t remember them being particularly caring or appreciative. I recall only one of them – Miss Kokila Florence. I had opted for Biology expecting to be able to apply for medicine only to realize that I had taken up the wrong subject. It was Miss Kokila that made me understand that a thinking mind and a good teacher could turn an otherwise drab subject to an interesting one. She took Botany for us and it was due to her that the subject was made easy and interesting. I later majored in Botany and went on to do my masters and Ph.D. thanks to her inspiration.
Then there were other teachers who inspired me in different ways. I had written about Teacher Huntley and how she impressed me in a recent post. My mentor and Ph.D. guide Dr. Prasad who encouraged me during the lull periods that depressed me while I worked on my thesis. Were it not for him I might have given up mid way.
The Founder Principal of our college Dr. K. Savitri, a professor in Psychology who bound all of us together as a big family and her husband Dr. N.K. Singh who believed in according due respect to their staff members deserve special mention. Our spouses were also considered as part of the college as were our children. They brought out the best in each of us and the college to me is an extension of my home. They believed that a tension free atmosphere and mutual trust were the basic requirements in any organization more so in an educational institution where young minds were being molded and prepared to take on the future of the country. They made our college one with a difference and it remains so till date.
Finally we have students who teach us a new lesson on each day of my working life. I am particularly in awe of students who make it big against all odds. The system in our parts of the country is not the very best and unfortunately not very conducive to education. Sessions are late and exams are conducted for months together but they make the most of the prevailing conditions and aim to do well in life. I can now understand their plight better and feel that a person like me has nothing to feel proud about because I was lucky to have studied in good schools and colleges all along. I still have to learn a lot from those around me who teach valuable lessons in their own way.