Monday, September 06, 2010

The teachers in my life.


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.

10 comments:

arbitthoughts said...

I wrote an email to my Masters' thesis advisor wishing her Happy Teachers Day. She has been such an inspiration to me! I am so glad that I had such teachers in my life.

Gouri Guha said...

Enjoyed reading this interesting piece of writing. I too remember my school teachers...some of them were so special.
A good teacher can no doubt inspire a student.

eve's lungs said...

So true- your thoughts. Mrs Natarajan at Sacred Heart taught us English and she inspired us so much . She was such a simple unassuming lady . Mrs Murthy who taught me Maths and ensured that even reluctant me learn enough of it to pass . Sr Veronique - such a happy jolly lady .Each person inspired me in some way or other .

Indu said...

You have a lovely blog here which I've been following for quite sometime now!
A wonderful post this is! Teachers are surely greatly inspiring people. And so have I recalled my gurus too here - http://indusiasticutopian.blogspot.com/2010/09/teachers-day-post.html
Hope you like it!

Indu

R's Mom said...

What a lovely post...I do remember some of my school teachers and they did have a role to play in my life...but I think my mom has been the most influencing teacher in my life :)

Hip Grandma said...

arbitthoughts:Very glad to know that you remembered your advisor on Teacher's Day. Her good wishes is going to do wonders to you.

Gouri Guha:Welcome here.yes we may get old but our teachers remain young and fresh in our memories.

eve's lungs:You remember Sr. Veronique??She was the Principal when my daughters took admission. i did not know Mrs. Natarajan who taught English. Was she Mr. Natarajan's (who taught Maths in Loyola)wife?? Lovely remembering our school teachers isn't it?

Indu:Welcome here.Your piece was very good too.

R's Mom:Yeah, moms are the best teachers and influence in one's life. Both on 'how to be' and 'how not to be' wink,wink!!I know my daughters will read this comment and this is meant for them.

radha said...

I think my mother too was the best teacher. She would skip along with me as she taught me multiplication tables!
And my sis-in-law presented me a Kalki short stories book translated in English by his granddaughter. They were amazing stories.

Uma said...

You made me nostalgic. I remembered my KG teacher by name Rosie - I adored her and I don't know why :)
A very sweet post indeed

Hip Grandma said...

radha:mothers will always be one's first and best teacher.Kalki is a brilliant writer. I never get tired of reading his stories many times over.His historical novels are the best.The amount of research he has put in is amazing.

uma:You too had a teacher Rosie?I think it was a common anglo-Indian name.

Dr.Antony said...

I had written a similar story on my blog some time back with the title' Who is your teacher?"

Teachers were the sole inspiration for us when we were young.I used to do what all I could,to respect and please them. I used to walk miles to buy tea and snacks for them.Some one now,might say it was exploitation,but the times were different.We did it out of our love and used to compete who would go and buy.
But we used to respect teachers,and still carry that tradition.The newspapers these days are full of violence in campuses. Teachers are abused and man handled.Last month,the hands of a college professor in Kerala,were chopped off,for alleged reasons of hurting religious feelings .
Times have changed !
If not respecting,at least,leave them alone.