Once a teacher, always a teacher

Anirudh Dhanda

THOSE were the times when teachers enjoyed a different status in society. Parents would go to school only once, at the time of admission, and leave it to the teacher to educate the child — and also to set him right. Setting the pupil right was taken as a serious occupation. The parent would take pride in telling the teacher, ‘Massaab, do-char lagan ch parhez na karna. Munda soot hona chahida.’ (Don’t hesitate to give a few canes. The boy must be chastened).

I also went to a similar school. I still have the memory of my Ammi (grandmother) holding my hand to the school, and another lady carrying a boeeya with batashas to be distributed among students.

Primary classes did not have any benches. We would go in the morning, hair well-oiled, and the first chore use to be to change to the original state. And that was by creating an unbreathable cloud of dust all around under the pretext of dusting the mats before spreading them in lines for the students to sit through the day!

The school was in the open compound of a temple. While the teacher taught us tables, there would be the occasional chiming of bells by late-comers. There was a huge banyan tree, with leaves falling everywhere. Squirrels would be running after its red fruit.

We had two teachers with a benevolent heart and strong hands. They were like village heads, known to everyone in the town and commanding respect.

In class V, we shifted to the big school. The biggest joy and matter of pride were the desks — a class of grown-ups! A uniform of khaki shorts and a blue shirt added to the self-esteem. And then, there were different teachers teaching different subjects. All of them inspired awe, and fear.

In the higher classes, we had the opportunity of being taught by the principal himself — a great teacher of English and a disciplinarian. Tenses caused a tense situation. Learning grammar under his gaze was scary. He would not tolerate any wrong usage. In the evening, he took over as the volleyball coach.

The evening would come to an end, but he would not rest. After dinner, he would take up his position in front of the only talkies the town had. Any student coming out of the cinema after the night show would get a beating there and then. No parent had the courage to challenge him.

Much later, after I had completed postgraduation and got a job, I went to see him. He was not well and was resting in bed. After recognising me and asking my well-being, he threw a question at me, ‘Angreji ch tarjma kar (translate into English)….’ The sentence was tough. I somehow managed to do it to his satisfaction and could see the glow of happiness on his face.

Such teachers were not teachers only by profession. They always were teachers — in the school, the playground, at home, in the market, or at midnight in front of the talkies. Un jaise ustaadon ko mera salaam!

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