Another Teachers’ Day. Flashback to the times when we used to make “My Favorite Teacher” cards and decorate classrooms for the big day.
It’s been long since then. Somehow, I feel I have never even tried to thank those teachers who did so much for me in the past. Was it just my indifference, or could I really have done something about it?
For starters, let me at least try remembering some of my old teachers and the difference they made to me.
Let me start at the beginning. Playschool. I don’t remember much of those days, except when Sudha Miss got married and left the playschool. All us kids went off-color for a few days, until the other teachers forced her to come back and spend a week with us and gently break it to us that she was going far far away. Trust me, I have never felt so attached to anyone ever.
Kindergarten at Oxford. Two teachers who were damn touchy about the fact that they were of a minority community. We used to have these discourses about different types of God and how ultimately they are all the same. It’s really funny when that’s done for a whole class of four-year-olds who have a really vague notion of God and zilch knowledge of religion, let alone religious differences. One incident I vividly recall: these two teachers were for some reason asking me who my favorite teacher was, and I said “Geeta ma’am” [coz she gave me chocolates for reciting multiplication tables correctly]. Then they asked me, “Why, you don’t like us ‘coz we’re of a different religion?” I burst into tears.
Next, Class 1 with Mrs. Deborah Gomez, who is THE best person to deal with all sorts of five-year-olds. She was a strict disciplinarian, ensured that all of us felt good about coming to school, that all of us had good handwriting, kept our things neat, and most of all [more so in my case], that we finished eating our lunch. She still remembers each of us, and all the things we did when we were under her, and, I guess, no student who was under her will ever forget her.
Then was a series of forgettable teachers who had no clue how to manage children, or teach them, more notable of who was Sarah ma’am who taught me English in class 3. I think she left school coz I apparently troubled her to the limits. One fine day, she suddenly ran to the Principal crying about me a) not bringing my books to her class b) not listening in class c) laughing at her [bull, the guy next to me cracked too many jokes] d) making faces at her and sniffing whenever she spoke to me [I had a cold], and worst of all, e) answering her questions correctly in spite of all the above. What do I say to this? Good riddance?
Then was Ms. Suhasini who taught me English in class 6-7. That was when I started giving writing a thought or two, and actually got some encouragement and direction on that front. She was incredibly young, and was a real fun person, and for some reason, stays etched in my memory for a long time to come.
I’d always been okay at math but never developed a passion for it until Usha Sathyan ma’am [aka ‘The Nonsense Lady’ due to her habit of saying ‘what naansense’ for every single thing] started teaching us. I’d given short shrift to neatness and presentation before she refused to give me marks if I didn’t stop scrawling on my answer papers. Thanks to her, I still like solving geometry theorems and riders and drawing triangles and other polygons.
The most unforgettable teacher I’ve ever had is Nalini ma’am [aka Naughty Nallu, due to her blurting out some really shocking sentences]. If someone hears me and my friends discussing her, they’d come to the conclusion we all hated her. Which is perfectly not true. She was the one who encouraged the quizzing streak in me, which was easily the best thing to happen to me in school [I was in the school quiz team, and, in true Oxford spirit, ‘brought laurels to the institution’, along with my teammate Chinmay Lokesh].
I took up regular coaching in swimming in my ninth, and will be eternally grateful to Cherian sir and Manikantan sir who transformed me from an asthmatic who struggled to float to a competent swimmer who could do twenty lengths in an hour and not tire.
And how could I forget pint-sized Shyamala ma’am without who I wouldn’t have been the interschool-fest-fiend that I was in my last few years at school.
Class 10. I guess most of my batch was in Gopal Iyer sir’s math and science tuitions, thanks to the competent environment at school provided by Mrs. Mariamma. If I scored 97 in my 10th boards in math, it’s all due to him.
PU at Kumarans, where I hardly attended classes, and if I did, I was always having a good time, like the rest of my friends who attended ACE IIT-JEE classes. I hardly listened in class, except Biology, which I would have taken for granted hadn’t it been for Sukanya ma’am, who is one of the most competent and experienced teachers I’ve ever come across.
And I couldn’t sleep in Chemistry class, thanks to Mrs. Sudha Bhat who didn’t let me. And there was no need to, she was an ok teacher. She was one of the few PU teachers who actually knew their subject beyond the prescribed textbooks. She was one of the most enthusiastic teachers I’ve known, and encouraged every one of her students to perform better. When she passed away two months before the Boards, not one of us could believe it. May her soul rest in peace. And she’ll live on in the memories of all those she taught.
And my teachers at ACE- arguably the best I’ve had. Babu Sir’s wacko problems in arithmetic and coordinate geometry had most of us at the end of our line, as did his ultra-PJs.
Then there was Anant sir who taught us Organic chemistry. While the guys at BASE were complaining of it being a really dry and muggoo subject, we were complaining of it requiring so much of thought and scrutiny.
Saving the best for the last. We had Sridhar sir who, till date, remains the only teacher who made me like Physics. The only teacher who made me slog my books off. He knew exactly what made me tick, and made sure I didn’t slack off and distort my focus. The only ever teacher who didn’t stop with “Priya needs to stop being lazy……” Sir, I thank you for having shown so much faith in me, and encouraging me to dare to dream, giving me the right focus in life, and if I am where I am, I owe it all to you.
Actually, I owe it to every one of the teachers I’ve mentioned here, and some I haven’t yet… like my Principal at Oxford Mrs. Indira Prithviraj [Whatawoman! One of the most tremendous personalities I’ve ever met], my English teacher at Kumarans, Anita ma’am, Manorama ma’am [aka melodrama due to the way she animated her Hindi classes], and every single teacher who taught me math. They encouraged me and showed me the way when I needed it the most, and made me what I am. Like only a teacher could.