Being a huge fan of the late Behram Contrator, the founding editor of Afternoon, I have read many of his legendary column, 'Round & About'. In one of them, he makes a poignant irony: that although teachers are our torch-bearers throughout our school and college days, give us education and make us capable of facing and surviving in this world, they would always remain in that one place, while their students would go places in thier lives. Like a teacher would still be at the bus-stop waiting for the bus, all throughout thier lives, while the child will grow in status and stuture and pass by in car. I found that to be very true, so I look back - the least I can do, and appreciate the teachers who have taught me and have a hand to make me who I am today. And while I am at it, let me also tell you about some of them who, unfortunately, I did not like.
I did my schooling (SSC)from Hindi Vidya Bhavan (HVB), Marine Drive, Mumbai. I passed out my school in 1992, so this post will be of teachers who have taught me.
On top of my list is Alzira D'Costa, my 4th std class teacher. In my school, teachers up to 4th std would teach us all subjects, while from 5th std onwards, they would teach thier specialised subjects across various classes. So D'Costa taught me all subjects in her class. She was an angel. Even though she used to shout at times to keep us in control, she had a heart. You could tell. Never the one to raise her hand on anyone. Just her voice was enough. The most striking part about her was that she was most systematic. She always had the right amount of chalks - a complete set of 10 coloured ones to differentiate various words that needed special attention from the rest of the notes she'd written on the board, was never out of a duster (some teachers used to make us run to fetch them dusters) and was very well organised. I like systematic people and those who are neatly organised. She used to engage everyone when she used to teach. Nobody had any incentive to not to pay attention to her. And even though D'Costa used to fill the entire black-board in our class, from one corner to another - and black-board at school were very wide, strecthing from one wall to another - you could still easily make sense out of everything she had written, and never get lot. Such was her system.
Zarine Patel is another favourite. In my 12 years at HVB (10+ 2 kindergarten years), she has not taught me a single subject. You'd wonder why she is on my list then? Because she was one of the most gentle of them all. All students, junior and seniors alike, used to call her "mummy". She was the one that came closest to our mothers; caring, always smiling, never the one who gets angry or hit us (well, mothers do, but they don't mean any harm) and always sympethetic to us. No teacher at HVB commanded that much respect, like she did. Even the notorious of all students would be on thier best behavior in front of her; such was her aura. Teachers like Patel do not come into our lives everyday; it was our priviledge to have known her in this life. I hear she is living with her sister in Jogeshwari, Mumbai and is now well into her retirement years, like most of the teachers of my time. I would like to meet her and D'Costa someday.
Mrs Raghavan, my chemistry teacher, I fondly remember. She passed away around a year or two back. I have the fondest memories of her and the very thought of her brings a smile on my face, even today. Actually my bad habit of not being able to control me laughter in her class, landed my in trouble one too many times with her. In terms of teaching, Raghavan was the worst. I never understood a word of chemistry she taught; perhaps this is the reason why Chemistry is one of the two worst subjects I feel I have ever studied. But she was very funny (strictly unintentionally). Her pronounciciation was damm hilarious and her 'T' was always silent. Her favourite word was "stupid" which she used to promounce as "tupid" ('S' silent). I used to try to control my laughing, she used to catch me and used to get me very angry. She used to make us maintain two books; classwork (CW) and homework (HW) books. Strangely, she used to make us take her notes in class in HW book, and make us do our homework in CW books. Why? Because she felt that when we are at home, we tend to open our HW books, so that way we would open her notes, when at home, and study!
Once, she was correcting our home-work notebooks. One smart-ass mate of mine wrote in my book on the front page "Elle est a grand fille" or something like that. That's french for "She is a fat woman". When she saw that and got it interpreted, she was ballistic and flung the book (in the most clumsiest of fashion that I can still close my eyes and play the scene exactly as it unfolded) at me and blasted me! May GOD bless her soul and I am glad that I knew her in this lifetime.
Mrs Freny Panthaki, my English and classteacher of Xth standard was the best English teacher I've come across. Although she was middle-aged at that time, she was very tall, had a well-maintained figure and had the grace and poise that would put even a Miss India to shame. She was also the head of Tagore house to which I belonged. The house started to do much better when she took charge of it. I will always look back at the times I spent with her, with fond memories.
From the best English teacher to the best Marathi teacher - Mrs Asha Wate. Surprisingly, I was better at my marathi than Hindi. And i think the credit should go to Wate. She was a passionate teacher, always teaching from the heart. Very clear and consise in teaching, even an idiot would understand what she taught; she was that good. I was one of her favourite students and she was my class-teacher in 6th standard, i think. Or was that 8th? Her assistent teacher, Mrs Namboori, taught me Maths briefly in 5th and 6th standards, and she was also very good.
The Dhage couple: One of the senior most teachers at HVB, they joined in 1964, a year after HVB started. Mr Dhage taught me Elocution while his wife Mrs Dhage taught me history, Civics and Geography. I am glad to say that I am still in touch with them. They came from humble beginnings and they still have not lost the simple way of life. They always took care of thier students, and like Wate, taught us from thier heart. Never the one to raise a finger on us and that is why ex-students like me still remember them with fond memories. Ditto for Mrs Singh (French), Mrs Baijal (our late Hindi teacher who had 11 fingers), Mr & Mrs Desai, Mr (late) Rane, Mr Venkatraman, Mrs Daruwala (Principal), Mrs Rajan, Mr Mishra.
So much for teachers that were kind. There was some unpleasent teachers also. Let me dwell into them.
My physics professor comes topmost on my mind. In all fairness, he was not at all great as a teacher. Infact he was a very ordinary one. Since he was the only Physics teacher at HVB in my times, there was no escaping him. He beleieved in capital punishment. He hit his students very hard, slapping and pinching them at will. Very disorganised, he used to command us to fetch him all sorts of things like chalks, dusters, etc. If those things were not on his table when he arrived, he would randomly pick students sitting on the front benches, like me, and start slapping them indiscriminately. I always hated this part, it was very scary sitting in his class, you never knew when he would hit you. I thought it gave him sadistic pleasure. He used to feel very happy when parents of some my colleguyes used to give him petty gifts like table-calenders, diaries, etc. In return, he was very kind to those students. In 1993, he was caught accepting a bribe and was thrown out of the school. Good riddance to heaped rubbish. I never respected him, I never will.
Another teacher who never earned the students' respect was a very senior ex-vice principal who taught me Geography. I am not saying this because she was strict. Even D'Costa and Mrs Dhage were strict. But what separated this smiling terminator from them, was that her strictness was very disrecpectful of students. She was unjust and biased in framing opinions against students - me included - without any justification. She often wore an artificial smile and when i saw Harry Potter-V, reminded me of her in Dolorius Umbridge of Hogwarts! Her teaching never rose beyond the ordinary, so students got no excuse to like her on account of her significant attitude problem.
The other two teachers who I would vaguely and hesitantly put in this list would be Miss Sharma and Mrs Chowdhary. Both these teachers were very good at thier subjects. They knew how to teach and put thier teachings across in a manner that the most duffer student would understand. Chowdhary was a Phd - I presume in Hindi since that was her subject- but I could be wrong about the subject. And Sharma was also very good at History and Geography. Their only fault, especially Sharmas', was that they used to spank a lot. We used to terrified of Sharma. Even thier appearances made them out to be stern. Sharma had a heavy built and looked menacing when angry; no wonder her slap used to terrorise even the most notorious of students, Chowdhary looked like a wicked saas in Ekta Kapoor's serials. Thankfully TV was not taken over by her in those days, but I can draw references now.
Anyways, no matter how good you are as a teacher, I object to capital punishment and believe that you would never figure at the top of your students list in years to come.
All in all, I am glad that I passed out from HVB. In hindsight, I would not have liked things to be any different. The best part of life is that the good as well as the not-so-good things teach you a lot and are responsible in shaping you. I will always be grateful to my teachers.
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