Many a thought was steeped in melancholy that just re-winded the long lost time at school. Apart from the melancholy strain, many such thoughts brought back memories of the exemplary teachers that were virtues personified. No words could properly describe the emotions that welled up my chest. I wouldn’t attribute this to paucity of words in the English language but to my rather limited vocabulary of the fantastic language that is English.
Talking of the English language can never be complete without reverential references to the different colossus that reigned my school in the English language department. A simple listing of the different teachers and their performances at school would be an understatement of their accomplishments as teachers. Let me list down some of them that I am able to recall :
Mrs.Sridevi Padmanabhan ( Class VI and VII ) :
A motherly figure that inspired an undying love for the language. Her classes were poetry all the time as the eloquence with which she handled prose, poetry and composition seemed to be poetry to the ears. She inspired one to aspire to have a better handwriting. Never one to criticize, she always smiled at my mistakes and corrected me with such dedication that I felt as though I was her child. Still distinctly remember her handling of a lesson on Swami Vivekananda and his achievements in the US. She used to encourage students to deliver speeches in the assembly. A rare soul , once in a blue moon kind of person. Tried today to contact her over phone using an age old BSNL number only to be reminded that the number has not been in use.
Mr.G.Krishnamoorthy ( GK for us ):
The masculine version of Mrs.Sridevi. The dedication and passion that he exhibited while teaching poetry , I have never seen anywhere else excepting for Mrs.Ulagammal about whom we shall see soon. When GK taught Lucy Gray, we saw Lucy in his person. Wordsworth would have cried in joy seeing GK teach Lucy Gray. His handling of ‘The solitary reaper’ made me see the highland lass murmuring a melancholy strain near the Thiruvalluvar Statue. An episode that I can never forget is his handling of ‘The Castle’, a poem by Edwin Muir. The emphasis on ‘wizened warder’ , ‘wicked-wicket gate’ — these stand out still. I even now hear GK reading the verses to me when ever I think of his classes. And not the least, he had me in tears when he taught ‘To Sir with love’ by E.R.Braithwaite as well as ‘In celebration of being alive’ by Dr.Christian Bernard. The very fact that I am able to recall the authors and the topics and the choicest adjectives stand testimony to the impact that his words have had on me and continue to haunt me ( if I might say so ). My children also know GK though they have never seen him. I would have repeated these to them that many times. Many years later when I read the book ‘To Sir with love’ and saw the movie by the same name thenceforth, I felt GK standing beside me. Such was the influence that GK exuded by his very thought and action. That much dedication and passion has never been seen until now. Fortunate to have been his student for 2 years.
Mr.T.K.Ramanujam ( TKR a.k.a. Bahu ) : (Class XI )
This colossus rode the English sphere like Alexander rode all over the earth. His words were measured but authoritative that the very delivery of them would instill a feeling that nothing else could be true but his words. A man of few words, he spoke and taught with compassion. His very short congratulatory speech lasting for 3 minutes on the Principal when the latter won the Best Principal Award was remembered for a very long time. A highly erudite human who put his beliefs into action, he amazed me many a time with his mastery of the language. The only time you could see him not reading a book was probably when he used to cycle to school. I cherish the moments spent with him in class and in the Corporation Library. I learnt that the librarian would lend the new arrivals to TKR even before cataloging them. Such was his appetite for books. Never seen such a voracious reader in life.
Mrs.Ulagammal : ( Class IX & X )
She was the Tamil language in human form. Never one to utter an English word, she used to turn into Mother Theresa whenever she taught the non-detailed section on the Saint of Calcutta. She became the character and was so involved in teaching that she seldom noticed some noise in class. On her class being disturbed once in a while due to our pranks, one could see the Goddess of Fury in her. Even then, not an English word to be uttered. Such a dedication has also not been seen so far.
Mr.K.Venkatesan ( Echo ) : ( Class VIII )
A very versatile and respected person known for his erudition. Handled the Social Sciences for us. He was forced to do that because the Principal had chosen to close down Economics from the curriculum. He handled many a question ranging from the mundane to the esoteric from an inquisitive as well as troublesome class with such ease that we used to be dazed at the brilliance exhibited. While explaining about extremism ( it used to be the sikh extremists then fighting for Khalistan when they had not evolved into terrorists ), the ease with which he elaborated on the Irish Republican Army to the likes of Fidel Castro and the Tamil fighters and drawing parallels as well as distinctions among these groups – the depth of knowledge has inspired me to dwell deep into these issues. Hats off to Echo Sir for the path he has shown that even today serves as a beacon light.
There are a whole lot of other teachers like Mr.Ramachandran ( Rambo ) who simply exuded sincerity in his words and deeds, the Sanskrit teacher Mr.Pattabhiraman who personified simplicity and adherence to tradition, Mrs.Jailani who made the Class X Social Sciences interesting and open to debates, Mrs. Kanchana who was a very decent teacher who was never harsh and a whole list of other luminaries that have inspired and awakened the spirit of inquiry even in the adverse conditions that they were forced to teach and tried to make learning as enjoyable for us as was humanly possible for them to do.
To all the Sir(s) and Madam(s), a very humble and respectful Pranaam. There is nothing I can do more than saluting your sacrifice ( under the then very tyrannical conditions ) and your selfless dedication to your profession, teaching.
And to those teachers who have since passed away ( Mrs.Booma, Mr.Aranganathan, Pulavar Natarajan and Mrs.Muthulakshmi Raman), a very respectful homage.
Dear Teachers, you do not know what you have done to me as a person. Only I know what I used to be and what I am now and it is because of you that I am what I am.
A proud Jawahar Product.