Last Sunday was teachers' day. So it's fitting that I write about it today. Better late, and all that crap, but it's really a little late for me to acknowledge some of the teachers who played a big role in my life. Some have passed into the silver clouds of heaven. I was educated till the age of eight in Kerala, my native state in South India. I cannot forget the teachers we had there. They were kind and real terrors. They are as appears below (in chronological order):
Saar: He was a bald, white-haired man who imparted the letter to me in Malayalam as I sat on a plank of wood on the sand-strewn hut. I always knew him as "Saar". I met him many times afterwards but never asked his name. I will call him "Saar," meaning Sir. I was too much in awe of him as he sat writing my lessons with a sharp Arayam (a sharp metal instrument) on palm leaves. That was my notebook in Kindergarten class in distant Kerala.
Saramma Saar: I was a real bum. I wouldn't go to school. (It's actually a wonder that I have come this far, too far, considering I used to shirk school!) In school my sister's friends used to come and tease me during interval. So, being too shy, I stayed away. I incurred the wrath of my mother who beat me one day all the way to school. Each time she left me, I would walk backwards, and then she would lay the Kattu Vadi (jungle twig) on me. (Guess I have forgiven her, for I hate to think what would have happened had I stayed at home.) Then Saramma Saar who also was going to school scolded my mother, took my arm, talked sweetly to me and took me to my class. I never had any problems with going to school after that.
Rema Teacher: Strict and lenient by turns. She never said "no" to me as I approached her for permission to play when our teachers were absent in Adarsha Vidyalaya. She died at a young age. I don't know if the profession was responsible.
Padmavathy Teacher: Called me a bum before class. But I got back by scoring the highest marks in her subject – General Science – in the Secondary School Examination.
Shankaranarayanan Saar: The man who inculcated in me a love for poetry and literature. Very melodramatic, a playwright, his classes were electric with the silence of poetry recitation, prose reading and play enacting. He and I are in touch even now. He still writes and I look forward to reading some of his books. He was a great influence on me and the love of literature hasn't left me ever since he walked into class with his big bob of curly hair.
Vasanthi Teacher: My school-boy crush. Beautiful as she was, I used to look forward to her classes. But she encouraged me in my studies, patiently explained lessons, while I stood trembling beside her, unable even to make eye contact. I was awed and besotted then. She also died at a young age.
Ganapathy Iyer: The grey-haired principal who laid a stinging palm on my back for some misdemeanour. I still remember him as the man who taught me maths, which I was bad at. He is still alive and in his nineties. I haven't had the time to visit him, though he is said to be living in New Bombay.
Parameshwaran Iyer: Poet, writer, gentle soul, he once said "I thought you were a good boy," and put me firmly on the saddle of goodness and righteousness. He wore only khadi and his English classes were punctuated with anecdotes from his literary days and the times he used to teach in a college in Kerala.
There are many more, whom I have loved, respected and still revere. This is a tribute to them. Teachers you were different from the lot of teachers we have now. You really cared for our future and moulded us. Teachers, you started a fire that will burn for ever.