September 5th is usually celebrated as Teacher’s Day in India, but a lot of people are thinking of their preceptors today, which is Guru Purnima. Here are my thoughts…
All my life, I’ve been taught…I’ve learnt some lessons, others I’ve still to learn.
I started with kindergarten…I remember the Anglo-Indian ladies in Swarna School who were such dedicated teachers. Jackie Teacher, Colin Teacher, Ollie Teacher…it never occurred to me that all of them seemed to have the same last name! There was Gayatri teacher who was the Art teacher in the school; Mrs Ghoshal who taught us Geography; Mrs Sundaram (who started the school) who taught us a few subjects, and her assistant, Mrs Bani Sen, whom I went in mortal fear of (yes..I used to feel that her eyes followed me everywhere in the school, waiting to catch me in some transgression.) We had a “Sir” in Class 8; only in hindsight do I realize that he must have been a Palghat Iyer. He was excellent at Maths, English, and off-colour jokes, which used to embarrass some of us very much. Mrs. Rao was the Science teacher (hindsight…she was a Kannadiga). I cannot forget Mrs. Datta, who taught Hindi so well that she inculcated a love of the language in me, even as I detested its grammar.
I remember Polly di (I don’t know her last name) whom my mother engaged to teach me to read and write Bengali, as well as to speak it. I took Bengali as my third language, and still am fluent in it!
In National High School for Girls, several teachers helped shape my learning..and thoughts. C V Lakshmi Teacher, Kanaka Teacher, a smiling-faced lady who made me like Physics…Mrs Omana Varma who taught Maths, that went (and continues to go) right over my head.
My college teachers (Gokhale Memorial College) were uniformly excellent. The two Hindi masters (I forget their names); Mrs Chakraborti, Miss Dutta, Mrs Chatterjee…ladies who ensured that I took a rank (University 5th, if I recollect) in my English Honours degree. Mrs Chatterjee and Mrs Mukherjee, who taught us Philosophy.
Through all these years,through all my academics, like a string in the garland… my music Guru, R.Meenakshi, who took a lot of trouble to make me a good Carnatic vocal singer. I never missed classes for exams or holidays. That rigorous training still tells.
The girls who taught me so much…I was academically very good, but very young for my age, as well as being nearly two years young for my class. They taught me Robindro Songeet, Adhunik songs…and about a lifestyle and culture that was more freewheeling than my repressed TamBram upbringing.
My own mother, who taught me how to be interested in many, many things…bird-watching, plants, the world of Nature. My father…who taught me the value of absolute integrity..and how to laugh and joke, and enjoy life. My brother, who taught me not to take things too seriously. His happiness was infectious.
My two preceptors, who helped me in “progressing” my Honours degree into a Master’s. I never even collected that certificate..but I enjoyed a liberal arts education in a time when the term had not been invented. I enjoyed learning for learning’s sake…how many of us have that good fortune?
My various teachers, through the various courses I took. Miss Karnik, my German teacher; Mr Brownlee, my Esperanto teacher; Mr Sathyapal, who was my HAM instructor; the various faculty who taught the Tourism Guide course; Mr Rao, my Japanese teacher (I enjoyed learning Japanese, but no second level course was offered, and I quickly forgot everything…but “wasure mashita!”) Mr Pandit, my Sanskrit teacher…Seeta, who taught me how to swim (at the age of 50 or 52, I think!)
My friends, who taught me the value of staunch, unwavering affection. The others, who taught me valuable life-lessons…how to deal with friendships that waned, with envy, with malice…yes, they taught me, too.
My own music students, who taught me a lot. When students ask question, one is forced to learn before one can answer them!
My many techie friends, who taught me how to use my computer and how to use the internet…I was not a good or apt pupil but I did learn slowly.
My many friends who taught me a lot about the world of Nature, birdwatching, and help me, even today, through the many mistakes I make.
KM and his family, who taught me how to be independent, and do things for myself. I’d been brought up in cotton wool, and this was a valuable lesson to learn. My daughter and her family, who continue to teach me many things.
My Nature Guru, Karthik, a walking encyclopaedia, who showed me that every inch of one’s path through the garden can be riveting!
Poonam Natarajan, who taught me how to deal with special children, and how to appreciate the daily miracle of my own child.
Travel..which has been a great teacher, indeed. And the best teacher of all…Life…I’ve made many major mistakes, but I am trying to progress towards my goal of being a Better Person.
I look back, and like the leaves in a forest, too numerous to count or mention, but giving support, shade, and beauty to my life… are the gurus who have taught me so much…I look back and salute, in gratitude, and affection, even towards those who did not think they were teaching me something!