A teacher remembers his teachers…
Let's go then, you and I … with apologies to T S Eliot … where Education is spread like a patient etherized upon a table. Fashionable physicians, surgeons and, of course, some quacks rush in where Specialists fear to tread. Anyway, all those who've rushed in to ‘doctor’ education, register prescriptions which soon turn into valuable material for precious documentation in the form of a tome fatter than Gray's Anatomy.
Treatment for the ‘sick’ is recommended ad hoc, as the patient is feared to slip into coma at the sight of the growing crowd. Everyone seems to be waking up suddenly from a long deep sleep. But that we do every year. Kumbhakaran sleeps for six months. We've comfortably doubled it!
A few days before the Teacher's Day, the Birthday of former President Dr Radhakrishnan, we earnestly value Education, at least on paper. Our alert Press is always there to uphold national interest.
Therefore, a local Daily diligently prepared a Questionnaire of FIVE fanta+stick, sorry, fantastic, questions, the answers of which, they thought, would solve all the problems related to EDUCATION, at least for a year, so that the nation could go to sleep again until next September.
The Newspaper has received and published the answers to these wonderful questions from all the Very Correct VCs of all the State Universities. The VCs, unlike most students, have answered all the questions, in nearly two full pages of the Newspaper, which everyone feels will prove valuable to last the year in solving all Educational problems.
I am now in the 50s and very proud to be a St Paulian! I love my teachers in St Paul’s. Mr Dandekar, the Principal, then, Mr Narsaiya takes over. Mr D L Jha, the Maths teacher, Mr Rajimwale and Mr Mishra, the English teachers, Mr Williams, the Drawing teacher are some unforgettable names. The two great pillars of the teaching staff, fondly known as NNB & KCB, are the wonderful all-rounders. They can teach any subject. No St Paulian can ever forget the other all-rounders like Mr C L Shrivastava, Mr D N Thakur, Mr W T Paul and Mr W M Paul. Then who’ll forget Mr S P Shrivastava and his ambi-dexterous versatility on the blackboard?
I can go on but I come to 1979. My uncle, Mr Fazlur Rahman Khan, a senior Secretary in Pakistan Civil Service, comes to India and remembers his old St Paul’s teachers. He recalls Mssrs D L Jha, NNB and KCB and asks me if they’re around. We go to meet Mr KCB who now lives close by. We walk down and are led into the room where the old man now is mostly in bed. He recognizes us and asks us what we’re doing. I say I am a Lecturer in English. My uncle says he’s a Senior Secretary, Customs and Excise in Pakistan. His face lights up. Then I say I am an MA in English because he taught me English and my uncle is an MA in Geography because he taught him Geography. Happy heart instantly pours out proud tears. Our respect and his love fill to the full the cup of compassion. The teacher weeps, the students are moved for life.
I have always been very lucky to find myself in the galaxy of excellent teachers. During MA, very brilliant teachers are coincidentally there on the staff. Prof P N Shrivastava teaches Chaucer and he knew how to pronounce Chaucerian English because Scottish teachers had taught him.
At CIEFL, short for Central Institute of English & Foreign Languages, I have Dr R K Bansal as my Supervisor during MLitt in Linguistics & Phonetics. Dr Bansal was Gimson’s student who was the student of Daniel Jones, both widely known for compiling the English Pronouncing Dictionary. At CIEFL, my friends, no wonder, find me boasting of being the academic grandson of Daniel Jones!
Dr Bansal asks me one day who I think is my best teacher of English. Cricket, I reply, despite all excellent teachers around, including Dr Bansal. He, then, asks me to pick the best from all subject teachers. I pick Mr D L Jha!
It always takes the ‘good’ with the ‘bad’ to make this world go round. In earlier times, the ‘good’ out-numbered the ‘bad’ in teaching. In such a situation, the quality of life goes up. The present world scenario shows that the overall quality of life has deteriorated. That means education has failed to produce sustainable out-put. Voices of concern keep coming.
As has been rightly suggested, the 'bad' trickles down from the top. But the 'good' is always raised from the bottom and pushed to the top. A good teacher does that. Let's hope this happens. Pray, long live THE GOOD TEACHER and may his tribe increase!