In the earlier posts in this series that form part of the Write Tribe Festival of Words, I have been writing about my memories growing up in the sixties and seventies in Bandra, a leafy suburb of Mumbai or to use the old name, Bombay.
For today’s penultimate post the prompt is ‘people’ and I would like to share with the readers memories about some of the people who shaped our lives. I know that, without doubt, my parents were the major influence but they were ably assisted by those who imparted an education to us.
Of course, I am referring to the many teachers and masters in my alma mater, whose guiding principle was ‘Don’t spare the rod; just save the child‘. And the parents were in complete consonance with this principle. Given the ‘zero tolerance’ policy and the threat of instant retribution, I sincerely believe that in the long run we developed a strong sense of discipline.
In this context, I was recently browsing the website of the alumni association and I came across a thread in which two of my classmates on the occasion of Teachers Day discussed the caning techniques of the principal and assistant principal, in much the same manner that two cricket buffs would compare the square cut of Gavaskar with that of Vishwanath!
What a sharp contrast to today, when we read of parents filing police cases against schools if their wards are punished or some students taking the extreme step of committing suicide for the same reason. I guess things have changed but I am not sure whether these changes have been for better or worse.
The teachers and masters were a real dedicated lot, who in addition to maintaining discipline, took a personal interest in the students. And the class size was not exactly small. In fact, each division comprised of around fifty students.
And if you could not grasp a topic, you would be asked to stay on after school so that the same could be individually explained to you. Or even be called over to the house of the teacher on the weekly holiday for some extra coaching. All gratis! I guess the same was true of other Bandra schools and teachers.
Of course, the teaching staff had their idiosyncrasies; in my final year our class master hero worshiped our fist prime minister, Nehru. He would never miss a single opportunity to extol the virtues of Nehru, much to our irritation. No, we didn’t have any thing against Nehru. Rather that we felt that the adulation was unjustified. In retaliation, every time the master started speaking about Nehru, we would chant the the name of Lal Bahadur Shartri, India’s second prime minister.
Boys being boys, some of the staff were referred to by their nicknames, the origins of some of which were unknown to us. But that did not stop us from using the nicknames freely. Like, one master who was called Bader, a reference to the WWII Royal Air Force Fighter Ace. Since the gentleman never taught me, till this day I don’t know his real name. And another, was called Hitler, probably because of his mustache. I guess these names were given in the forties and continued till the sixties.
I believe that my school days were probably the best years of my life and it was only in the final year that pressure of a board examination manifested. And in no small measure, I believe that the teachers and masters of my school to whom I dedicate this post, made a huge difference.
I am taking part in the Write Tribe Festival of Words 8th – 14th December 2013.