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.
Jose, my own personal opinion was that in those days teaching was viewed as more of a ‘service’ rather than as a ‘job’ as it is today. That’s what made teachers more dedicated to improving the lives of their students rather than just completing the portions. And in this endeavor if they had to cane students to help them improve they did so and even the parents understood this concept quite well.
However today when teachers themselves don’t care about students’ well being and on top of that cane the students as well, I guess parents have justification to file lawsuits against them. Just my point of view that’s all.
And I remember almost all the nicknames we had for my teachers in high school, albeit the fact is that I passed out in the 90s and not in the 60s 😀
Lovely post to round up the series, I liked all the posts in this series, and here’s looking forward to more from you.
Jose, thank you for this post and the lovely photo. Truly, the teachers, masters, Brothers and Fathers at St. Stanislaus’ tried hard to ensure that we students would live up to our school motto: “Born for greater things”.
Incidentally, Bader’s real name was Mr. Nave (maybe Mr. Nhave). He was still working when I was in school, though I never had the opportunity of being taught by him.
Hitler was Mr. Joseph, so called not so much for his mustache, but mainly because he was strict! He had retired by the time I entered school, but my older neighbours told me about him. His son was a famous inter-school athlete, Das Joseph.
Were you ever taught by Mr. Neeff and Mr. Oliver, each of whom had taught in St. Stanislaus for around 40 years?
You picked a great topic for the prompt.Teachers are the most influential people in a man or a woman’s life. Even nitpicking them or making fun of them form an important part of our growing up. And yes there have been times that those same people have formed warm memories of adulthood and an odd silent laugh we share with ourselves..
You are so right Jose. These is a serious change in the functioning of one of the noblest professions.Teachers were somebody whom we adored, were in awe and emulated as we grew up. But times have changed. We have to find a role model in this profession with a matchstick. I am sorry for saying this inspite of been in this profession for the past 2 decades.
It’s an amazing post and picture on your experience as a young student. This is what real teachers are all about and, me too, I wonder whether changes are for good or worse with parents complaining against teachers. I have immense respect for my teachers and a lil bit of scolding doesn’t harm.
Times have changed dramatically and I believe the teachers earlier were more committed and dedicated to their profession. They were our role models. If they scolded us, it was for our good and our parents were in sync with the teachers. But today it is a different scene altogether!