I seem to be starting every post apologising for a delay in updating my blog. I have tried hard not to make it a habit but I seem to be failing at it. So from now on, I shall not apologise but assure you that my posts won’t be too regular but they will definitely pop up once in two weeks. So stay tuned for them!
When I narrate today’s anecdote, you’ll probably get an idea as to why my posts get delayed. A busy schedule is solely responsible for it apart from a very serious writer’s block that persisted for way too long. But without further delay, let me plunge into telling you one of the sweetest stories of all times.
When I was working as a journalist in a newspaper organisation, my professor from my postgraduate college wondered if I would be interested in taking up part-time teaching. I had to teach the software used for designing newspapers to print journalism students. I contemplated on it for a while for I was unsure if I could manage that along with my long hours at work. I had just started to get used to the routine [which was already taking a toll on my health] and I didn’t think I could juggle the two. Strangely, just a few days after the mail arrived, one thing led to another and my department changed to from editing to reporting office. This meant my timings were slightly different, giving me room to teach. So, after consulting everyone in my family, I agreed to become a teacher. I kept my boss informed and all was well as one schedule, fortunately didn’t interfere with the other in any way.
The reason I mention my journey of becoming a teacher is because it was one thing that made my grandmother truly happy. Being an educationist herself, she was thrilled to see that her granddaughter had taken to the field and was following her footsteps. Her sister too was happy beyond measure as she was an established educationist too. When I told them about the opportunity, they didn’t even need a moment to think it over. It was a yes.
In fact, more than once, dadi would tell me to do only teaching and nothing else! Anyone who came home was diligently told about my stint as a teacher. Being skinny and small built, many, including dadi, often wondered if I would ever be taken seriously in class. Yet, it gave her immense pride knowing that at a relatively young age I was teaching post graduate students. To her, teaching was the most fulfilling profession. As a teacher, she wasn’t too strict or lenient. She liked discipline but always took the peaceful route to encourage it.
The qualities of a teacher stayed with her till the end. She was systematic and sincere about everything she took up and tried to instill those qualities in me. Things were always done in an organised, methodical manner and she’d never tread have it any other way. The minute things weren’t done properly, she was quick to express her disappointment and disapproval. One of the incidents I remember is her constant reminder to me about correcting answer sheets and assignments in time. I had and perhaps, still have the bad habit of hoarding up answer papers for months and not returning them to the students until it’s time to release the term’s marksheet. She would tell me, “This is unfair. What will your students think? You should always return the papers as soon as possible.” Somewhere those words rubbed off on me and I have fortunately, gotten better at my speed of correcting.
The days I draped a saree to teach, her joy knew no bounds. She’d say, “Ippo daan teacher maadri iruke! [Only now you look like an actual teacher!]” And I would give her my big smile, hug her and leave for class. She was 89 years old when I started teaching and take my word for it, she was always up and ready to bid me good bye before morning class. In fact, if I was even a few minutes late for class she would get anxious as to why I wasn’t ready. She’d call and ring the bell [for the top floor] and urge me to hurry. She didn’t like me going late and emphasised that punctuality cannot be compromised on.
I’d then run down the stairs; ma would have kept my breakfast ready and dadi would keep my water bottle filled with water and a glass with juice [cold juice kept outside to make it room temperature so that I didn’t land up with a sore throat] and ensured I didn’t skip breakfast in my hurry. That was another issue she never let go of. On the days I had to skip breakfast because of being late, she’d be anxious till I returned. Her thoughts would be in turmoil thinking what if I fainted while teaching and so on.
Her grandmotherly instincts combined with her teacher-ly qualities ensured that my journey as a teacher was smooth. It continues to be and I hope to live up to her expectations each day. When dadi passed away, many of her students came to condole the family and everyone had only good things to say about her. She wasn’t the kind of teacher you feared or disliked or found boring. But the kind who made it to the list of favourites for many. They didn’t recollect her for being just a teacher who taught English but also narrated vivid memories of virtues she taught them. Some of her students have made it big in their fields internationally and they haven’t forgotten how important her contribution was to their lives.
It made me realise that if you’re a good teacher, then you live on in the memories of your students long after you’ve taught them. Dadi inspires me to become a teacher like her, where I hope to touch the lives of at least a handful of those whom I teach, with the same kind of dedication she had.