When I joined a college in Kolkata as a lecturer in the early 90s, it was after a long gap in my teaching career and also it was for the first time that I was facing a class of 200 boisterous young boys and girls, thumping their desks loud and whistling hard, every time a teacher entered the classroom. Even the male teachers were not spared from this ordeal though I need to admit that we the lady teachers were the worse sufferers.
In my initial days, I always tried not to make eye contact with any student. There is no shame in confessing today that I used to feel very jittery every morning and though I took great care to pleat my sari properly, wear my usual kajol and bindi and occasionally tuck a flower too on my bun before leaving for the college, it used to be the butterflies in all sizes and colours that kept fluttering in my empty tummy every morning, on that fifteen minute drive from Ballygunje to Elgin Road.
I was never late by a minute for the early morning 6-15 classes, which soon became a much talked about topic in that institution where everyone took the clock and also their classes very casually. Teachers in the morning section had a steady grievance that there were hardly any interested students to teach and the students were always ready with their complaints that they lose interest because the teachers never turn up on the scheduled hour. This vicious cycle ran there for years though that institution had the best of infrastructure and many other possibilities.
In and around that chaotic condition and a utterly hostile teacher-student environment I met a few bright teenagers who, like me, never failed to reach their classrooms on time. Vineet Agarwal, who had to travel all the way from Liluah was one of them. I remember a couple of names like Sitaram Agarwal and Amar Gandhi, the two brothers with the names of Ram and Krishna, too. At those nervous and difficult initial days, it was those few boys who made me wake up every morning with a smile and sprint towards my working place with so much of enthusiasm, leaving back two sleeping kids at home.
Those charming teenage boys of my first batch are now all grown up men, well settled in life. It was a sheer delight when a few of them got in touch with me through Facebook. I consider myself to be very lucky and fortunate when these men call me up or message me on some special or not so special occasions. I do need to say that I was indeed overwhelmed when Vineet called me up from his present place of living, UK, seeking permission for collecting all my Facebook status updates and saving them in a website, he has designed, for his daughter. The column in the website, where he has been storing my write ups is named ‘Dad’s Favourite Teacher’, he said.
Could the little Veerica’s dad’s teacher have asked for any better gift, she wonders! Official Teachers’ Day is still two weeks away but gestures such as this makes me belief that every day is a teachers’ day no doubt, because every day in our lives, we are learning something new. From whomever it may come, we should know to embrace the teachings with open arms. We all have met a few great teachers in our classrooms and in our daily lives we are meeting many more every day, some of them perhaps are the ones whom we have taught from text books once. Reverence, respect, love or acts of kindness are the chapters in our life, which needed to be revised and reread every day with much care.