Lesson of our lives

My twin brother Ram and I were just 11 years old when we had to appear for the dreaded Lower Secondary (LS) public examination — thanks to our double promotion while studying in Acharya Pathasala. Our parents, both in government service and unable to devote enough attention to us, decided to engage a tutor for us. HR (H Rama Rao) sir, the tutor — a stern yet kindhearted disciplinarian, committed to bringing out the best in his pupils — was appointed to coach us in all subjects for a princely monthly fee of Rs 20! Things like Teachers' Day and Best Teacher awards were unheard of in 1940s.

Well aware of our simian antics, Sir preferred to coach us at his house after school hours. While he was determined to make us ‘exam-fit’, we were impishly devising our own plans to ‘avenge’ the loss of our precious playing hours. An opportunity presented itself one evening when Sir went out to the market after loading us with sufficient assignments. Seizing the golden chance, we got hold of Sir’s dhoti from the clothes line and jubilantly shredded it with a blade!

The exams came. Ram and I passed the same with a high first class. With this, our feelings underwent a sudden transformation as our joy was shadowed by an immense feeling of guilt at the most despicable act we had so surreptitiously carried out in return of the invaluable gift of knowledge that Sir had imparted to us. We confided this in our mother, who rebuked us and bought a pair of dhotis, asking us to confess and offer it at Sir’s feet with due reverence.

Hands trembling, we gave the package to Sir. With a twinkle in his eyes he said, “Why have you brought two dhotis? You had vented your ire on only one!” We were aghast! Even though Sir had known it all along he had not punished us or even complained to our parents! We felt so small before him. Tears flowing in profusion, we asked him why he had not taken us to task. Hugging us he said benevolently, “I robbed you of your evenings and you of my dhoti. Now I have two. So don't regret, go and play!”

It was a lesson far beyond the LS course HR ‘Maestru’ taught us, making an indelible and ennobling impact on our lives, reminding us of Sir Henry Newbolt’s immortal lines “Then men that tanned the hide of us, our daily foes and friends!” from his poem ‘The Best School Of All.’

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