Memories of an old teacher

Schooling in the late sixties was anything but bliss as the teachers in those days believed firmly in the dictum ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ and made liberal use of all the torture tools available to them. 

Corporal punishment was the order of the day in the all-male school where I studied and the slightest misdemeanour invited not just a tongue lashing but a rap on the knuckles if you were lucky or lusty blows on the back with a clenched fist if it was a particularly bad day. 

As I take a nostalgic trip down memory lane, I recollect one of my teachers, Miranda Sir — a strict disciplinarian who would never win a popularity contest as he was well known for his strong arm tactics. A few strands of hair neatly combed back, a thin pencil line moustache, striped shirt, a rumpled tie and baggy trousers, not to forget a protuberant belly is a fair description of the man who taught us history in Class 9. 

And to give the devil his due, what Miranda did not know about world history was not worth knowing.

But his classes were generally in the afternoons and with a cold wind blowing in through the open windows and the teacher’s sonorous voice narrating the story of Romulus and Remus, all 40 of us would find refuge in Lethe’s arms and doze off, careful not to snore as that would attract Miranda’s attention. But through his slit eyes, he would inevitably catch us in the act and then all hell would break loose. The sudden increase in decibels would snap us out of our reverie.

The sight of Miranda, nostrils flaring like a jallikattu bull, would have us shaking at the knees, quivering like jelly. “Bend down your heads you sillies,” Miranda would thunder and we would comply meekly. 

There was a violent streak in him as well and he generally hurled a duster, which like a UFO would come flying in our direction. But failing eyesight, a lousy aim and our expertise in ducking swiftly and in time always ensured that the duster never found its target. Miranda, however, had no bias and treated all of us with equal disdain.

He never differentiated between a class topper and a laggard and he never credited us with any degree of intelligence — as far as he was concerned, our combined IQ would only be a big zero. 

Miranda’s evaluation of our answer sheets was quite unlike the other teachers. There was a perception that he would read only the first paragraph of any answer, so we would fill up the rest of the paper with cricket commentary or some such sort.

But he would see through the game and draw a broad line in red ink across the answer sheets and on the margin would be inscribed the word ‘bluff’ in all capitals. 

There is little chance that Miranda Sir would be around anymore, but his memories, though not always sweet, still come flashing by, off and on.

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Memories of an old teacher

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