Spare the rod... or child?

Spare the rod... or child?

The other day, my niece came back from school red in the face. Her usual chirpy cheer was gone. There was certainly something wrong and everybody sensed it right away. After some coaxing, she burst into tears and told us in her plaintive voice that her class teacher had showered a volley of tight slaps on her cheeks.

There was pandemonium all around, as if all hell had broken loose. The very next morning, the irate father and furious mother reached the principal’s office to register their protest. The principal took a prompt call and sent for the teacher concerned to seek an explanation.

The annoyed advocate father instantly took recourse to his bulky law books and defended his case by quoting the latest ruling of the Supreme Court against corporal punishment. The principal’s office (where I sat like a mute spectator) turned into a virtual court room with the “culprit” teacher in the dock. The alleged offender pleaded her case by meekly stating that the child was not doing well in her studies and hence, as a teacher, she had resorted to some mild reprimand. She also denied charges of any physical bashing in her trembling voice.

The prudent principal, so as to propitiate the indignant patents, demanded an immediate apology from the teacher. The teacher, blushing with embarrassment, complied to save her temporary job. It was the victory of the family and the parents returned home satisfied. But the whole episode took me back to my own school days, where the rule of the rod was all prevalent.

Once, I had stolen the pencil box of a classmate and when it was recovered from my possession by the class teacher, I was beaten black and blue. Like my niece’s red face, my black and blue bruises spilled the beans at home, and the very next day, my father was in the principal’s office.

In a manner similar to my niece’s case, another courtroom drama ensued then too. But this time, it was not the teacher but I who was made to stand in the dock. When my thievery was reported to my father, much to my amazement, he changed party and disowned his son.

I can vividly recollect how, in the very office of the principal, my father unleashed his choicest snubs and rebuffs on me. Unlike today, teachers were held in high esteem those days and they were not deterred by any law against corporal punishment. They only clung to one simple and straight belief: spare the rod and spoil the child.

Though they were ruthless with their rod at times, under their tough tutelage, students imbibed a stronger sense of discipline, which is perhaps missing in most modern-day children. And unlike today’s parents, there was hardly any intervention from the family.

While I am not aware of any psychological repercussions of physical punishment on children back then, I can say this for sure: it was an era when gurus ruled the roost with the highest authority.