Treasures of teaching

Last Updated 04 September 2018, 18:32 IST

As a teacher for over 40 years, I have been richly rewarded. Too many to enumerate, the privileges of my profession are as exceptional as they are enduring. Among them is the pleasure of regularly hearing from my former students. They keep in touch from around the world, and we come across each other occasionally.

Farah chuckled when she saw me at a Spiderman film. She probably thought that as an English teacher, I should steep myself in literary classics, shunning frivolous forms of entertainment. Her assumption had to do with the fact that generations of students associate me with Shakespeare (quite an honour!), whose works are an integral part of the ISC curriculum.

The Bard was on board, metaphorically, when my husband and I flew to Kolkata. As we entered the aircraft, a flight attendant greeted us with extraordinary exuberance. We were wondering whether it was the policy of the airline to welcome all passengers in that manner, when she remarked reproachfully, “Ma’am, don’t you remember teaching me Hamlet?” I couldn’t honestly say that I did, for I’ve taught several of Shakespeare’s plays to hundreds of students. It was only when the stewardess told me her name that I recalled her as a quiet, bashful girl. Now smart and self-assured, she rolled out a flying red carpet!

I remember Protima’s solicitude in the skies with heartwarming appreciation. The memory cheers me in melancholy moments, as Wordsworth’s recollection of the daffodils enlivened the poet long after he had admired them. Sadly, not all momentous meetings have been as pleasant as that aerial encounter.

When Anu lost her father in an accident, I rushed to be of comfort. Arriving at the house, I found the young advocate comporting herself with dignity. Calm and composed, she was consoling her mother, receiving condolences and overseeing funeral arrangements. Observing that I was upset, Anu tried to assuage my distress.

I never cease to be amazed at the courage displayed by students, past and present, in times of tragedy. When faced with problems of my own and tempted to wallow in self-pity, I am strengthened by the thought of their resilience. There have been situations when our roles have been reversed, and I have learnt lessons from my youthful mentors.

At an interview in 1977 for the post of college lecturer, I was asked why I wanted to teach. Expecting questions related to my subject, I was unprepared for that simple query. I replied that I hoped to share my love of literature with others. Soon after, I commenced my career as an educator. Decades later, I am fortunate to still be doing what I always wished to do. As I continue to inspire and be inspired, I garner with gratitude the timeless treasures of teaching.

(Published 04 September 2018, 18:13 IST)

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