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Friday, September 12, 2014

Teacher's Day! The Curious Case of Teachers and Books...

Last week was Teacher’s Day in India. The 5th of September. Though, of course I have never celebrated it, except in school, where everyone was glad to be missing out on a few sessions at school. But, in all this time, I can think of exactly two teachers, who have taught me that studying is not just about books and lectures. It was about their lives, which they lived and in which they taught.

So, two books come to my mind and two names also come to me, because of the difference, which their books and lives have made to me. ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ by Charles Dickens and ‘The Mistress of Spices’ by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.

The first book was part of my school syllabus, and the teacher who taught it to me, was Kavita Mahendra. Kavita Ma’am was an awesome teacher, in not just the way she taught the subject, but the manner in which she understood the topic and taught it. Every day was positive and every lesson she taught and every exercise, which she assigned us was quite the pleasure.

I do not really remember a day when I did not want to not do or study in her class. I think her way of teaching and her subtle humour made every class a pleasure. She made learning fun, and the way she taught us, it seemed so engaging. In fact, I do not think there was any chapter that she was particularly ‘teaching’ but her idea of engaging the student was a good one. I do not think that I can think of even one time when my own interest was not a part of the lesson.  

She taught the French Revolution in the 18th century, through ‘A Tale of Two Cities’. Set in London and Paris, this historical fiction was supposed to be one of Dickens’ shorter novels. A story of love and tragic heroism. ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.’ I still remember these opening lines of the first chapter in Literature class, in Nasr School.

I remember my classroom, I think we were the luckier ones; we got a room on the balcony with a view of the entire school’s playground, with a library right next to the class.  I was in the 11th class or grade as it is known, nowadays.

A wonderful place to be seated and a wonderful teacher to boot, what more could I ask for?

Cut to 2003.

It was all at once, a new place, new friends and a new college. My days at COMMITS were pleasant and fun. It was the place I felt completely liberated and had never known that much freedom. But the best thing about my two years was my college lecturer, Tummala Chakravarthy. Known simply as Tummala Sir, he changed my whole mind about the way I saw college and eventually, life.

He taught us ‘Film Studies’. I remember all the movies he got for us, and all the Biryani, he ate with us. Tummala Sir lived at the college and since the hostel, where we stayed was opposite the college, it only meant a whole lot of fun. I could think of a million funny things, which we got up to, with Sir in tow. The jokes he cracked, the people he made fun of and the person he was, are all things which, I wish I had more of.

I reckon, he taught us more for the person that he was. He got me a book, ‘The Mistress of Spices’ and left me with an idea. The idea was to write myself, and today whatever little I manage to write, is in part, thanks to him.

I cannot think watching of a single James Bond movie without thinking of him or ‘Godfather’ or even ‘When Harry met Sally’! I have never seen any person enjoy talking to students, or watching movies, or even eating the Biryani, as much as he did. But, he still got me a book. ‘The Mistress of Spices’ and I have it with me even the little note in it, even today. I wonder what he would have said of the movie!

He redefined teaching to me. Till then, I never really learnt. But this time, I did, not because it was Sir teaching it, but it was him sharing an experience and teaching, at the same time.

I never knew then, what he was and what he would mean to me. I miss his stories and his anecdotes, but most of all I really miss him and I do wish for some of that time to come back, again.





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