When I recall my childhood days, the faces of a few teachers come to my mind. The incidents that had caused pain, anger and agony then, now seem to be quite meaningful and important. The ire of the day gone by changes into the reverence of the teachers. And I feel like running up to the teachers to seek their forgiveness for all that my immature mind had thought against them. But as those teachers are no more alive, I can only pay my homage to them.
The only Muslim teacher of the Sanatan Dharma School, Master Zahir Ali, while taking the roll-call in the first period, noted my absence. In recess time, he walked up to our house and called out my name from the passage way. This calling out was actually a notice to my mother to veil herself. He got into the courtyard and enquired as to where I was. My mother, from within a long veil on her face welcomed him with “please come, Master ji” and led him to my room.
Entering the room, he examined me like a doctor and said to my mother: “For Dinanath (my father) work is more important than the child. The boy is burning with fever and he has not cared to take him to the doctor.” Saying this, he lifted me to his shoulder and leaving my mother perplexed, walked out of the house. From the courtyard he announced: “I am taking the boy to the doctor”.
This was the affection, the feeling of oneness, the sense of responsibility, which turned the teachers of yesterday into revered Gurus. This kind of feeling is rare, if not totally missing, in the present day teachers.
I was in ninth class when I had the feeling of being grown up enough to have a fountain pen. My father and my teachers alike were very particular about our handwriting. The first period was that of English. Headmaster Babu Ram was taking the class. While taking the roll-call, he noticed a fountain pen bulging out of my pocket. He left the roll-call in between, walked up to my desk and asked me to stand up. Without losing his temper, he enquired if it was a new pen. With a sense of pride, I replied in the affirmative. He again asked me where I got the money to buy the pen. I said that I got it from my father. His usual wrath started showing its face. “Your father’s affection is bound to spoil your handwriting. Do you understand?” he said and suddenly took the pen out of my pocket, threw it on the floor and smashed it under his shoes.
Had it not been beyond me, I would have murdered the headmaster there and then. I silently hurled a thousand curses on the Headmaster and sat blank through the whole period.
My uncle was the Manager of the school. I consoled myself with the thought that I will go to him during the recess and he will surely teach the Headmaster a lesson. It was a long half day for me. Ultimately, when the recess bell rang, I ran up to my uncle and narrated the whole incident to him. Tears were rolling down my cheeks. Chachaji gave me a patient hearing and murmured: “Why must my brother buy a pen for the child….” And snubbed me too.
These days, when I find the Nursery and K.G. kids learn writing with ball pens, I wonder as to how these kids would ever understand that handwriting is a mirror of one’s personality. How shall they believe that in our times, there used to be extra marks for the handwriting?