Wednesday, September 05, 2007

5th September

It's Teacher's Day today. And I thought I'd write up one memory I have of a strict teacher who taught me one of the earliest lessons of my life.

It was April of 1988. I was new to the school. Our home room teacher was a lady called Abha Banerjee. A very strict teacher, who apparently glowered at girls whose skirts were too short, who was known for cutting boys' hair if they weren't properly groomed, and who we all were very, very scared of.

I forget what class we had but the teacher hadn't shown up. Like all 9-10 year-olds tend to do, we were making quite a racket. Groups of kids were playing in the corridor, some were scribbling on the blackboard, there was a game of Cluedo going on in one corner, and suddenly in the middle of it all, someone let out a Tarzan-like yell. That put us on to another decibel level altogether! The staff room was near enough that someone would have heard, and would make it their business to punish us. In the hush that followed, we all looked at each other and waited for retribution to arrive.

It did, promptly, in the form of Banerjee Ma'am.

We all stared at our desks as she gave us a piece of our mind without once raising her voice. And then she said, "Who shouted like that?" When there was silence, she repeated her question, adding that the whole class would be punished. There was no way she could have guessed who had done it. She could have asked all day and been none the wiser.

In the continuing, pindrop silence, suddenly a boy at the back raised his hand. There were murmurs. Oh he'll definitely have to go to the Principal. Do you think they'll call his parents? Our childhood imaginations ran riot, visualising the things they could do to him.

Harsh Chadrath (I don't know if I'm spelling his last name correctly) was an average kid in our class. Not a rank-holder, but not someone who flunked either. Just your regular school-going kid who, at the age of 10, wasn't hugely interested in acquiring an education. He stood up slowly and said "Ma'am, I did it. Sorry Ma'am."

Banerjee Ma'am stared at him, said "Really? It was you? Come here."

Head bowed, Harsh walked to the front of the class and stood before all of us. We waited.

And then, Banerjee Ma'am raised his arm like they do for the winning boxer in the ring and announced:
"Harsh Chadrath, the hero of our class. He can take responsibility for his actions."

Harsh got a stern glare and that was that. I don't think the implications of it all hit him at the moment as he walked back to his seat with a goofy smile. But that moment, that decision of our teacher's, all of these have stayed with me even nearly 20 years on.

It was brave of Harsh to do what he did. And Banerjee Ma'am could have punished him. In which case he would never have told the truth again.

Instead, she took the chance to teach us all a lesson for life: If you do something, you take responsibility for it. And you don't drag your team down with you.

22 comments:

Suki said...

Wow. Reminds me of something that happened when I was in class 10.

Someone was banging on the desk, as our teacher handed out answer scripts. Immediately, Ms JR lost her temper and demanded to know who it was.
After fifteen minutes of no one owning up, she said, "I do not know whether to deduct 5 marks from each of you for doing that, or to give each of you a +10 for standing by your friend and not telling on him or her."
A lot of us learned a valuable lesson that day.

Anamika said...

I like that!!! Team loyalty was very big for all of us and once our entire class spent 3 school days standing in obstinate silence because we refused to apologise for something we were wrongly accused of. The teachers finally gave up on us. No one buckled!

Nithya said...

Hi - You know what I feel suddenly remorseful about? My mother has been a teacher all her life. And now is Principal of her school. And not once as a student did I give her a card or anything for Teacher's day. I had a mother and teacher in my backyard and never appreciated it. Am sad now...

Anamika said...

Oh, join the club. My mother's been a teacher too and I never gave her a card! But then, she's taught me so much and I always carry those learnings with me, and I think that is true gratitude. Don't be sad. Your mother knows :)

Sandeepa said...

First thanks for reminding. Very nice of you

Your writing had something, I felt a tingle, some thing I cannot describe

Mandira said...

Teacher's Day, I had forgotten about that. Thanks for refreshing my memory :)

eve's lungs said...

Teacher's Day wasnt such a hype when we were in school .Our teachers were a great lot , though . Wonderful people all of them . And the values and ideals they instilled in us still remain.

choxbox said...

ah those good ol days! the whole scene of the classroom with no teacher in it - i can totally see it :)
what a splendid teacher!

Anamika said...

Sandeepa: Wow...you made my writing sound mysterious and effective. Thanks :)

Mandira: Welcome to my blogspace. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

Eve's Lungs: I agree with the hype business. That's more recent, and I see my mother getting flowers and cards beyond what I ever even thought of doing for my teachers.

Choxbox: I know...the bliss of indiscipline, and the scrambling for our chairs when we glimpsed the teacher walking down the corridor. I don't think I have been so innocently naughty ever again.

Jenn said...

What a brilliant lesson! Even more brilliant that the teacher found the opportunity to make such a poignant point.

Our Teacher Appreciation Day is towards the end of the school year. There's not much hullabaloo about it, but I always make it a point to have the kids do something special. Last year they painted wood plaques and I corded them with wire so they could be hung in each of their classrooms. My son painted, "Thanks for making my brain bigger" along with his hand print. My daughter gave the generic, but heartfelt, "Thank You for being the best teacher I've ever had".

It really is the little things.

Anamika said...

Jenn: It's great to encourage children to learn to express appreciation. As they grow up, they tend to get lazy and shy about it. So hopefully these childhood habits stick on and help make the world a nicer place.

OrangeJammies said...

Fantastic! What a lovely lesson that was for all of us, (yes, we all need lessons all the time too!), spun in your own inimitable way! :)

choxbox said...

you've been tagged!

choxbox said...

you've been tagged!

Anamika said...

OJ: I'm sure the teacher in you appreciates that on another level altogether!

Choxbox: You've found the right bakra for this :) But do give me some time. My grandmother is very ill and it may be a while before I get back to blogging.

Tharini said...

Ana, awesome post! I had goosebumps when I read that one line she said. Its like a like from a movie! Its amazing the immense power that teaches have over the minds that are under their charge. Something as simple as this lives on in you for 20 odd years. I am just imagining the colour of this memory in that boy's mind. Great!

PS - I don't know if you caught my reply comment or not...but I didindeed catch that resemblance picture u sent me....yeah I agree there is a certain something abt the two fo them that matched. Can't pinpoint it tho. :D

Tharini said...

oooo...I just saw your profile and that you had listed hullabaoo...as one of ur fave. books. Its one of my faves too!!! And the reason I am so excited is that I have not seen another person who has read it leave alone thot of it as a fave.!! Okay...its not good that I am leaving chatty unrelated comments to yr posts. U shud leave a link to ur email on ur profile so gushing readers can get in touch and wax poetic about your writing. Pls. update! Else...email me...winkiesways@gmail. If u feel inclined to...i.e.!

Anamika said...

Tharini: Thanks for all that appreciation. Yes, teachers can choose to make or break, or be completely indifferent.

Glad you caught the picture I told you about. I think it's the grin and the ears! And I love Hullabaloo and even photocopied that passage about the "ideal Indian bride", do you remember it?

iz said...

Gosh that's so sweet! Makes me feel guilty for not writing on Teacher's day.

eve's lungs said...

Tharini and Anamika - I picked up Hullabaloo JLT long back just after it had come out . I love it too!

The Weekend Blogger said...

When you are younger, we do tend to stand by our classmates even those with whom we are not too close, and then gradually with the passage of time, we lose that feeling of "one-ness" ...is it because we gradually lose our sense of belonging as we grow up?

Anamika said...

Iz: Do one now!

Eve's Lungs: We do tend to have the same/good taste in books!! What can I say: great minds think alike!!

TWB: I think as we grow older and the rat race gets to us, it becomes easier to think primarily (and only) of our advantage. It's sad, but true.