Open up your mind and your potential reaches infinity…

Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition. ~Jacques Barzun

Teaching is the noblest of professions which got undervalued and lost its sheen along the way. It is a profession that teaches all other professions.
More than half way through my life, the group I feel most indebted to are my teachers.
‘I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well.’ ~Alexander the Great.

Indeed, I am indebted to all my teachers-to the mediocre teachers for stuffing my brain with ready to use information, to the good ones for making the information interesting and to the superior ones for sparking a burning desire for the quest of knowledge unto death.

Not spelling out the gratitude to each one of them for their shares in my life would be like writing a letter and not sending it.

In middle school, I went to school looking forward to the vacations in May, June and July, in High School, it was to have fun with the friends, and in University, to come out with a licence to earn good money.

Fortunately though, if it wasn’t for the inspiring teachers, I would have walked out with same goals achieved. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that they were my awesome teachers who replaced my empty mind with an open one .They widened my horizon and brightened my vision.

Half baked brain that I was (especially in school), I extremely undervalued the magnanimity of my teachers. There was a love- hate relationship that existed –they being ‘tools of torture’ one minute and ‘instrument of inspiration‘ the other. It sounds impertinent and embarrassing that these angels of knowledge and wisdom were at times viewed by my myopic eyes as satans of strictness and discipline.

But I was smart. Yes, very smart. I never let them know what transpired in my mind and always faked like a well behaved, loving pupil ever ready to say ,

‘Yes Sir ‘ or ‘Yes Ma’am’.

Now that I ejoy the fruits of their perseverence and hardwork,  I feel guilty and want to confess for my “evil’ thoughts.

A very wise old teacher once said: “I consider a day’s teaching wasted if we do not all have one hearty laugh.” He meant that when people laugh together, “they cease to be young and old, master and pupils, jailer and prisoners. They become a single group of human beings enjoying its existence.”

True to the spirit of above quote, school life was more of a “fun packed day out” with friends rather than a “a forced holy visit” to the temple of learning. Some teachers were sporty enough to become a single group of fun with us, but many of them, sadly though , ended up being the target of our laughter.

I feel especially apologetic of the single episode in my student life when I actually misbehaved with a short tempered Biology teacher for not doing the prank that she blamed me for. She asked me to walk out of the class but I refused and arrogantly argued for my innocence. She could have believed me easily,  but to my hard luck I wore a naughty smile on my lips and a nasty furrow between my brows, while arguing, and that was more than  enough to unleash the lionness of her anger. As her voice rose in volume, so did mine. What happened later is an epic deserving a narration. I wish I had the decency to not have offended a teacher almost thrice my age then. What made me look even smaller was that before the class could end she had already forgiven me in front of the class of 28. Again today I beg sorry to her for my vulgar offence.

For our beloved chemistry teacher, teaching was not his profession but a passion. Chemistry was his beloved and the only love in his life, perhaps. He made the pungent subject sound melodious by his real life examples. His favourite being the comparison of the effect on molecules of heating and cooling, with people staying apart from each other in the room with heaters on and huddling together in a room with ice blocks. As he would narrate his oft repeated, famous examples there would be a blush on his cheeks and sparkle in his eyes.

I remember once when he had to do the explaining of the Rutherford’s model of an atom. He explained not once, not twice, but thrice because the back seated ragamuffins of our class pretended not to have understood the simple concept, just to get kicks out of his example of protons as girls and electrons as boys, that the reason why these two particles attract each other and why the electrons revolve in the orbits around the proton nucleus. Our stomachs cramped with  continual laughter but the poor soul was so drenched in his passion of explaining that he could not see the ulterior motive behind their ignorance. The story remained an instance source of hysterical laughter, for months together.

“ I beg sorry Sir.”, on behalf of the whole bunch, as rest of us were equal abettors in the prank. Though belated but I honour and hail him for being a very diligent teacher.

Hindi wasn’t a pleasant subject for any of us. The teacher was in love with her subject and  was doing her PhD thesis in Sanskrit. She even dreamt in Sanskrit. Her love affair with Tulsidas poetry and our abhorrence for it were open secrets. Once, a team-spirited me allowed a few of my fellow classmates to copy the homework, ditto, of the meanings of Tulsidas poetry. We all ended up getting a ZERO each—as an acknowledgement of  our collective effort. She refused to hear who the original author was. I took back my homework notebook from her table to my desk, silently uttering the filthiest four and five letter words, I knew then,  in my heart. My ego was stabbed with this zero, and then I knew I would have to  do the explaining at home, too. No one heard those words except me and my God. And I know He will not forgive me if I do not render my apology to its recipient.

”Ma’am I beg my sincere apology to you for this shameful act.”

And God, I hope you too heard me apologising to her publicly!

University was no better. We were going to be doctors in few years and our quest for knowledge had no boundaries. Even while hearing a lecture on Pathology, our burning desire for the latest score of the test match between India-Pakistan was equally aflame. The whispers of news spread around the lecture hall that the handsome reincarnation of ‘Samson’, Pakistani batsman Zaheer Abbas was batting. The interest in the lecture vanished in a microsecond. We had to go to the girl’s common room to watch him playing, on TV. It wasn’t our fault—Zaheer was to be blamed. Why was he such a looker and such a hooker of the ball?  On that trip to India, Zaheer was in his top form and there used to be a caption on the Amul Butter billboard saying—Zaheer Ab Bas!

The most ardent of fans amongst us conveniently fainted in her seat and poor four of us had to rush her out of the class to get the first aid. And in emergency we landed up in the girl’s common room trying not to miss a single shot from his batting. I feel sorry neither for watching the fantastic shots nor for being such malingerers, but for taking the kind heartedness of our Pathology Professor for a ride. ” Yes, I feel really sorry for that, Prof.”

One person I would want to name as a special honour is Brother John of S.H.  Till date he lives in my life as a guide and as an inspiration. His dignity and grace were  beyond our petty pranks,any but I beg him too, to forgive if I ever hurt him.

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” — Carl Jung

Thank you, Brother, for having been that ‘vital element’ in my growing years.

Apart from those to whom I have apologised, I feel a huge gratitude towards ONE AND ALL  my teachers for acting as a compass that activated the magnets of curiosity, knowledge and wisdom within me . They prepared me, along with my parents, to meet the challenges of the times to come by nurturing my mind, my body and my soul. Each one was in some way a catalyst of change in my mental chemistry, either as a corrosive acid or as a sweet smelling ester.

To all my teachers from Jack n Jill Nursery  to Mallinson Girls School to Montfort School to Lady Hardinge Medical College to Royal College of ObsGyn, I say:
“I can no other answer make, but, thanks, and thanks.” (William Shakespeare)

I thank you ALL, my teachers,  from the bottom of my heart, but for you, my heart has no bottom.


Ilmana Fasih
5 September 2009

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