Tuesday, October 5, 2010

My English Teacher!

I'm a village lad and finished my primary education upto the Standard IV in that Free Primary School. I was admitted in Class (Standard) V in the year 1963 in one of the oldest School of our town, the Burdwan Raj Collegiate School. The Maharaja or King of Burdwan had founded the School in 1855. Later the Collge was separated from the School and there's a College in Burdwan named, Burdwan Raj College.
My fist year in School was gone in a jiffy though its very much alive in my memory. Someday I'll write about it too.
I was promoted to Class VI in the year 1964 and life had turned in a new direction. In my life I've been lucky enough to meet some of the best teachers, who have helped me mould my life. I'm grateful and indebted to all those teachers for their contributions in my life.
In Class VI we've a new English teacher. His name is Amod Behari Bose, a man of straight stature, reaching 5'8" with a physique resembled a scabbard. He always walked straight and brisk. Cladded in spotless white shirt and Dhoti (a one piece cloth worn by Indian males) when he entered in our Class we were awe struck by his personality.
A strong man in body and mind, Amod Babu, as we used to call his was a strict disciplinarian and task master.
At that time corporal punishment to students was most common and nobody raised an eye brow at the news of getting a pupil thrashed at the hands of the teacher. Parents also believed in the adage, spare the rod and spoil the child.
English Grammer was the most tough of all the lessons. Grammer in any language I think is the most gruelling part of the language and many would agree with me.
Amod Babu generously used his hands and the rod for getting the lessons imbedded in the brain of his young pupils. And in his noble venture I was the most vulnerable targe most of the time. So to save my skin from the scars of the rod or my chicks tuning livid by his slaps I used to do my homework in English regularly. Other teachers were some soft so they could be managed by any pretext when the homework was not done.
Within a minute or two after entering into the Class room, he'd call me or come near me and wanted to see my homework. For better access and convience to reach my ears he made it sure that I take my seat at the First Bench so that he can reach me with ease.
He was a teacher who were impossible to satisfy as far as English lessons were concerned. He'd pick up the note book containing my home task, scrutinise it and barked at the top of his voice pointing mistakes. His voice was enough to make me tremble in my tiny figure of 4' something at that time.
Before I proceed let me give you some details about our School building. It was like a Palace. Thick walls of about 30" with big doors. The ceiling was almost 20' feet from the floor and it was supported by beams of heavy steel cross patterned by wooden planks. A strong building surrounded by verandahs on all its outer sides. Wooden decorations with blinds were covering half of those outer walls. Railings were topped by wooden cover over cast iron designs.
At the right side of our Class room there was such a wide verandah and after that was the play ground. On the play ground there were two very old shade giving Banyan trees. One at the Eastern side was my favourite haunt for savouring my tiffing and sharing the remnants with the Crows who keenly looked my activities from a not so close vicinity.
Now back to the Class room!
Amod Babu pointed out every mistake and error in my homework and rolled his eyes, a slap from his right hand landed in a nano second infalliably on my left side of the face. Felt like a sting and numbing the sensation of the skin for quite a few moments. It was hard to hold the tears caused by the severity of the blow. But it was cowardice to cry before the whole class. May be not so big in size but my male ego stopped me from crying out my heart before the classmates and of course the teacher.
Amod Babu ridiculed me for my short-cropped hairs which were made shiny by lavish application of mustard oil. The trace of oil could be found on my both sides of the cheeks.
Actually, my grandmother, under whose charge my childhood was spent believed that body and brain of a young boy can be made strong if pure and strong mustard oil is applied on whole of the body. So she made it sure that I get enough of the body and brain bulding external lubricant daily before bath. She'd make me sit near her and vigorously rubbed the mustard oil on my body and head. I tried my best to scrub those off while taking bath but perhaps the oil applied by my grand mother was in connivance with her and they refused to leave me even after prolonged wiping by towel.
The remnants of the oil on the exposed parts of my lower body acted as a static substance to draw all the dust from the road, paving which I reached the school. And the oil applied on my head, due to the sheer nature of gravity, descended down ward leaving a tiny trail from the side in front of both ears.
Amod Babu didn't touch my hairs to pull those for the apprehension of his fingers being greesy. It was also a blessings in disguise for me. Because he loved to slap other boys' crown perhaps believing to give them a whack on the side of their brains for making that grey subastance a bit more active.
Amod Babu gave me no time to recover from the shock received by me minutes ago and had thrown my note book out of the door to make it land at least twenty feet away.
I was amazed at his skill. He never missed to throw the Copy Book out of the door, flying the verandah (portico), passing through the gap of the upper blinds and railing to make its final landing at the play ground.
The Class room was big with four gigantic doors, facing each other. Two at the front and two at the back.
Then he ordered me to retrieve my Copy Book from the ground. Sheepishly I raised my posture, walked out of the Classroom, crossed the Verandah, climbed on the railing (because going through the main door, leaving to the ground, was a long way and it could take some time, which I couldn't afford to take the risk for being thrashed again) and jumped on the ground. Picked up my stuff and made my way back to the Classroom in the same fashion.
There was another boy named Asit. Out of a total students of 55-60 we two were Amod Babu's favourite targets.
After the class was dissolved all other boys left the room excepting me and Asit. Amod Babu would call us to him with most of his affectionate voice. Once we neared him he'd put his right hand over our heads and said, do you know why I'm so tough with you two? Because I know you boys have potentialities and for which I like you so much and want to see that you're growing as ideal men in your lives.
The tears so long held back couldn't be restrained any more and it started flowing from our eyes like a faucet.
I've never forgotten what Amod Babu taught me about English language and life.
An incident happened when I was studying in Class VIII, which had made me respect this great teacher much more.
He was an active member of a Leftist Teachers' Union and they had some programmes to demostrate before the Governor of the State with their demands. He knew that he'd be arrested along with other teachers of his Union.
So before that date when he came to our Class, he declared that he won't be able to take Class for the next one month. Because they were going to stage a demonstration before the Governor at Calcutta. He also disclosed to us that he'd take along our Peon with him. The Peon, named Hamdu, was very poor and he had a large family, which was hard for him to manage from the meager salary he used to receive from the post of Peon of the School.
So to compensate his small remuneration he used to sell toys and other goodies at fairs on holidays. Though Hamdu had a frail body with signs of malnutrition and insufficient foods all over his body but he was very humble and seemingly looked like a misfit in the system. Later we heard that his ancestors came from some foreign country to serve the King and tended King's horses and stable as they were very proficient in horse keeping.
From the next day both Amod Babu and Hamdu were absent from the School.
When both of them returned after a months Hamdu was a totally transformed man. His health was great and all the dents in his body were filled. His skin became glossy and his blue eyes were glittering with happiness. Oh I forgot to mention. He had a hair full of curled brunette hairs. Hamdu looks at least 20 years younger.
We, boys, pulled his leg by saying Hamdu you're looking healthy and very young so you better find another young woman to replace your old lady. He mockingly chased us saying us that she has already eight children and if I marry again and have another eight kids then she'll kill me because I won't be able to feed all those mouths!
After one month Amod Babu came to our Class. We were eager to hear his experience at the Jail. He narrated his experience.
They were political prisoners so they were treated as First Class Prisoner at the Jail. The Jailor took every trouble to make sure that these First Class inmates be comfortable. Every morning two newspapers were delivered to their Cells. Two butter-toasts for everyone. While stating this Amod Babu started laughing loudly saying that Hamdu was a Dust Bin and ate like a Pig. We could hardly eat one toast and Hamdu would eat all the 12 toasts along with his own quota. Lunch and dinner also witnessed the same zeal and apetite of Hamdu. He force-fed himself during this one month.
Perhaps he was not taking his full stomach of food since his childhood and didn't want to miss the opportunity to utilize to give him a treat when fine and delicious foods were brought to him.
We knew the secret behind Hamdu's healthy appearance.
But what struck me more is the human side of Amod Babu. He thought about Hamdu and his needs.
Hamdu was only a Fourth Grade employee and a non-teaching staff. And there was no chance that he'd be arrested along with other teachers. So Amod Babu looked into the matter that Hamdu's name be included in the list of teachers and when he was arrested with other teachers he'd be treated as a First Class Prisoner.
Once I read somewhere, that a person's greatness can only be known from the fact how he treats a person who's lower in position to him.
Amod Babu was not only a great teacher but a great man too. He had a very big heart which felt for even a negligible person like Hamdu.
The incident happened in the middle of 1966 but its still fresh in my memory as if it happened just yesterday.
Amod Babu later received the President of India Award as the Best Teacher, the First in our District since the Independence.
These days when people say me how I write so good English then I remember by Sir, my English Teacher, Amode Behari Bose and pay my tribute to him.
May God bless his soul.
I can't ever forget you Sir for what you've done to me.
Hope you're smiling from wherever you are seeing that your student has made your efforts fruitful!

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