Literature Gurus

I’ve always had a tryst of sorts with my English teachers. I think most people do, if movies are anything to go by in – Dangerous Minds and Dead Poets Society (even though that was one really boring movie) for instance. They have this aura of the romantics about them that makes them so appealing, I guess. Or maybe it is the idealism or a general utopian aspiration or at least a hope for a beautiful world as words can paint, that makes them so enigmatic a species.

The farthest back that I can remember is my English teacher at DAV, Ludhiana, a Mr Yogesh Duggal. I was in third grade then, this man doubled as our class teacher as well. Apart from being obviously handsome, in a very Punjabi way, clean shaven, gora and well built, he knew his subject. What he didn’t know was how to treat his students. Most of the girls had a crush (or whatever you can have at age 8 ) of sorts on him initially, and he returned the admiration – he was hugely biased towards us girls, specially the smart ones who got good marks and all. The boys loathed him though, and what made it worse was that he created an achievers club of sorts that had the privilege of lunching with him. About five of us would be summoned to the back benches of the class during lunch, and we’d take our special seats with him. In retrospect, he wasn’t a very good man, since he used horrible physical force against students who did poorly, but that’s another story.

Then, at DPS Bokaro, there was Mr R K Nayak, who belonged to Orissa and was arguably the best teacher I’ve had till date. Needless to say, I did have a crush on him, as did almost every other girl in class. He was funny, vivacious, full of energy – he’d make us enact the plays in our text book, he’d make hilarious speeches at school assemblies about diction in different parts of the country, where others gave long winding moral monologues, which were certainly responsible for the high rate of girls fainting right at the beginning of the day. He’d be there for us when we wanted consultation about anything. He was my first experience of the chilled out fella, since I’d only ever encountered very authoritarian teachers before him. And his coolness made him quite endearing.

And then there was Ms Shubhra Chatterjee in grade 8 in Amity, Noida – beautiful, strict and all-round fantastic. She’d play kho kho with the older students, and we couldn’t wait to grow up to that age, just so we’d get the chance to get informal with her too. She had a high thin voice that was very distinctive, despite the umpteen jokes that cruel teenage boys would make of it. We were always on the lookout to impress our sultry, exotically grey-eyed gorgeous English teacher. And when she did bestow us with a 100 watt Colgate smile (she had really white really even teeth), our day would be made.

Of course, there was Ms Annie at St Josephs, Trichy, who I hardly remember anything about, except that I really loved her and her handwriting and that I’d ape her style of tick marking whenever we played ‘teacher-teacher’. And Mrs Meera Sharma, also at Amity, who was too principled at one level but appreciated my compositions.

And all of the literature faculty at Ramjas. Particularly Mr Debraj Mookerji, Mrs Ahuja, Mrs Chandra and Mrs Bhalla and Mr Hemant Sharma. In their classes, or interactions otherwise, we could feel that love for the subject, and they’d somehow transfer it to us. And so, we spent wondrous winter hours, toasting in the sun in the English lawns, discussing theorists or poets, and feeling generally warm and very pleased with ourselves.

And for all the bad times I had in school for lack of interest in a subject, peer pressure or just plain laziness, English or literature classes always made up. Partly, in all honesty, because it was always one subject I was decent at (and I say this in all modesty), but also because I’ve been lucky to have had awesome gurus. What a good teacher can manage is unbelievable, and the kind of respect they earn for life is something on the same lines.

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17 thoughts on “Literature Gurus

  1. So, true re. I loe this post. I was once planning to write about it. English teachers have this aura about them. All my favrte. teachers from school include mostly angrezi wale log. there is something in their way of portrayal. the way they are . the way they show the world to us. This leaves us with lessons for life. A new refreshing story, a ne refreshing opinion. I had Mrs.Annie Mini Kurien in school a southindian fella with as u said whitest white leveled jaw line. I loved her. I still call her on her bdays. English teachers are special.

    A little editing 🙂 You forgot to close the bracket in this one -(or whatever you can have at age 🙂 of sorts on him initially, and he returned the admiration – he was hugely biased towards us gi…………… It never ended.. hehe i felt like telling this.. general galti mili ..heheheh

  2. hahha..thank you riddhi. i did close the bracket, but i think the exclamation mark before it turned it into an emoticon. 🙂

    but thanks for bringing it to my notice.

  3. DUDE!!! I so agree.. English teachers are always so cool. They are normally the most chilled out among the lot of teachers. I bilieve, like my english teacher in college once said that the subject one spends most time with reflects in ones personality. Thats so true! I think that justifies why pol science teahcers are so difficult.;) Literature is the only subject that comes cosest to healthy analysis of life. I guess that the reason behind their relaxed nature.

  4. Well, the only English teacher I remember is Shubhra Mam. She was bloody strict, and I had this fear ingrained in me ever since I got my first scolding. I’ll always remember the statement, “BEG, BORROW, STEAL” , which made us scamper to other classes to borrow the book.

    But the fact is, respect for her arose due to exactly this, and the no-nonsense manner in which she taught. She was a wonderful teacher, indeed.

  5. hain?: I wasn’t. and thats’ more than i can say for you. learn to read properly in order to avoid revealing your inner ignoramus.

    natansh: I know! she used to be quite terrorising. but u remember the poster making class she had us all participate in? that was the first time i really saw her smile. 🙂

  6. Hmmm..super post..and I really believe in the last few lines you have written….a good teacher leaves impression and guides the career of a student in unbelievalble ways. Just the other day one of friends was asked about his favorite subject by the team leaders in our new office…his answers did not surprise me much…he said, “my best subject was XYZ because of the teacher and worst was ABC because of the teacher”……..well..even though I really cant relate to English teachers..but I can share the same emotions for my sports coaches and my music teachers….great post nidhi..it is something in which every person will find resemblance 🙂

  7. Fair enough. But I think school teachers make the biggest difference.

    College, well, it’s all up to you. I think most of them made nil impact. Most of them are happy to entertain only those who are willing to entertain them. I know this might be followed by a lot of flak but the fact’s simple, none took the extra effort to make that extra effort. All they believed in were pre-assumed notions. And honestly, they don’t even deserve this comment.

    But I’m certain the ones ignored would do well and that’d be the perfect slap.

  8. What’s your full name? I’m from Duggal sir’s class as well. Was searching for him on the Internet (have heard something terribly sad from a friend about him) when I hit upon this post

  9. rishabh, it’s me, nidhi gupta. 🙂 look at how chance brought you to my blog! and i’d like to know about this too..as and when you come to know about it.

    tenz: they weren’t all that bad. and you can’t accuse all of them of no effort and absolve yourself of all responsibility as far as entertaining goes. i know, maybe a few don’t deserve the mention, but then, they haven’t been mentioned. those who are, made an impression on me. run that last statement by me again, if u will.

  10. By the ones ignored, I meant the students. There were some who were ignored and probably, thought off as bins.
    Them doing very well right now, is a good knock on the supposed teachers.

  11. yeah…should be. but teachers have this thing, y’know, of being genuinely happy for their students, noticed or otherwise. cut em some slack, m’boy.

  12. hey nidhi… yeah chance did bring me to your post… well a couple of weeks back vinayak told me that he heard from someone that duggal sir expired in an accident… i was like almost shocked and very sad coz i respect him a lot and have been wanting to meet him for so many years now…

    later me and vinayak and kanika tried to confirm this from different sources, and finally yadhu seems to have gotten to know from somewhere that this probably isn’t true… a relief, although i still want to confirm it… that’s the story…

    by the way how are you doing nidhi… and where are you these days? i am in south africa right now… will be working here for a few more months before coming back to india… god it has been so so many years since those “gallery” games in the background of DAV 🙂

  13. God i hope he’s alright!

    I’m doing fine. In Delhi, Doing my MA. South Africa sounds wow! 🙂 where are u working there?

    and man! what a memory you’ve just brought back! 😀

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