Teachers Day! This colloquial word still evokes the image of a saree clad spectacled lady, brandishing a stick threatening to hypnotize young wards under a spell, with a cacophony reminiscent of Uderzo’s much beloved Gaulish bard. On the other hand you have the poignant Sidney Poitier, looking very vulnerable & human, thrust into the volatile North Quay Secondary School in the classic, "To Sir, with love". Revered, loved, viled & tormented, never has any other profession moulded generations, shaped the world & carried on the thankless job of breaking barriers to reach sometimes inside a wayward soul, cherishing the spark that can blaze forth into an inferno to light the whole world.
Aristotle once uttered, "The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet". How true it is to nurture a young sapling, water its roots and protect it from pests so that one day it grows into a mighty tree with fruits to sate the hunger of all those who shelter under it. Very true then, that this day, 5th of September, is honored in the memory of a great statesman, the role model of all teachers, the former President and Vice-President of India, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan.
Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam, once addressing the nation on Teachers Day on All India Radio in 2003, attributed his career as an aeronautical engineer to his high school teacher who fascinated him with the intricacies & vagaries of bird flights. In his words, Dr. Kalam explained the influence his teachers had on his life and the way they shaped his life. Finally he concluded with a very profound theory that his experience in the page of history might be a small dot but this dot has a life and light and may it light many lamps.
Looking back, I can honestly confess that the teaching fraternity taught me one thing, which has stood steadfast beside me in all years of toil & trouble – The power of humour. Francis Bacon said that a man without humor is like a wagon without springs. He creaks, cranks & whines. Humour keeps you afloat when people are sinking all around you. Now only if James Cameron?s teacher had taught him the irrepressible gift of humour, who knows, we might have seen the Titanic float after it sank.
This gift of humour bestowed on me, at the expense of the teaching fraternity, became evident only after I started attending college. The reason for this metamorphosis from a mouse during my school days to a joker in the box still evades me. Probably it was an innate desire to let teachers be teachers at school or the fact that the invincible teacher had metamorphosed into the vulnerable lecturer, or probably my humor genes started evolving after puberty. However, I am thankful that my college teachers taught me the power to find humor in everything except in my report cards.
Zoology classes got very fascinating as we had a lecturer who used to speak the Queen’s language with a very funny twang. Smirking on the last bench got me into the hot seat right in front of the blackboard only to his consternation & embarrassment of a loud guffaw on his next pronunciation adventure. He fondly remembers me as the only student who got thrown out of his class in his entire teaching career, which brings me to the subject of using humour to get thrown out of boring classes. Hindi used to be such an insipid affair that anyone getting thrown out used to be accompanied by me, to such an extent that smelling a rat, the lecturer started refusing to throw me out after several similar attempts. Who said that you can fool all teachers all times?
Humor sometimes used to creep up in mundane situations such that it was difficult to keep a straight face many times. One time, the Chemistry lecturer berated us for being late and when one of my mates said he had to take a detour to the wash room, angrily replied as to how it comes, man. With a straight face, he answered "It comes naturally Sir, I mean the urge". This was the same classmate who used to regale me with his antics of stuffing a handkerchief in his mouth on my imitation of the lecturer’s pronunciations. That he went on to the US and is now a well known person in the bio-technology field can probably be attributed to his appreciation of the gift of humor passed on to him at the expense of our teachers.
I think humor lies very much in the mind of the person who laughs, for many people do not appreciate a good joke. Like for instance, many lecturers at college who never appreciated their scooters not switching on after they finished their day to go home. Little did they know that some student had a sandy taste of humor in the fuel tank, for if they had known, they might have shown their overwhelming kindness on the report card.
Amitabh Bachchan might have immortalized the line "I can walk English, I can talk English because English is a very funny language". But it needs the perfection of a certain sports lecturer who used to mix up the f & p in English to disastrous hilarity in college. Legendary lines that could even put Mel Brooks to shame were born out of fine tuning the usage of the most popular four letter word usually mouthed by frustrated athletes on the field. That would bring out the concerned soul fuming & demanding as to who said f-o in the field. He should have sued the Bollywood lyricist who had composed a song of the same lines a few years back that created uproar among us staid Indians.
To conclude my ode to all the teachers who taught me, there is more to education than report cards & drunken bliss, I plagiarize the immortal words of Patrick Henry "Give me humour or give me death in college."
Long live the Teaching fraternity & may your mirth increase!
Author: Merwyn Machado- Australia