Monthly Archives: May 2011

मेरे प्रिय students

For once, I have timed my post correctly. Although it could have been a week earlier, but I was too excited to put together my thoughts.

In our school days, we all have written essays on ‘My favourite teacher’ in English as well as Hindi. Interestingly our ‘favourite teacher’ changed with change in the subject and they say children are innocent, बच्चे मन के सच्चे , etc.

Today, I want to write about two of my favourite students. They are not favourites, because they were outstanding in their achievements. but becuse of their nature, the type of human beings that they are. Incidentally, I did not choose one each from boys and girls.

Meghna Singhee was my student for junior college. I just did not like her in the first instance. She ‘appeared’ to be a carefree girl with an attitude. What went against her was that she was the Principal’s pet and had the liberty to talk to the Principal as if she was her friend. All this, when not only the students, their parents as well as the general public, specially residents of the area were scared of the Principal. I was thankful that she did not study my subject. After about two weeks of the academic session in progress, she expressed her desire to study Economics. Since the school did not offer Economics, there was no teacher for the subject. The Principal asked me if I could teach Economics. Since I could, I said yes. How would I know that I had to teach Meghna!

Since, I could not find one book, which had all the subject matter in it, I would consult some books, make my own notes and teach. Meghna used to come for games (she was a perfect all rounder) in the morning before school. So invariably she was tired and hungry when she came to the class room. Since, she was the only student for the subject, I had to teach at her pace. I would stay up late in the night, making my notes for about two days of teaching. And this Meghna! She would say, “Miss, I am sleepy let me read the notes, otherwise I’ll fall asleep while you are explaining”. I asked her as to how will she understand if I didn’t explain. She assured me that she would ask for explanation, as and when she needed. I was surprised seeing her read so fast and she would not even stop for any explanation. Now, that was too much! Her arguement was that since the notes were so comprehensive, she was able to follow everything. Of course, her statement smelt of flattery. I asked her a few questions, which she answered correctly. Not to be defeated by a ‘mere Meghna’, I started making more notes, so that she was not able to finish them in a day. But her speed of comprehending the notes was more than my speed of making the notes. Later some more students joined Economics class (Thank God!) and we had to slow down our speed. But Meghna was impatient with my speed. She would put her head down on the table while I was teaching. Now tell me, which teacher will tolerate this! On being reprimanded, she rattled out whatever I had taught. I was stunned. For the first time I admired that girl. Earlier, since I disliked her , I only saw or tried to look for her negative side. And now when I started admiring her, I realised she was a carefree, down to earth person. I have yet to come across a more compassionate student. Then I saw her using her charm to support her classmates in front of the teachers and the Principal. She was amazing. Always ready to help anyone who required it. She passed out school in two years and went to college. We lost touch but I always remembered her. My students in the years to come were told about her. Most of the students I taught after she passed out, know about her. She was a complete student, taking part in all the co-curricular activities and did fairly well in academics also. She was the school Head Girl for three consecutive years. Never heard of such a distinction. In her last year of schooling, the Head Boy left the school and she shouldered all the responsibilities on her own with a grin on her face. Yes, grin not smile. She is constantly grinning. And now, I find her grin soothing and contagious. After about 12 years I found her on Facebook. Thank God! Her grin is intact. She is married and happy. God bless her.

Ashish Thakare     His name raised eyebrows. He  also, was my Economics student, like Meghna. And the similarity ends there. Instead of grinning like Meghna, he would laugh aloud. Since he joined Junior College after passing out from an outstation school, everything in the school was new to him. He would question everything in the school and we would have arguements over several policies of school. He was staying on his own in Pune, since his father was serving in Kolhapur and so, was quite independent. He found our concern for student’s behaviour or their mannerisms as ‘interfering’. Of course later, he understood our intentions. In fact, he admitted it also. This is something, I have always appreciated in him. He is an honest and straight forward person. So much so, that once he politely refused a teacher when he was asked to tell lies. Later, he confided in me, and wanted to know, if he was right. Of course he was. Since he would have had to go against his principles to oblige the teacher. It is amazing, that he  was clear about his principles and goals since the time, he came into class 9.  He wanted to be an IAS officer. And going towards his goal, he chose Humanities, even when the students were shying away from this stream of subjects. In Economics class, we would often land up debating. Neither of us wanted to give up. He thought, he was learning from me. Little did he know, that I was learning from him. It is very rare, that the students come out with their views and have healthy discussion/debate with teachers.

O yes! like Meghna, he is also available to anyone, anytime if one requires help. Unlike Meghna, we never lost touch. He was there to help me (even my famiy) whenever help was required. He reminds one, of those शिष्य one would find in गुरु-शिष्य परंपरा .

After graduation, he got down to serious preparation for his UPSC Examination. In the meanwhile, he took up teaching. I am sure his students found him as amazing as I did.

Now, I shall tell why this post now! One fine day, early in the morning I read about UPSC results in the newspaper. I decided to call him up later. As I sat checking my mail, I went on Facebook, and saw his status!!!! I was thrilled. I immediately updated my status with the thrilling news, that he had secured 98th position in UPSC Examination and called him to congratulate. As humble as he is, he gave credit to his teachers.

I am sure, he will remain as humble and as honest as he is today. Today’s students (not that he is old) can learn perseverance, determination self control and so on from him. I feel lucky as well as honoured that he has been my student.

This post is dedicated to Ashish Thakare’s  success. May God always be on his side. I wish him success in life, in whatever he does and where ever he goes.

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Teachers बनाम Rest of the world

Strange. Right!

Since I am a school teacher myself, I may be biased in my analysis. Forgive me for that and please feel free to contradict my analysis and give me an insight of your perspective on the issue.

This issue has been haunting me and my colleagues for quite some time. Let me put it across, a little systematically.

TEACHERS बनाम STUDENTS:      Never before the respect for teachers has been this low. The students  treat the teachers as employees whose payments come from their parents (read ‘from them’). Now a days they are not only discourteous, but disrespectful also towards their teachers. As the teacher enters the class room, they dont even want to wish the teacher. Out of habit, the teachers wish them and then lazily some of them get up and wish. The others remain sitting and busy in their own conversations. While the teachers are teaching or say trying to teach, they are busy passing chits or writing mundane things. Then during revision they want the same lessons to be repeated. Again they wont pay attention. Sadly, homework can be given but will not be done. The teacher can not scold the child (gone are the days, when they could be given a slap). At best, a note can be written in their diaries, which will never be shown to the parents. Keeping names for teachers is an age-old practice. I dont want to take away this enjoyable right from them. But at least do not give them cheap/vulgar names.

TEACHERS बनाम STUDENTS’ PARENTS:        They are the ones having the biggest stake in a student’s career. Understandably, they should be most concerned in a student’s progress and hence are most demanding. Unfortunately, they also happen to be most confused and cosequently confuse the teachers  also. Agreed they want the best for their children. They are also right in expecting the teachers to help them. But they dont want the teachers to be strict. By being strict I dont mean that the teachers be given a free hand to hit the children. No way. The problem is, that if the teacher raises her voice or makes the child stand in the class, she is accused of humiliating the child. Although the parents do tell the teachers to be very strict with their children, they cant tolerate any teacher being slightly strict also. She is labelled as inhuman and insensitive towards children. If one writes a note on the errant conduct of the student, to the parents, they have no time to read it. Now, very few children want to show such a note to their parents. They will only show it, if the teacher reprimands them. Obviously, the parents resent it. Fine. But then, should they not take out time to check their children’s diary!!

I wish they were clear in their heads as to what do they want and how do they want the teachers to achieve their common goal. It will help all the parties concerned.

TEACHERS बनाम THE LAW: I understand that there are laws restricting a teacher’s rights viz a viz students. A good move from the law makers. It restricts those teachers who indulge in severe punishments. There have been so many cases where the child has suffered permanent physical/emotional injury courtesy their teachers.                                                                                                                                  But what about teachers!! Will you not call it humiliation of teachers when the children indulge in cat calls, back answering, or even simply refusing to do class/home work. Now, who will make laws to help the teachers in performing their duties!!                                                                                                          Interestingly, if it is brought to the notice of parents, they refuse to believe it. I know, every child is innocent in his/her parents’ eyes.  But please listen to others also. Parents must believe that the teacher is concerned about their child and hence bringing his misconduct to their notice.

TEACHERS  बनाम GENERAL PUBLIC:        Whenever some one meets a teacher the reactions are predictable. How lucky! Half day work! So many holidays! etc. etc. What about half salary? My generation has seen a lot of male teachers. But the growing difference in the salary of teachers and other sectors has restricted the entry of male teachers in schools. No wonder, low salary is restricting good teachers too. The ones venturing into school teaching are either too passionate about it, or (sad, but true) the ones looking for ‘some’ job as they are qualified and have time on hand. In general public’s language, they are there for ‘time pass’. Yes, this is how we all are labelled as.

Having written all this, I would like to share a few more things. I came into teaching by default. But soon started enjoying it. At present I love every bit of it. It is such a wonderful feeling to be able to influence and guide so many young ones. And the compensation is not my salary, but my students’ success. It gives immense pleasure when I see them succeeding in their respective fields.

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पर्यावरण Education

Now please dont say why पर्यावरण Education and not Environmental Education! By now, you should have realised, I like to use both the languages for  the title of my post.
When we were children these words were never heard of. When my children started schooling, they had Environmental Science as a subject. I did teach them, but honestly speaking, only theoretically. I felt great teaching them some ‘good’ things. One cant even imagine how embarrassed I was, when one day, they turned back and asked, but why are you wasting water/electricity and so on. And then I realised I’ll have to change myself. Soon I was teaching them (this time theoretically as well as practically) and learning myself too. This was the time I realised the meaning of the saying ‘children learn more by action than words’.

I incorporated this in my school too. Whenever there were school picnics or excursion tours, I would ask students to bring big sized garbage bags or cartons so that we could collect all the garbage generated by us while enjoying picnic. Later we would throw it in the dustbin. In case we did not find one, we would bring the garbage bag to school and throw it in the school dustbin. Gradually, the students understood its importance, and would do it on their own. I was pleasently stunned when on one of the picnics, the students started cleaning the whole picnic area. Their arguement was that since they were taught not to litter the picnic spot, they shall leave the place clean So what, if in the process, they were picking up garbage thrown by other picnicers. I sincerely hope, at least one of the outsiders learnt from them. People around did appreciate them. Although some even laughed at them, to the extent of calling them rag pickers.

During our train journey, my children would collect garbage in a bag, without being told. The students would also oblige on being told. On one of the train journeys, the students forced even the co passengers to use our garbage bags and stopped them from throwing things out of the windows. I think they also appreciated the students. But when the students could not find a dust bin to dispose their (now) huge garbage bags they seeked the attendant’s help. He picked up the garbage bags and threw them out of the door of the moving train.

One can imagine the feelings of students and the expressions on their faces. And for the attendant, his expressions said “Big deal!”

Actually, we can all recall such apathetic behaviour from people. But if  ‘each one teach one’ principle was to be used, target is achievable. Here I’ll appreciate the younger generation. They are more protective towards our environment, than my generation. (Please forgive me you will always find exceptions.) Here is something we need to learn from the younger people.

Three cheers to the young people!! Keep up the good work.

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The proverbial सास-बहु

I dont know whether this is the right time for me to write on this topic or not. But certainly I am not the wrong person. I have been staying with my mother in law for the past 30 years. And shall get a daughter in law as and when my son obliges. Although I have experienced having a mother in law I still have to experience being one.

I was 21 when I got married. Although, in those days there were no TV serials portraying the deadly mother in law (thankfully), we were always told to mend our ways, as the mother in law would not tolerate any nonsense. You can well imagine, how  ‘mother in law’ was used as a phrase even when one had not seen her. One of my friends got married and her mother in law was such a tyrant that even we were petrified of her.

So I entered my married life with all my fingers crossed. I wont lie here, she did appear to be wanting to dictate terms but more or less she was fine. As days went by, she started showing her TRUE colours. At times she would scold me for small things also. And that would remind me of my mother. On other occasions, she would wait for me to come home for lunch. Again it reminded me of my mother.

There have been occasions when I could not do what I wanted to. But looking back, did I tell her what I wanted! We have had our fair share of fights. I am happy the rest of the family kept out of this. I specially made sure that at any point of time, my husband was not put in a situation where he would be required to choose between us.  According to my family our relationship is like India-Pakistan. Always blaming each other for whatever went wrong. In the same breath, they also say, that we are like two small children arguing and again friends the next moment.

Our major arguement is “who will cook”. The problem is that both of us enjoy cooking. So she is happy, if I am delayed somewhere and she gets to cook. and I hate it. Dont misunderstand me, she is an excellent cook. I hope now you will understand the secret of my children’s waistline.

I hate when she keeps correcting me and continuously supervising and instructing me. Probably she still considers me to be a child. I really hate it, whatever be her intentions.

I can write a book on how and when she has irritated me. Probably I can write about only a few instances where she has shown care. I want to share one instance which really touched me and I keep reminding myself of it.

We as a family go out for an  annual vacation for 15-20 days. On our return, the house had to be restarted once again. I mean cleaning the house, the refrigerator and so on. There would be nothing at home to cook and eat. So without fail every time our first meal would be bread and eggs, as it was easier and faster to cook and eat. As my parents in law started finding these trips exhausting, they opted out.

Once when we were on our vacation my father in law had to go out of station on his teaching assignment. They (my mother in law would always accompany him) were supposed to leave two days before we planned to return. So they kept the keys with the neighbours and left.

On our return we entered an ’empty’ house. There was no one with whom we could share our experiences. I saw a paper fluttering under a steel container. It was a note from my mother in law. It said that she had made sabzi, set curds, prepared the dough and kept in the fridge. All I had to do was make paranthas (again instructions!). My eyes filled. She could have just left. We would have had the same bread and eggs. She must have also been hard pressed for time as she had to finish so many chores, before leaving. I wonder if my mother would have been so thoughtful.

I have heard a lot of people say, my daughter in law is my daughter. I hate this statement. Firstly, it can never be true. And secondly, it is unfair to the daughter. I would always want to be special for my parents vis a vis my Bhabhi. Understandably, I dont expect my parents in law to treat me at par with their daughter.

I shall end this by hoping to be a better daughter in  law and certainly a good (read human) mother in law in future.

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My first हवाई यात्रा

My summer vacation of the year 1977 was a special one for me. That was the first time I traveled by air.

Every summer vacation my family visited our native place in East U.P. We all, my parents and six of us siblings would travel by train from Delhi to Deoria, changing train at Lucknow. The train journey meant suitcases, holdall, and lot of eatables, not to forget the good old surahi. Very often, a surahi was purchased on the railway station before boarding the train and was filled with water as and when it was empty. Interestingly, that surahi was broken at the end of journey and a new one again purchased at the start of new journey.

In 1977, my father’s office started giving air fare as LTA. Now, the problem was Deoria did not have an airport. The nearest airport was Lucknow. Then we came to know, that Gorakhpur had an air strip which was under  control of Indian Air Force and to our good luck it allowed only one commercial flight i.e. Delhi- Gorakhpur. We felt God could not have been kinder.

In those days, Air India operated international flights, Indian Airlines was responsible for domestic flights and Vayudoot took care of remote destinations. (There was no other airline available). Understandable, we had to go by Vayudoot. I still remember Vayudoot being referred to as Yamdoot because of its service. But that could not dent our enthusiasm towards our first air travel.

‘Planning’ for THE air travel started. Although Daddy told us that we will get breakfast on board, we got some munchies. You see, we were smarter than what Daddy thought us to be. We knew that like train journeys, we wont get to see hawkers there. Unlike train journeys, we were dressed in good clothes. On the d-day, my parents and the four of us (by that time two of my elder sisters were married) left for Palam Airport (now Indira Gandhi Airport) in a taxi. Roads appeared to be sooo…. beautiful. Somehow, we felt that the distance from home to airport was too much. I wish to add that except Daddy, all of us were going to the airport for the first time. The airport was a big , neat and an amusing place for us. The whole process of checking in and security check was interesting and amusing. Today, when I look back, that routine procedure also was exciting and thrilling. As compared to today, the airport was not crowded at all and it made us feel upgraded. We were no more traveling by train. We had joined the elite class – or so we felt.

The long wait between security check and boarding was unbearable. Appeared like hours if not days. Finally, boarding was announced. The four of us ran to grab the best (read window) seats. How would we know that the seats were already allocated. How could Daddy be so cruel! He did not opt for window seats for all of us! But what was that! We were entering a bus and not a plane. Daddy read the disappointment on our faces and explained the logic of that bus trip.

We entered the plane. It was a 40 seater Fokker Frointship. On landing at the airport, the backs of all the chairs had bowed down to kiss the seats. We gently lifted the backs and occupied our seats. It was amicably decided that we would take turns at the window seat. Fastening of the seat belt was difficult and amusing. As if we would run away. Now, again a long wait for the aircreaft to fly. Why on earth could it not zoom away!

Finally the doors were closed and the air hostess came with her sweet smile and a sweeter voice. Believe me, she did not appear to be doing her routine job with a plastic smile. Obediently, we listened to her and followed her instructions. We also read the instructions booklet kept in the pocket. And the plane started moving. It appeared the runway was endless and the plane was never going to take off.

Finally it did take off. The rattling of the aircraft (it was an old plane) appeared music to our ears. And then came the air hostess with a tray of sugar candies and toffees that too free. We could take any amount. We did fill our hands with as much as we could. I have a feeling we must have done some stupidity to declare that we were flying for the first time. Otherwise there was no reason for her to give us the remaining sweets at the end of the journey. Soon after, she came with that ‘heavenly’ breakfast. We were confused whether to enjoy the flight, the breakfast or the scene outside! Quietly, we kept the fruits served in the break fast in our hand bags. How else could we tell our cousins about our air travel! I am sure none of us wanted to show off. Other than this, nothing interesting and worth remembering happened during the flight.

We landed at Gorakhpur Air Strip. How small it was!

From there started the ordeal. We had to take a jeep to reach the bus stop. Then we boarded a rickety state transport bus to reach the village. It was still not over. My uncle was waiting with a  बैलगाड़ी to take us home. Here we were just out of the aeroplane and now in a bullock cart!

Even after 34 years, and so many air travels, this one stands out in my memory. Never ever has a plane journey been so exciting, so amusing, so wonderful and so memorable.

P. S.

As pointed by my son, it was Fokker Friendship and not Fokker Frointship.

My younger sister who was with me in this journey pointed out that we flew by Indian Airlines and not Vayudoot.

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