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“If You Have To Put Someone On A Pedestal Put Teachers. They Are The Real Heroes.”

As school kids, our dreams begin most of the time with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes, and leads you to the next plateau – sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called truth. It happens all the time in ones school life, consciously and more often unconsciously. What teacher teaches has a beginning, but it never ends.
I refuse to believe that there is a bad teacher. It is just that someone is a better teacher than another. I studied in a fabulous school (St Joseph’s Academy) and remember the name of my teachers with great clarity. Some made a greater impact than the others because of their looks, some with their communication skills, while others with how they taught rather than what they taught.
Top row (from the right): Mr D’Souza, Mr Gupta, Mr Chhetri (6th ). Middle row: Extreme right Mrs D’Souza, Miss Massey (10th), On the ground Mr Thapa.

Mr Thapa, Miss Massey, and Sarmukh Singh Sir, exposed my young mind to what strict human beings could be like. Mr Rathke was the neatest looking man I ever met in my life – so neat that I gave up trying to look neat because the ideal was so unattainable!! He also taught our class Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, so well, that till date I can rattle it off by heart. Mr Chhetri who taught us Hindi, was a genius. I still remember him teaching Rahim, Surdas among other literary stuff. He was an artist – he wore Dacron suits, combed back his hair slickly, moved around vigorously and modulated his voice to perfection. He never taught like a machine – he was a dynamic ever unpredictable soul and that reflected in every bit of his personality. He amplified what Gail Goldwin wrote “Good teaching is 1/4 preparation and 3/4 theatre.”

Mr JL D’Souza was omnipotent, omnipresent, ambi dexterous and the Jack of all trades and the master of ALL OF THEM !!
He was a specialist in Maths and Additional Mathematics, and boy was he good !! I can’t even get down to explain  how brilliant he was at his job. I remember him as someone who appeared as if he was always in a hurry. He walked briskly, was bald and was lovingly called “Daddoo”!(as in frog, because of his name D’Souza). He knew he was so nicknamed, and one day, as I went looking for him and asked someone in the corridors, “Have you seen Daddoo”?, prompt came the reply,
“Yes , I am right behind you”!!!
Prone to losing his temper and giving you a rap on the knuckles with a duster, he was  also a wonderful musician. He had given private tuition to the Nawab of Pataudi and was from Goa. It was he who initiated me into debating. His wife – Mrs D’Souza was equally brilliant. She wore skirts, was smart, intelligent and kind. I remember her once giving me toffees much after my birthday, “Kulbhushan, since your birthday was during the vacations, I brought these for you as a gift ”, she said, offering me a neatly packed box of toffees.
It was a small gesture – but it left a lifelong impact on me, as is evident that I remember it so vividly even after 55 years.
The Science department was headed by Mr GC Gupta who was like  God – not only to me, but for generations of Josesphites. He was the most unique human being one could ever meet in life. Always wearing a Kashmiri topi, fair, a bachelor, and a celebrity – there was hardly any Dehradun resident who did not know him.
I still remember the power of his reach and status. I had gone with my father to Elloras (at that time called Milkmaids), and as usual it was crowded. A lot of people were buying bread, butter, eggs, pastries, etc.There was a lot of noise and chatter of conversation.
Then, in walked Mr Gupta. The queue disintegrated, and there was pin drop silence. Everyone just stood – some with folded hands, others with smiles – and did the honours by asking him to buy his stuff first.
“No, but why should I not wait for my turn”, he queried ?
He was surprised as to why the offer was being made to him in the first place.
Despite my father almost cajoling him to break the queue (sorry Dad, I am in no way trying to imply that you broke rules and conventions !!), Gupta Sir waited, looking into the ceiling!
He was a man worthy of the respect and love that was bestowed on him. When my Mom passed away, he came home and embraced me. When my father passed away, he consoled me. When my brother got married and we gave a reception – he was there for it !! He was like a father for all the Josephites. If the world deserved a bachelor – it was Mr GC Gupta. Because Gupta Sir could never be owned by one woman, or a set of children. He was the property of the world – just like the sun and the moon!!
The scope of the article does not allow me to elaborate how every teacher shaped my, and I am sure others lives as well. On Teacher’s Day – I would like to thank all of them.
If you have to put someone on a pedestal – put teachers.They are society’s real heroes.
Happy Teachers Day To All Of Them!
(Kulbhushan Kain is an award winning educationist with more than 4 decades of working in schools in India and abroad. He is a prolific writer who loves cricket, travelling and cooking. He can be reached at kulbhushan.kain@gmail.com)