My brother always says I have havoc-wreaking energy, and probably to put it to some good use, when I was about five years old, my father employed a teacher to give me lessons every afternoon. There was no pre-school in those idyllic days of yore! My mother was a petite, beautiful, artistic kind who mostly kept herself busy in housekeeping, reading or a variety of crafts which she was very adept at. I am sure I must have been quite a handful for her with my constant movements, chattering and questioning. So, in sympathy for my mother and also maybe to get some peace of mind himself when he came back from work in the afternoon, I was put into the intellectual care of Master Sahib. He was a very staid, middle-aged gentleman and true to his type had very proper manners and habits. My father was another disciplined academic so my tutoring was done with a flair that would put some scholars to shame. Promptly 15 minutes before Master Sahib walked in, which was always exactly on time by the way, the table in the lounge was laid out with my books and stationery. I was fed and washed and all ready to receive tutelage.
I’m told that there was hardly a day when I missed my lesson or was late; same goes for Master Sahib. Anyway, so my lessons would begin on a very sombre note and the tutor and taught would be properly in place. However, as my father always recounted, in another little while our roles would be reversed. I found Master Sahib’s teaching skills too slow for my active little mind and I was sure I could tell him some things he would find much more interesting than ‘abc’! My parents would invariably come out to find me in the middle of delivering a lecture to Master Sahib on an array of topics, ranging from how I got hurt on the knee and the medical treatment I received, to how to write ‘a’ in a much better way. I thought I was surely smarter than him as I always found him a very attentive listener and he seemed to be learning from me quite well! However, in the process of teaching him his alphabets, I imperceptibly gained reading and writing skills way beyond my age!
Years and years have gone by, in fact ages have passed, and after a lifetime of experiences I wish I could meet Master Sahib again. I need to tell him that as he learned from me, so I have learned from my own students. He taught me how to enjoy learning at a very tender age and made learning exciting so that I never had a problem taking on an academic challenge. By all standards of innovative teaching and proactive teachers, he would probably be judged the most boring teacher, but he made learning come alive for a raucous young child. He managed to make me sit at the desk for the full two hours he was assigned to teach, and when he left I had even more stories to tell my parents of all the exciting things I had learned that day.
I don’t know what he learned from me, if anything at all, and I’ll never find out as it’s a story long past. I do know that when I began my journey as an adult, as a teacher and a mother, every day was a learning experience. My three children, my nieces and my students taught me things I never imagined possible, things I had never given a thought to and things which made me grow into a more confident, caring and competent adult.
My fulfilled life and my achievements are dedicated to my young proteges who over the years have contributed to my growth, and inspired me with their insatiable curiosity and abundant joy; their ability to rebound after every fall, brush off the tears and continue to play the game of life; their eagerness to give a helping hand; their readiness to make friends oblivious to caste, creed or status; and so many other fascinating attributes that we lose as we grow older and smarter.