Remember the teacher you wish to meet again, at least once.
As I read the above line on one the screen, I realized, how lucky I was, how truly blessed I have been, as not one, but countless faces emerged in my mind. The faces of the teachers who taught me my first lessons, to the ones who blessed me during my convocation. Then the ones who pulled my ears when I did something naughty, and the ones who patted my back to encourage me to celebrate the little deeds I did as my achievements.
Each one of them making efforts to lay one stepping stone after another to help me become what I’m today.
And trust me, I would love to meet not one, but all of these, more than once.
But one name stuck more than others, I had one teacher in my mind, whom I wanted to meet, so much that I found myself searching for him on Facebook, and LinkedIn.
He was my English teacher in the seventh grade. A man of forty with salt and pepper hair and wrinkly face, he was a vintage man, with a suave and style resembling a British viceroy. He was strict and hard to impress. Above all, he was demanding of his students, marking them as strictly as possible, giving no room for any laxity.
To the teaching, he gave his all, despite his age. His enthusiasm for teaching could put to shame the teachers half of his age.
It was in his class, during his recitations, I first found a strange beauty in words, and sentence construction. His way of articulating his thoughts was infectious, his voice rising and falling with each emotion like a sea wave, reflecting the emotions otherwise overlooked in the labyrinth of words and pages.
It was in his class I first felt that I could write. And I started writing, expressing more and more in his tutelage.
During one of the test assignments he gave us, I wrote from my heart for the first time ever. For the first time, writing was more than just putting words on paper. For the first time, I felt losing touch with reality and diving deep into my subconscious, feeling the pure emotions buried within my soul, and transforming those feelings into the stroke of the pen that brought out inspired writing.
So elated I was, the first time I was doing something that was my creation, not some rote answers from a book. I wrote pouring my heart out onto the blank pages of 25×19 cm notebook.
Once you write something with your heart, writing is no more a chore, instead, it becomes a medium to transform your inner feelings into tangible output called words.
Finished, I rushed towards him, showing him my work, beaming with pride so common of a peppy teenager. I still remember that moment, he looking at my notebook and in between at my face.
After around a minute he placed the notebook on the table, took out his glasses and placed them beside the notebook, and said with a raised eyebrow, “What is this? It is not good. You cannot write. Take it away.”
For a moment I didn’t understand what he said, or what I was hearing. And then I saw him flicking the notebook with his hand. The notebook slid on the table and reached me.
I had tears in my eyes. And I knew I had to run, for if he saw them, he would ridicule me for that. With my head down, I took the notebook and trudged towards my seat.
“I would get zero marks,” I feared. But when score came he gave me ten on ten. There was a remark, “Don’t stop imagining.” When I again saw him he told me about how can I improve further, along with the good points of my assignment. He never told me the reason why he behaved rudely in the beginning. I never dared asking either.
Even though I was happy with his changed behavior, a part of me always doubted the generous marks. Maybe he was compensating for his bad behavior. This got etched in mind.
Ten years down the line, one of my story was published by an online literary journal of an American University. (Not a big achievement, but considerable for someone who for a major part of life, never wrote anything beyond the homework.)
As I looked at the published post on their website, I remembered my English teacher, the one who had in his own way inspired me that day. But more than that, I also had this feeling of proving him wrong. I was not an utter failure after all when it came to writing.
I don’t know why but I had an intense longing to share this little achievement with him. The feeling wasn’t benign, as I could feel bitter emotions behind that longing. I wanted to show him, that he was not right, that I could write, write good enough for it to be published by a university.
I searched for him on Facebook. His profile was not there in the top few searches. He must have never made an account here, I thought. He detested the SMS culture that was ruining the true writing, and FB inhabitant cared least about the grammar or punctuations.
Then I remembered that I had his number in the yearbook. I took it out from a dusty shelf in the store room. It was long since I’d left the college but I tried his number nonetheless.
It must be three rings after which the call connected. “Hello,” I said at once.
“Hello, who is this?” somebody said from the other side. A woman.
“Is this Professor Katiyal’s number?” I enquired.
“Yes …It is…who is this?” The woman asked, a little hesitantly.
I told her that I was one of his students, and have called to talk to him.
A moment or two passed in silence after that, nothing but woman’s hushed breath audible on the call.
“But you must know it,” she said, her voice now trembling. “You must know that the professor is no more. He died in a bus accident three weeks back.”
I was shocked. I felt as if I was suddenly washed over by cold water. Suddenly I felt so small, so pity in trying to embarrass my teacher, who had given an objective assessment of my work. His methods were always harsh, but there was always hundred percent truth in them. And I, who was blinded by the love of his own effort, took that as a personal affront, and with a whim so commonly observed in the youth, called him to get back to him.
I was at a loss for words. With nothing to say, I hung up the phone and sank back into the chair beside me. A strange feeling of sadness and shame had enveloped me now, replacing the feeling of revenge that was brimming in me only a few moments back.
Sitting in that chair, memories long forgotten washed over me, memories of how he had with his strict but right approach had helped me correct many of the mistakes. How he had encouraged me to find my own style of writing, rather than follow what is trite and obvious.
Many minutes passed like this. I realized that now it was too late, too late to meet that professor, to say thanks to his teachings, to his efforts that he gave in day and day out.
Oh, how I wish now to meet him, to meet that one professor, who created in me a spark to write, without me even realizing it.