Thursday, September 08, 2011

My Teachers: Kaushik Sir




I have this great way of starting new series and then abandoning them. So, let's start another one - my teachers. May be 3 days late after Teacher's Day but better late than never.

I think you'd agree that teachers play a defining role in our life. I have been blessed with some great teachers in my life. Actually most of them were great for one reason or another, but some were outstanding! When I decided to write about Kaushik Sir, I thought why just him, I have had some other teachers as well that I would never forget, so why not make it a series? And so, here we start another series, My Teachers, with the first instalment as Kaushik Sir.

He was my English teacher. I had him in more than one classes but the most memorable was the period of 11th and 12th standard. During these 2 years most of my classmates who were serious about school were focusing their energies on Physics or Maths and the interest in English was quite low. It was stupid of them, no matter whether you go for engineering or medical, you still needed to pass English and get good marks in it. I saw several of them suffer because of this shortsightedness when the results were out.

But the low attendance didn't bother Kaushik Sir. He loved to teach and he taught with the same enthusiasm if the number of students was 4 or 40. His period was 4th, the last one before recess and by 11th class the fear of teachers and school discipline kind of wanes. We think of ourselves as almost-college students, not school students. So people used to feel quite free to leave before the 4th period started.

However, Kaushik Sir never missed a class, even if there were 2 students in the class he would teach. I know this from experience. There was one time when only I and another student were there in the class but Kaushik Sir didn't even raise the question of "Should we continue the class?" He just took out the book and started teaching with a smile.

That was another thing - his equanimity. Never a shout, never a temper tantrum, and never a harsh word. Always a smile on his face and always a dedication to doing his best in making us learn.

His teaching style was simple and effective. He always went beyond mere translation of the lesson and question-answer. By that time I was good enough in English that I used to read all the stories in the text books in the summer vacation itself and then enjoy them immensely when they were taught in class one by one.

For me, after wading through Physics, Chemistry and Maths, English was like a picnic! It was a reward! It was a joy! So, I never missed a single class.

I don't want to keep repeating that Kaushik Sir was an amazing teacher and a great person so let me illustrate with a couple of examples.

We were studying this story called "The Coin Diver" which is a great story. I still think of it as one of the best stories we read in school. In the story, there is scene where the 3 main characters of the story, Diamond Jim, Nancy and Charlie (names from memory) are on a single path and their placement relative to each other was important to the story.

When Kaushik Sir started explaining that passage he changed their positions from where they were in the story. I interrupted and called him on it immediately. When the discussion started, another student, the other guy who never missed a class, also supported my view.

Kaushik Sir said he would get back to us tomorrow.

Now here's the beauty part. He didn't forget, and he didn't try to roll past it. The next day, right as rain, he just ambled into class, opened the book and in front of a full class (about a dozen or so students) admittedthat we were right and he was wrong! I mean who does that? What teacher sets aside his ego like that and just concedes so openly? He told us that he had read the book last year and was thinking he didn't need to again this year to teach.

More than The Coin Diver, that was the lesson I learnt, be willing to admit your mistakes and don't get bogged down in ego!

Next instance was also during the same story. In the last passage the author used the word "breast" for the male character. That confused me. So I asked Kaushik Sir and he told me that sometimes the author goes by the quality of the person's body as in, it is a female quality to be able to love so much, and here Charlie has shown that quality so the author used the feminine word for his body. I accepted that.

He repeated that with slightly different words that gave me enough of the clue that I realized the difference later. (In both males and female the bone structure etc. is called chest and the flesh part on top is called breast). It was not him bullshitting me, it was just him stepping around a sticky topic, but not at the cost of leaving me in the dark. That was another lesson I learnt from him, though later, honesty in a difficult situation!

My memories of Kaushik Sir are like that, a man with immense knowledge, a really mature character and a great teacher!

If this reminds you of your teachers or a particular teacher, feel free to share with us in comments. 

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