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Pride and Prejudice
|by G Swaminathan|
When I came out of the college, I was very firm about one thing; that I should not take up teaching profession at any cost. But, I never knew that Providence was standing at a corner invisibly and smiling at me. So I never even used to send an application if the posts were advertised for Tutor, Demonstrator or Junior Lecturer- the terminology used at that time. I just loathed the idea of entering a classroom and addressing the students sitting either expectantly or grimly to listen to my harangue. It is true that I really had opportunities to study under good, efficient and knowledgeable teachers and lecturers. However, I was very confident (!) that I do not have the potential or material to be a good teacher. Luckily, for me I joined a research organization where I had to do lot of experiments and go through literature, write papers and reports etc. which totally kept me away from the profession I feared. But, it was a temporary relief; because the job I was offered was on contract and at one point of time I had to necessarily become a regular staff of the Institute or quit. Since there were no other options for me left out, I made all efforts to take up a regular post in the organization. Still I was unaware of the Providence's smile.
Getting a post was not that easy; it had innumerable and unexpected hurdles and pains. Nevertheless, I crossed all these and landed on a post in the Institute. After submitting the joining report to my boss, I was sitting peacefully how to start my work now. I was beckoned by my boss to his room and after offering me a seat, he said with a smile; 'It is good that you have got your position finally in this department Education and Training. Now I expect you to start taking classes for the B.Tech students.' For a moment, I was dumb. Then, realizing that I was left with Hobson's Choice, I asked him: 'Which subject?'
That was how I became a teacher.
I know that I could never match the capabilities of my teachers whom I like most. But, I prefer to be teacher of at least sincerity, diligence and good nature. This attitude helped me to a great extent. I was liked by my students because of my simplicity, friendliness, easy method of teaching, the special and personal care I showed for each student. Man is a social animal; he knows how to survive; I tried to survive on the auxiliary qualities rather than the main strength. I do not feel ashamed to accept that; it, indeed, helped me to a great extent in winning over the confidence of my students. Whatever they might have spoken behind me or in my absence, I was considered as a 'nice' teacher (?) or a 'good' friend.
My statement is no exaggeration; In the course of my efforts to be sincere at least, I learnt a few techniques to make the students work easy and to impress them by my personal interest in their character, career and other interests. I remembered all their names, faces and even hand- writing. At one point of time, all the other lecturers and professors who took classes for my students used to call and consult me before they pass or fail a student. This is because of the fact, they were all convinced that I understand all students well and my views will be unbiased.
I started liking my job; the association and company of youth made me forget my personal problems and frustrations. I started feeling I learnt at least something from each batch of students passed out rather than I taught them something special. Another heartening reward for my attitude was many of them remembered me even after leaving the Institute and tried to be in touch with me. This made me know their families, parents, relatives etc and widened my circle of friends.
Man is basically egoistic; I am no exception. These good student friends of mine massaged my ego and I always used to feel that I am a teacher who is generally not disliked by students. Normally, there is a saying that if you find someone unpalatable, just turn your face and walk into the next lane. In my case, I find the students, present or former, stopped, smiled, waved and spoke. At times, seeing me in a temple or a shopping centre, they voluntarily come and talk. In one marriage of a student, I ran into a bunch of old boys who came to me for a chat. When I recalled their names with little difficulty, they really felt elated and flattered me for my memory power. So can there be anything more than these incidents to fan my ego and pride?
But, recently I happened to visit a temple in Mylapore. It is rather a very small one, and while I was going around, I saw an young man in his twenties entering the temple with flowers in his hand. His face struck a chord in my memory; I have seen him somewhere. In a fraction of a second I recognized that he was one of my students. He too looked at me inquiringly for a second and then averted his look. One fact remains: his face may by one among 40 faces for me in a class. But he cannot forget me that easily. Unfortunately, I could not recall his name. I was squeezing my memory to get it. But, in the mean time, he looked at me again and the moment, I recognized something, he turned his face. It had become obvious that he recognized me but did not want to show it. After that he did not turn my side at all and went off.
This, in fact, came as a surprise. Not being recognized is something; but pretending to be not recognized or avoid completely is different. What made him do that? What happened to the pride that I was holding all these days that my students would recognize me wherever they see me? Why that boy was not interested to exchange even a smile of recognition? These questions bothered me. It was, indeed, a blow to my pride of being good to all my boys. It was a myth; an illusion; a dream I nurtured.
A coin has two sides. Each individual has his/her own likes and dislikes. That particular boy does not hold any liking or comradeship for me. Probably, I would have done something to upset him in the class, which I do not remember now. The writing on the wall is clear:
One can never be good to all.
This happened a few years before. Now also I take classes. Now also I tried to be nice to my young students. Now also I remember their names but I could do only a few. I never feel bad about it. I also should not have felt proud about remembering them.
Forgetfulness only makes life interesting. Because tomorrow is a new day and you are a new person.
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