|My first colleauges in the profession|
When I took up my first teaching job in Shillong, it was more because I needed a job than because I wanted to be a teacher. I had already attempted a career in hoteliering and failed. My first days at St Joseph’s School in Shillong didn’t turn out to be very promising either. The people were good but I wasn’t quite sure whether I was on the right turf.
The people were too good, in fact. The headmistress was a nun who went out of her way to make me feel comfortable at the school. She even took the trouble of finding me an accommodation. The colleagues were the unassuming Khasi tribal people whose geniality was very disarming. St Joseph’s was a convent school and my students were all girls which made the job all too easy.
I don’t think I was good at the job initially though I had some experience in it earlier as a tutor at an institution in Ernakulam where I did my graduation. The truth is that I didn’t like the job really. My first Teacher’s Day was just a couple of months after I joined the school in 1986 and I felt rather embarrassed when my students offered me a gift. I thought I was in a wrong place.
Eventually, however, the job became less unappealing. In fact, I began to enjoy it as I mastered the tricks of the trade. I came to be known as a good teacher and the reputation went to my head. Since my colleagues as well as students were a convivial lot, my conceit didn’t show itself too much.
Joining St Edmund’s College later as a lecturer in English was the biggest mistake I made in my life. It undid me entirely. The management, staff and students there conspired with my own conceit to make me feel as out of place there as they could. I began to hate the job. I hated myself, in fact, so much so I would have destroyed myself had I continued there. Fight or flight was the only option I was left with and I chose the latter having become incapable of the former.
Delhi’s Sawan Public School revived my spirits soon enough. It was a boy’s residential school and I, like all other staff, stayed on the campus in constant touch with the students. When those students voted me for the Best Teacher’s Award after a few years of my circus there I was both amused and amazed. In fact, my Edmund’s experiences had shattered not only my conceit but also my self-respect so much so that anything good happening to me was like a gratuitous miracle. Sawan was quite a miracle, in fact. It presented me a renewed love for life. I enjoyed my job once again.
Good things don’t last, however. As Narendra Modi rose to power in India, a godman transgressed into the school campus. Within a year the godman’s women ensured the demise of the school. Those two women were teachers by profession but witches at heart. I learnt from them what a teacher should not be.
Now I work in a village in Kerala. I know I’ll put an end to the career soon not because I don’t like it but because I feel I belong to my own private world more than anywhere. I find myself withdrawing from the active world, the world out there. Solitude enchants me.
Teaching is one of the noblest professions and I am blessed with some of the finest students who offer a stiff resistance to my longing for solitude. The profession has taught me more lessons than I have taught my students. The profession has been my teacher. My students have been my teachers, in other words. Maybe, I should wish them Happy Teacher’s Day!