Monday, December 03, 2012

To Sir with Love:

He was a frail man in his sixties but looked much older. An advanced stage of Parkinson’s disease made his hands shake a lot and his gait was an excruciatingly slow shuffle. Whenever he used to get up to go to the washroom, I used to get scared that he might fall down. He had lost most of his hair but he always used to slowly put on his turban before opening the door for anyone. His beard was completely white. I can’t remember the details now but his children did not really care about him. He used to live alone with his very simple wife in his two room house which was in a bad need for repair.

In those days, getting tuition outside of school was looked down upon. It meant that you are so dull that you have to seek help for studying. I was a brilliant student till 4th Std and a favourite of many of my teachers. But something had switched in my head by the time I reached the next class. In the next three years, my studies plummeted and I became withdrawn… such an extent that in Class 8th I failed in Chemistry in one trimester. The fact that I was barely saved from repeating the same class, made me sit up and think hard. I went up to my father myself and told him I needed help.

Sir, as I have always known and called him, never gave me any work to do initially. I used to go to his house, fiddle around with my books, drink tea made by his wife and go back home. Only when he was sure I was comfortable did he ask me to attempt solving problems given in school. All he would do was clarify the basics and let me solve the problems myself. He always told me that I knew all the answers which made me slowly get rid of the fear of theorams, equations and mathematical problems and start enjoying the challenge of solving them. Soon I was balancing equations in class in front of everybody and solving problems which even the most intelligent girls in class could not solve.

From barely managing a 40% in most science subjects, I went on to score good enough marks to take up Science in Plus two. He didn’t smile or get ecstatic like I was. He just re-iterated my faith in myself. We had to move out of our rented house soon after. I didn’t go to say bye to Sir as I felt too awkward. I am sure he must have thought why I had stopped coming to see him.

A few years later, I got the news that he had succumbed to his illness. I felt hollow and remembered that I had never even said a good-bye.

For me, he was the best teacher I ever had...the only one who made me retain my faith in my abilities. The only one who had more faith in me than I had in myself.