Thursday, September 27, 2012

How We Were Taught Part 2

It might look like a nice outdoorsy summer retreat, but if you have sat in Mrs. Bharathi's class, you wouldn't think so

Leaving your old friends is never a good thing. I remember the first time I went to the Hill Top Public School, Puthiyara in Calicut. The year was 1998, and it was with my granddad, on his old Kinetic Honda scooter, going up the winding red-bricked road, around the tile factory with the long chimney towers on a rainy Monday morning. It was a modest school with a few building here and there, but more like a holiday home or farmhouse—well that is what the entrance atleast looked like (above) (it today houses more pucca buildings at least two-three stories high). I was not happy at all that i had moved in there. Firstly, I had to sit in a tempo van and then come to a place (whereas i used to walk to school back in Muscat, secondly, I knew nobody there, thirdly, i had to learn the Malayalam language, and finally, did I mention, not having friends? It is always difficult shifting schools, and so it was for me too. But the view from the top of the hill – priceless.

The two years I spent there, seemed to just whizz by, and not many long lasting friendships arose out of it. I am still in touch with a few of them, though. The teachers too, I can vaguely remember. But there was one teacher that who I would say was a reincarnation of one of those clichéd boarding-school-warden-english-teacher types. Her name was Mrs. Bharathi. Although the whole class would be at their mischievous best in other classes, her one session, commanded the attention of every student in the room. And surprisingly, it was in malluland, and the influence of this teacher that got me attracted to the English language. She was never the type that would unequivocally pour out marks for you during your quarterly, half yearly, final year or even the most trivial class tests. There was a standard she demanded. And if one could cope with that, you'd pass the subject. I think my understanding of the language increased by leaps and bounds, after learning from her. But back then, we were just plain scared of her. We would make sure we did her homework, even if it meant neglecting other subjects. She also used to be my elder brother’s class teacher. So any bad behaviour or not learning, it would reach my Mom's ears, via my brother. That was more than a decade back. When I met her almost 6-7 years later after her retirement, somewhere around 2005-06, she didn’t seem as intimidating like she did then, even remembering me (although it was my brother she knew better). We talked and reminisced and joked of her 'terror' days, and we laughed over it, telling us 'it was all for your own good'. But she was surprised that I had taken up a degree in functional English, of all the subjects out there—yes, I  never topped the subject of English, the two years I was there (nor any other subject). But proud of us all, she is today.

Other than Ms. Bharathi, I think I remember Mrs. Saira, who used to teach us Hindi, Mini miss, who used to be out PT teacher (we just had one basketball court and no other playing ground), and I sucked at it. It was also here that I got onto the religious side of affairs, as we would go for our dhuhr (afternoon) prayers in the makeshift mosque inside the school (well this was again new for me, because our school in Muscat began at 7 in the morning and ended by 1.30 p.m. Here, it began at 9.30 in the morning and ended close to around 4 in the evening, which was not to my liking at all). I don’t exactly remember the teacher who taught us, but he encouraged me to take part in an azan (calling of prayer) competition. And for the first time, after my second grade sports triumph, I actually won something in a school competition. That was my only moment of glory there. My grades dropped dramatically after moving here, but that had more to do with me, than the teachers. But thankfully, the nightmare lasted only two grades for me—fifth and sixth, because Dad brought us all back to our favourite city—Muscat—in the millennium year.

It was like being resurrected. And it was also about bringing back together a division, that has been close to my heart—F. And with the intermittent memory of Hill Top, I was on my way back to old friends, familiar grounds and the scorching heat of the Middle East.

On that note, I shall leave you lingering for my second stint at ISWK.

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