Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The teachers of school years past...

Random teacher memories over the years from school (St John's Jr College in Mandaveli):

- A substitute history teacher of whom I was terrified because I was always afraid he would pick on me like he did with another girl who was fat. He found it very funny to sing a corrupted version of an old Tamil movie song at her. (His version: "Miaow miaow poonai kutti, class-la sutthum yaanaikutti" – literal translation "miaow miaow little kitten, a baby elephant in the class"). He never did pick on me, for whatever reason, but 45 minutes of sitting in the class waiting for him to "discover" me was almost worse than any actual teasing. I wish I could remember the b*stard's name. To that girl's credit (cant remember her name either) she never seemed intimidated by him, whatever her feelings on the inside.

- A very pretty geography teacher who spent a lot of her time standing at the entrance to our classroom, flirting with the senior PT master (their classes coincided that way) in the next classroom. She had a somewhat nasal voice and would insist on calling me "SYAAmala". I liked her – well, the entire class did, because we could pretty much do as we pleased. She would only exert herself if the noise level rose beyond tolerable. Occasionally if we were really noisy even after being warned by her, the PT master would poke his head into our classroom and threaten us with dire punishment. We kept quiet for a little longer when that happened. Oddly enough, I cant remember the names of either teacher now.

- A bad-tempered physics teacher, whose name was Miranda. He was disgusting – oily lank hair with a parting far over to one side and combed over, although he wasn't balding. Longer than normal, his hair came up to his earlobes and if he was seated when he called you to the blackboard, you could sometimes see oil-stains on his shirt collars. Yuk. But the worst part was that he was a closet pedophile… he always made me uncomfortable, but I didn't know why until a much more worldly-wise classmate (who was my best friend for a brief 9 months before she moved to Bombay) made us aware of his sleazy tendencies. She told me and another friend never to be alone with him in the staffroom.

- A history teacher, a Mallu lady who was terrible at her job, and who was utterly unable to earn the respect of our class because we knew exactly what button to push to get her flustered. All one of the boys (sitting nearest the corridor) had to say was "The Princi(pal) is coming, miss" and she would rush to cover the blackboard with dates and names as proof that she had been hard at work, raising her voice and trying to get us to be more responsive. She never seemed to twig on to the fact that he hardly ever turned up. ("It's okay miss, he's gone into VIIIB miss").

- A chemistry teacher who never picked on me, but was renowned for the nasty painful nips she gave with her fingernails as punishment for not answering questions correctly, or for making a noise, and so on. She was very fond of my sister, so that could be why I escaped the nips even though I was dismal at chemistry. She was quite kind at heart, really, but her attitude in general was as politically incorrect as you could get. Her usual way of addressing the 2-3 guys in the class who were Jains, was "You, moneylender" or "You, pawnbroker". (Jains were mostly from Rajasthan, and the majority of them were pawnbrokers or money-lenders, usually on a small scale although reputed to be as tightfisted as they were rich.)

- A young(ish) botany teacher who, along with a couple of other Christian teachers, was in charge of the school choir. We referred to her as "Vidi miss" – I don't know if that was her surname or her given name, or even if "Vidi" was the right name! Her most favourite instruction to us was to "open our mouth wide" while we sang. I didn't understand that until much later, when I saw a proper "Western" choir sing. They certainly opened their mouths wide!

- An assistant PE teacher, Alagappan, a minor tyrant and wannabe head PE teacher. Unfortunately named, because he was the opposite of good looking. He tried to terrorise the boys in my class (when we were in the 12 th standard) but ended up with egg on his face because those young thugs were more than a match for him. The way they dissed him was pretty awful, but then Alagappan shouldn't have tried to bully them. The kids in the lower classes bore the brunt of his bad temper, sadly.

- Our English teacher, who looked like Rabbit in Winnie the Pooh. That exact same pinched look, that fussy air, skinny and high-strung, with thin hair pulled back very tightly into a bun. (It's because of her that I was convinced for YEARS that Rabbit was a She rather than a He.) She stood absolutely no nonsense from anybody, wasn't afraid of slapping down – literally – recalcitrant teenage boys twice her size and was the first to tell us off for calling her "miss". ("Call me 'Ma'am', or "teacher" or even 'Hey you', but for god's sake don't address me as 'miss'. I'm a married woman.") She was my favourite teacher by far, although I'm not sure she returned the favour. I do know from personal admissions that a couple or three of the boys, who argued with her all the time, had a crush on her! Go figure.

14 comments:

meerkat said...

SYAAmala, konthai , teacher pathi ippadi sollardu nalla illai ma. afterall, guru is like god, no.

we had a tamil master who was a bit eccentric. when he came into the class, he would insist on us greeting him tamil. we would stand up and say, kaale vannakum ayya. what remained unsaid was 'poda porrukki payya'

Shyam said...

Most of them were a parody of gurus, and I s'pose we sishyas werent ideal either :) But I LURVE that unsaid bit - it's such a perfect rhyme.

Anonymous said...

Yup, I sure remember Miz Rabbit Gokhale :P Being one of the shortest in the class, I was forced to sit in the first row, right under her nose. I usually had a problem paying attention in her class because I'd already read everything MONTHS before, and I was bored.

So I'd goof off, and she'd try to catch me at it, but I paid just enough attention to never actually get caught. Managed to not get caught out in 3 years!

She drilled me on how to write concisely (a skill that I unfortunately lost within a few days of leaving high school) - if she wanted a 100 word essay from me, she wanted 100 words. Not 99 or 101. 100 words.

Took her most of 3 years to get me to write to her precise specifications, and then I went to college, wrote a 100-word essay in an exam (because the question said: write about ... in 100 words), and got docked points because the essay was "too short."

Anyway, Shyam - how in the world did you manage to leave Premchand and his "listen to the blackboard" out of the list? He used to reduce my score in Computer Science because he knew a. I hated maths (and hated him too), and b. I was Shyam's sister, and therefore to be dismissed on sight. Even though I had to sit right under every teacher's nose, I still managed to bunk Maths classes by hiding in the Chem lab... and he never noticed (or gave any indication of having noticed).


-Radha

Shyam said...

I think I may have written about Premchand before. I know I've written about B Gokhale too, but she was deserving of a second mention :D

CW said...

I think Miranda is still around, he might have taught my cousin 4 yrs back. Uncanny this, but my Physics teacher in school too was a closet paedophile!

Anonymous said...

CW: were you in St Johns Mandavali too?? :0

- Shyam

meerkat said...

where is this great place, st. johns mandavali. is that a suburb of chennai?

Shruthi said...

Lovely! I want more of this!

Anonymous said...

Meera: Suburb??? SUBURB? :) Mandavali is very nearly the heart of Chennai, only pipped to the post by Mylapore :) Obviously you're not a Chennai-ite... although some would consider that a plus :D

Shruthi: What, more near-libellious pieces on my illustrious teachers? :D I can probably oblige...

- Shyam

meerkat said...

no i am not a chennai-ite although i was born there. i have heard of mylapore, tnagar, adayar, alwarpet, mambalam etc. never heard of mandavali.though i have not been to chennai in ages. so what do i know

did you do all your schooling in this school.
meera

Anonymous said...

For 5 years, yes! Std 8 through 12. Not the best years of my life by any stretch :)

Mandavali (alternatively spelt Mandavelli/Mandevalli/Mandevali - take your pick) is a pretty rundown area of Chennai. I dont imagine it's changed much in the last 3 years. You usually go through it to get to other areas like Mylapore or Adyar! :D

- Shyam

CW said...

No, but my grandfather's place was a stone's throw away! An uncle, an aunt & 2 of my cousins schooled there (KG thru 12th!!). (We probably know each other, eh?!)

Oh Mandaveli's changed alright. Remember the Indian Bank at the end of the rd..that's abt the only thing that has remained the same till now, dilapidated building & all!

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Purnima said...

Well I have similar memories of St Johns too! Glad to see that am not the only one :-) Btw I guess you must have been my senior in Mandaveli.

Cheers,

Purnima