I sighed while looking out from my bedroom window at the thick blanket of fog enveloping the park outside. Soon, the foggy weather dissipated and it was all clear with a canopy of blue sky overhead. The sun, numbed by the chilly weather for the past few days, also shone bright.
Not to miss the opportunity of sitting in the lawn, I gathered my newspapers and the mug of coffee and sat in my favourite chair. Feeling happy at the prospect of enjoying the sunny day, I retrieved my album of black and white photographs. As I caringly straightened the wrinkled butter-papers, each photograph rekindled memories of yesteryear: of days spent at Punjab Public School (PPS), Nabha. Vignettes of the hostel life and classroom teaching filled me with nostalgia.
There he was with a broad smile on his face looking straight at me, our English teacher SC Cowell, with the majestic school building in the backdrop. He was affectionate but a hard taskmaster. He had set several 'commandments' for us to follow, 'No dribbling with the ball in the school corridors; no shuffling of feet while walking; not to speak in Hindi or Punjabi; and eating all dishes at mealtime,' were only a few.
In the classroom, he paced up and down keeping a hawk's eye on anyone acting funny or inattentive, and occasionally made one of us pronounce the words he had been trying to make us learn. When he returned our exercise books, these would be marked red with all kinds of comments. He laid emphasis on good handwriting and short and crisp sentences. He made learning quite an experience.
Credit also goes to him for making us read the newspapers. He would ask senior students to write the day's headlines on the blackboard at the main entrance. He had twin objectives in this: make us read the papers and improve our handwriting.
His constant companion was a diary marked 'VOLTAS' on the cover. Every time we saw it, we became more curious to know what entries he made in it. Soon we found out. In that diary, he meticulously listed the particulars of the students who needed to be punished for their mistakes or mischief.
And, what was the corrective applied? Extra PT in the morning or making the errant student sit with him at his table at mealtime. The former would mean 'on your knees and crawl on the road'; the latter, eating the dish that you did not like. That was his way of teaching us the value of god's blessings.
Picking up courage one day, we asked him what did 'VOLTAS' on the diary stand for. He had a hearty laugh before saying, 'Volume of liars, thieves and scoundrels'.
I had a smile on my face thinking of those wonderful days spent at the PPS. As the fleeting clouds began to gather once again, covering the blue sky and shuttering the sun, I closed the album, but not shutting those sweet memories. What a 'memory-chip' the god has gifted us with. firstname.lastname@example.org
(The writer is SAS Nagar-based retired Punjab information commissioner and a veteran journalist)