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Teachers, then and now

chandigarh Updated: Dec 07, 2013 09:38 IST
Darshan Singh

Reflecting back on my student days and job as a university teacher, I find no parallel between then and now dramatically transformed teacher-taught relationship. As of now, the teachers complain more about students, while the students rarely hesitate to speak ill of their teachers.

In good old days, a teaching was a much respected profession and word mouth of teacher was a law unto itself. In schools, corporal punishment was a norm and the offending students were often chastised by their teachers. Parents never complained, rather scolded their children for wrongs committed by them in schools. With malice towards none I recall two of my school time happenings that would perhaps appear weird in today's setting.

Back in late fifties, there was no middle school in our village, Rukanpura. We, a group of students used to cycle along canal to a neighbouring village school. Our headmaster, a strict disciplinarian, never tolerated latecomers and punishment was to do frog jumping or running across the playground. Despite being an excellent teacher and administrator, he had his own weaknesses.

He would depute students by turn to do some errands at his residence. A group was deputed daily to fetch water from a well and fill pitchers at his residence. Our group of daily commuters was by turn duty bound to bring 'datuns' (Acacia twigs for brushing teeth) on our way to school.

On one chilly morning, it was my unfortunate turn and having forgotten the knife I managed to pull down 'datuns' with great difficulty from Acacia branches leaving my hands badly bruised by thorns and nearly frozen. Pedalling slow however, I arrived late in the school.

With a cane in hand, our headmaster was there to greet me menacingly near the prayer ground. On being asked to explain my late arrival, I sheepishly pulled out 'datuns' from my bag inviting instant giggles from both teachers and students.

Having got answered, he ordered me to fall in line quietly without going through the ordeal of mandatory punishment. The 'datuns', in fact, served as my saviour of the day.

Another incident that tickles me when recalled happened in 1961 while I was a student in Senior Higher Secondary School at Abohar. Our headmaster, a stocky man with frowns flashing on to his face always, was a person of unparalleled intellect but a much feared personality.

Sitting in his centrally-located office, no one could afford to walk through the school compound and escape his prying eyes. It so happened one day that a friend of mine fell ill and after due permission from his teacher he walked out of his class. Suddenly as if from nowhere headmaster appeared and started cane thrashing my friend without askance.

Belatedly however, he enquired as to how he dare leave the class. When my friend sobbingly replied that he had fever, he shot back in his typical 'jhangvi' parlance, "Bhootni diya, pehlan kiyon nahien dasyia" (You scoundrel, why didn't you tell earlier?). My friend meekly answered, "Sir, tuseen bollan da mauka ei nahin ditta" (Sir, you didn't give me a chance to speak).

Out of respect for their total commitment in student's welfare, we never grudged or so to say never dare grudge the snobbish attitude of our teachers. But it's highly improbable that such a high and mighty behaviour would ever be acceptable to the present generation.