Dr Dhillon finished Act IV of Macbeth with the end of the first period. But before he read exeunt, he wanted to finish one more scene. He was the school principal and wasn’t always available to teach. So, whenever he could, he preferred to take two classes in a row — “so we can finish Macbeth before your first prelims,” he told us. Dr Dhillon taught us English.
He also taught us the sundry short stories in the syllabus, but Shakespeare was his favourite.
Two periods at a stretch, however, had a soporific effect on us. UD, as we called him, knew this and would often toss a random, desultory quote to keep our interest alive.
“Out, damned spot! Out, I say!” he said when an unassuming lady teacher emerged out of the classroom whose door opened into ours. “Hark! She comes,” someone mumbled. “Sir,” she bleated, “has the bell gone?”
“Where?” Dr Dhillon asked the diminutive lady. “I didn’t see it go anywhere.” Embarrassed, the teacher turned on her heels. “By the way ma’am,” he harked, “the bell has rung; the class is over.”
Dr Dhillon had a quintessential way of correcting people. And, that’s what he tried to tell other teachers, too: “If one messes one’s grammar, don’t insult; your job is to improve in a subtle way,” he would tell teachers. DS, who taught the language paper, followed his example.
Once, after an essay test, while DS was pointing out mistakes, he read out from a copy: “I was suffering in a bus. There was a girl on the next seat.
She was also suffering to Ludhiana.” He paused, adjusted his drooping glasses, and remarked: “I don’t know who suffered on the journey, but I surely don’t want to suffer with this kind of language.”
DS never told us who had committed the blooper but the message was driven home.
Whenever there’s mention of teachers, it is people like Dr Dhillon and DS that come to mind. But, the most famous faux pas in the class of 1994 was this: once after Dr Dhillon announced a class test for three short stories that he had finished, a student got up and asked innocently: “Sir, which, which stories in the syllabus?”
“Which, which, huh!” Dr Dhillon repeated. Others in the class giggled. UD realised that the poor chap had felt insulted. So, he in his imitable style, said: “Sonny boy, haven’t you had enough of witches in Macbeth? And, why just two? Don’t you remember there are three witches in the play?”
“So far as the test syllabus is concerned,” he continued, “you will have questions from ‘The Eyes Have It’ and ‘Parson’s Pleasure’.”
“And, more about the witches when the hurlyburly’s done,” he said before walking out of the class.