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To sir, with love

Principal Mani is revered by all Georgians for the spirit he inculcated in us. He set a personal example of coming to school on a cycle, writes RD Singh.

india Updated: Sep 04, 2007 23:28 IST
RD Singh

I met RS Mani at King Georges School, Belgaum, in 1964. I was 12 and only knew tooti footi English. My home in Haryana was some 2,000 km away from the school. The first few days among so many new people were difficult. I was lost and cried often. Seeing my shyness and poor English, principal Mani called me to his office. Handing over a copy of Reader’s Digest, he said, "Ripu, next week you will speak on this essay I have marked in the book at the assembly.” I pleaded that I didn’t understand a thing of what he had given me. “Nothing is impossible,” he said. Enthused, I decided to memorise the full text. The D-day arrived and I rattled out the essay like a parrot. There was a round of applause. I looked at the principal and he smiled.

He started taking special interest in me after that. He told me to read newspapers and make notes of important events. Initially, it was tough because I had to refer to the dictionary for every other word. But I did not lose heart. My vocabulary kept improving, so did my general knowledge. Happy with my improvement, principal Mani put me in the debating team. By the time I was in Class X, I turned out to be the best debater in the school. I still remember how we defeated the SSPMS Pune in an inter-school competition. Once I achieved that, the principal had another challenge ready for me. “Why don’t you start writing,” principal Mani asked me. And there I was in the school magazine Shuzen’s editorial team. I still have the 1968-69 issue that I edited.

Principal Mani is revered by all Georgians for the spirit he inculcated in us. He set a personal example of coming to school on a cycle. He wore pure cotton white/cream suits and lived a simple life. He addressed the morning assembly and any breach of discipline was dealt in the Gandhian way. I remember once he kept three so-called ‘bad boys’ in his house instead of the hostel so that they could live with his family and improve their ways. I kept in touch with him even after passing out of the school in 1970. While training at the Officers Training Academy, Madras, in 1973, some Georgians including me had lunch with him. It was a simple lunch because an honest man like him never cared to save for himself. even after his retirement, principal Mani kept teaching the slum children of Adyar. He passed away a couple of years back. But his goodness and values, will always remain with us. On Teachers’ Day, I can only thank him for all he had done for me and fellow Georgians.