It was monsoon 2004. I was just promoted to sixth grade with my other classmates, whom I knew since kindergarten. A new year would always be exciting. Covering school books with brown paper, pasting name stickers, writing your name neatly and arranging stationery and school bag for the new academic year…such a nostalgic beauty!
At the beginning of the year, most of us read our English books way before the syllabus could cover it. But this year was different. I had entered the class with doubts about myself. My previous class teacher found me useless, someone who could not even recite a poem in the class. The ridicule had affected the 12-year-old me, so much so, that my mother had to talk to the teacher about it, requesting her to stop with the taunts.
I was looking forward to the new English teacher. We heard she was new to the school. I was skeptical. What if she ridicules me too? But in she walked, capturing our hearts forever. Ms Smitha George exactly knew how to deal with students of our age. Her jokes, her loving rebuke and her knowledge made her our favourite.
In most of the classes, I was part of the ‘sit down’ gang who came in without completing the homework. We would be made to sit on the floor, instead of the benches, as a punishment. But every time anyone of us scored a ten-on-ten in the English dictation test, Smitha teacher honoured us by letting us go back to our bench. Such small gestures built my confidence. She would tell me how I have a wonderful future with English, if I worked hard. She, along with my parents, helped me regain my confidence.
Months passed, and every class was a delight. We got promoted to the next class, but without Smitha teacher as our English lecturer. That didn’t mean we forgot her.
But the story doesn’t end here. We soon found out about her cancer. If I remember well, it was leukaemia. The news devastated us. Every time we visited her, her pleasant self stayed the same, always full of joy and bliss. Amidst the pain and the endless medical procedures, she never forgot to smile. She never forgot to enquire about my studies or even have a jolly banter.
I clearly remember meeting her in her hospital bed, when the doctors said she didn’t have much time. As my mother and I walked into the room, there she lay, just skin and bones, but with a faint smile on her face. The sight clearly remains etched in my memory. When the news of her passing away reached us, there was not a single dry eye in the class.
Today, try asking me or some of my classmates who our favourite teacher was. We’ll unanimously say Smitha teacher. Each of us remembers her with fondness. We have had other teachers who have impacted our lives and taught us something that we have carried with us throughout our lives. But Smitha teacher was always a cut above the rest.
Dear Smitha teacher, this Teacher’s Day, I remember you and the person you were. You won’t be reading this, but you deserve a standing ovation from our hearts. If only we could tell you how much you influenced us.