Good teacher, bad teacher

We were sitting at the Madras Cricket Ground lounge and from where we sat, we had a vantage-point view of Dhoni and his men in yellow practicing for tomorrow’s match. That’s when my 65-year-old ex-professor quipped, “I think  teaching is the best profession.” I sat silent for a while, gulping down my filter coffee in quick sips. My mother would probably agree  with this wily bearded old man.

As a rule, I learned, from a very young age, to bend rules and often, break them. Thus, I had always taken the wrong turns at the right time in my life which, ultimately, turned out to be the right thing to do. But not for long. There have been many an occasion when I’ve had regrets about the way my life has shaped up. I remember yearning to be a scientist at Class V. That was when I used to raid my Grandpa’s toolbox and do unthinkable stuff. There was not a single radio in the house whose innards hadn’t been ripped open. From torches that switched on at the click of a remote control (of a toy F1 racing car) to complicated electrical circuits – I had them at the tip of my fingers by 12. By 13, I had a whole colony of ants, bred by me, in, much to the dismay of my mother, the aluminium bowl in which she used to boil eggs. And then, the cricket bug struck. The 1999 World Cup began in the UK and I was hooked. Those weren’t the days of computers and Internet. So a simple diary was maintained behind which I used to devote a good amount of board exam time. While my classmates maintained scrapbooks, I maintained scoresheets, match summaries, views, reviews and expert commentary (mine, of course) on stuff like the team composition to the amount of grass on the pitch. My mother, in the meantime, had almost given up hope. I had become this split personality teenager – cavorting from one thing to the other.

Soon, science fiction and Arthur C Clarke-Michio Kaku-Michael Crichton-Stephen Baxter happened. My high school days were spent shunting between the bio and physics labs. Animal behaviourism, eco-system management, fractal mathematics and nanotechnology – the brave new world showed up, opened up in front of my eyes. With renewed hope, my mother walked into my room one day holding the JEE/IIT papers which I willingly and greedily eyed then. Until, of course, I started contributing for the magazine and came in close association with a very dear literature teacher of mine, let’s name her K. Verse replaced complicated organic chemistry formulae. (My aunt and my chemistry tutor would agree with this. Every page of my big fat chemistry text book had been vandalized with prose and verse and, often, cartoon strips. There was even an occasion when my class teacher held out the pages in question to the whole class and had er… to put it mildly… jokingly said, “Is this what you want to do?”) My mother was unaware of all this. She still maintained, egged by my new-found interest in academics, that after I get my degree, I would become a teacher.

A few days before my engineering exams, I had a change of heart. I believe it was more of a change of head. I tore up the admit cards and other necessary documents and vowed to devote the rest of my life to literature. Shaken, but not stirred, my mother believed that this was for the greater good. Carefree, high-school ‘me’ became a nerd. Yes, the kind often seen as emoticons on BBM and such likes: thick glasses and protruding tooth. Post-college evenings weren’t spent behind dates. They were spent in the college library with yellowed pages and musty bookshelves. College magazines meant staying up all night and writing. Summer holidays meant interning for one of the famed print media houses in the country. (Oh what terrible days. Covering crime and civic scenario in Salt Lake-New Town area. High on gasoline adrenaline, low on the paycheque…) Journalism followed.

J-school, general news, sound bites, live programming… the next 5 years were a static blur. I finally found that I was settling into something. Now, I’m probably a burnt-out cigarette butt, just like the one that I just disposed off.

“Teaching is the best profession,” repeated my 65-year-old ex-professor. My mother would still agree. And now, so would I.

I’ve been a bad teacher! I mean, come on, anybody, any, young, impressionable mind (thank God that’s a rarity nowadays!) would read this and be like, “Whaaaa??!!” (Yeah, the kind they swipe, tap and type on their smartassphones.) I’m hardly an example for them. I’ve changed tracks so frequently in my life that I’ve lost track of my starting point. X-Marks-The-Spot. Now no more.

But yes, one thing that I can teach this serious generation is to laugh at oneself. I do. All the time. Not out of self pity but out of a sense of goodness. It’s like catharsis. We take ourselves so seriously at times. I’ve lived the outrun-the-rats phase. Now, I’m content watching the rats outrun each other from the sidelines. Perhaps, they don’t know, I finished first and had enough time to settle down in the back with a Scotch!

(Statutory warning: Might not make much sense. Most of the time. Heck!)


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