“My teacher demanded tea and toast at midnight”

Posted: September 5, 2020 in Teacher, WPrightnow
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Tea and butter toast. Pix: From the Internet

It was 10pm. We had finished dinner, but we were expecting a visitor. My parents had stopped watching the news and my late brother was pacing up and down the sitting room. I was with my books at the dining table pretending to concentrate. I should have known this would happen. My table tennis buddies at the swimming club, who had recommended his name had also warned me about this, his late night appearances and his generally wayward sense of timing.

“But he is a brilliant teacher. He will make you love math. But it could also happen that he would disappear for days and then reappear suddenly, that too at midnight,” they had said.

“At midnight!” I had gulped.

I was lucky though. Since I was a girl, he had chosen a more ‘respectable’ 10pm.

So here I was waiting for my teacher Prodosh Sen, whom I called Gobuda, who was a career medical representative, part-time math tutor and passionate swimming director at Indian Life Saving Society, better known as Anderson Club, which I frequented.

He finally rang the bell at almost 10.30pm. I could see the throbbing vein on my father’s stiffened temples and that unsure look on my mom’s face about the choice of a tutor.

“Can I have some tea and toast with butter and sugar on it?” he asked while taking off his shoes.

Instantly the tense atmosphere in my home dissipated. He had asked for his evening staple. As if that convinced us it was only 7 pm.

My mother headed to the kitchen, father to the bedroom and brother to his room. Gobuda joined me at the dining table.

The class went on till midnight. When he got up to leave, my brother escorted him downstairs to open the lock of the collapsible gate.

He came up the stairs laughing.

“Gobuda started walking down the road shadow practising badminton. And the dogs followed him barking,” he said.

But there was no surprise there. Walking that 2km stretch in the dark of the night, working on his badminton moves was life to my tutor. He was usually walking back from a night show of a Hindi movie, if not from a student’s home or from a friend’s place after late-night adda.

My first day with my tutor

On the first day he came to teach me, I was already solving my Class X test papers. So I wanted him to solve five sums that weren’t coming easily to me.

Gobuda went from one sum to another, downed cups of tea, scratched out numbers on the blank sheet, mumbled a lot and then a solid one hour later he told me the sums weren’t coming easily to him either.

I could have been aghast at the shortcoming of the highly-recommended, star tutor. Or I could have quickly jumped to the conclusion that my own math standards were already so exalted that a seasoned tutor was struggling. But I just smiled.

He pushed back his disheveled hair and threw up his arms in a gesture of surrender.

“I couldn’t do a single sum, so you decide if you want to employ me,” was his candid confession.

“You are just nervous,” I said instead.

He looked at me sheepishly. I was 15 he was 33. The student-teacher tables had turned.

“Come back tomorrow. If you still can’t do the sums. We will see,” I said smugly.

That was exactly 30 years back. But that was probably the best decision I had taken in my life.

teachers day post

Photo by Thought Catalog on Pexels.com

The unconventional teaching style

Gobuda’s teaching style was as unconventional as his maverick lifestyle. If he got engrossed in math, he could sit there for four hours at a stretch, with his feet pulled up on the chair, not thinking once if the time devoted was proportionate to his pay.

He flashed a winning smile every time he solved a math problem or my mother got him tea and butter-toast with sugar liberally sprinkled on it.

I got 88 in my math paper in my Class X board exams. If the 100 per cent scoring young brigade is already laughing, then let me tell you, 30 years back that was really high marks. And to someone like me who had not scored beyond 50 all her life, it was really a big deal made possible by Gobuda’s passion for math and his capability to make me love it too.

But my association with my eccentric teacher did not end there. In plus 2 he taught me Economics. I did well in that too.

When I took up Sociology in graduation, I would make him sit and tell him what I had learned just to get an idea if I had prepared well. The same system continued in my masters. He never agreed to take a pay to listen to my passionate talk on Michel Foucault and Erving Goffman, but as long there was tea and toast he was all concentration.

Influence of teachers in our life

There’s no denying the fact that Gobuda was one of a kind, but in this article I want to focus on the influence of teachers on our life and how long-lasting that influence could be.

At South Point School, where I studied – which incidentally was the school where Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee also went – teachers were held in the highest esteem. They could slap, shout, rebuke, love, teach with passion, solve your personal problems, lend an ear to a complaining parent- they were like multi-tasking juggernauts who only had the welfare of the students in mind (without a question.)

And like Gobuda, they had their eccentricities as well. In fact, these eccentricities of some of our teachers became like legends that were handed down from generation to generation as classroom gossip.

But despite all eccentricity and oddity, their passion for teaching or their allegiance to their students was never in doubt.

We grew up respecting and loving our teachers with all our hearts and in all the years we went to school, not for once did it cross our mind that it was with our parents’ money that paid their salaries, an attitude that is pervasive among students in many elite schools today.

Our parents also never disregarded what the teachers said. They treated a guardian call with as much seriousness as we treated it with fear.

Read: Jashodhara Hanafi, the teacher who taught us love

Teachers in the online world

This Teacher’s Day is different from all the previous ones solely because teaching has shifted from the classroom to the virtual realm the world over.

As people struggle with the fear of a pandemic, job loss, forced lockdowns and suffer from mental health disorders, teachers are busy planning lessons, creating PPTs to make classes interesting and not for a moment do they forget to bring their appreciation and humour to their virtual class.

Some insensitive people have charged at them with the brickbats too, but unfazed by criticism they continue to do what they do best – teach.

Read: Short Story: A Teacher’s Lockdown Lessons

They have emerged as the superheroes of the new world. Happy Teacher’s Day to them.

 

PS: Gobuda still gives tuitions and his fan following comprises students who are settled the world over now. 

teachers day

Gobuda with one of his little fans Barbie (Pix from Facebook)

Comments
  1. Sanghamitra DuttaGupta says:

    Bunty life is isn’t the same nowadays.U brought back the sweet memories of our childhood,when in the evening we used to wait for our tutors to come and teach.We njoyed our childhood days but we’re instructed to b home as soon as the streetlights were lit.We learnt to b disciplined as my father was a strict disciplinarian.I still follow those rules.Im still learning,be it my son,daughter, friends even my grandchildren.Life is a learning process.God bless,I learn from u too from ur writing.Best wishes to u.

    • amritaspeaks says:

      Thank you very much for your comment. Yes you are absolutely right we had to be home by sundown and getting even 5 minutes late was not allowed.
      You are a wonderful person and I am fortunate that you read my writing regularly.
      Regards
      Amrita

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