My mother often tells me with wonder, and I listen to the same story, with an unfazed amazement, every time, of my first day at school; of how I had rushed out from my mother’s arms, in my shiny new uniform, a handkerchief pinned upon my navy blue pullover, with a water bottle, bobbing about, hung around my neck, and a laughter plastered on my face while every other child wailed refusing to leave the comfort of their parents’ arms, gripping onto their clothes with their tiny fists. I only wish she remembered the colour of my water bottle and I would like to believe it was bright yellow with a happy pink cap!
I, sadly, do not have particular memories of my kindergarten days save how the alphabets, and numbers intrigued me, how the rhymes made me smile and the magic of colour pencils, oh I adored my little box of colour pencils!
School, barring the bullying, was magical. From my desk, I witnessed the creation of a whole new world, a world where I would shut myself in, shut voices from, and dwelt, fuelled by facts, buoyed by imagination.
How I wished I had a little lamb like Mary who would follow me to school and I’ll hide the joyous skipping one under my desk. I travelled German towns, in the pages of my Gulmohar Reader, with Emil looking for the black hatted man who had stolen Emil’s money. I guffawed happily upon discovering mysterious ways of adding and dividing numbers, to later learning attaining infinity was possible when the divisor was zero. I travelled across continents and countries with the easy turn of a page, shrunk with horror at the gory tales of Aurangzeb stealthily killing his brothers for the Moghul throne, chugged through sooty streets of London in steam engines, witnessed Renaissance, Reformation. I climbed the Himalayas, the Andes, explored Mariana Trench, tasted the terrible saltiness of the Dead Sea. I sneezed over pollen grains, wondered would I eat the apple were it to fall upon my head, traced electrons across a circuit, sought fish swimming happily under the layer of ice on lakes in the cold of the winter.
Before I knew it I was rushing through classrooms in college, the imagination bubbling and brewing, complexity of complex numbers, addition metamorphosed into integration, names of innumerable chemical compounds and reactions, ‘Hello World’, sinusoidal waves, invisible radio waves dancing hysterically everywhere, gravitation, levitation, oxidation!
However I was never alone in the world of learning, of discovering, of inventing; there were guiding hands, watchful eyes, all my teachers, helping me where I stumbled, opening magical doors when I found myself at a cul de sac, frowning, and smiling the next minute, at my silliness, laughing along when I screamed the nursery poems, dramatising Shakespeare in jaw-dropping cadences, simplifying back-breaking calculations I had hitherto given up on. Oaring boats through the Nile they’d point out the towering Pyramids, trekking through Taiga they’d protect me from the cold and sitting with me by the field they’d guide me on sketching the distant pine trees.
All my teachers, through school to college, through tuition classes to art class, taught me to embrace Literature, to conjure stories, love Math, successfully prove theories, paint up a storm, bounce up and down travelling on radio signals, be certain about Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, pet Schrodinger’s cat. They taught me goodness, charity, morality and be the person I am today. And I am still learning. They are, therefore I am.
The 5th of September is celebrated as Teacher’s Day in India. This is an ode to all my teachers who have shaped me in innumerable ways.