Monday, September 5, 2011
To my mother, on Teachers' Day
My oldest child calls up on Sunday morning with a huge smile in her voice.
She is returning from a two and a half hour breakfast meeting with Ma'am, who was in Delhi for a short while.
I'm smiling too, inside my heart.
I am proud to be a part of this wonderful lineage of teachers, even if it's been years since I taught a class.
I recently came upon my mother's old school certificates. She had completed what was known as the Vernacular Lower Middle in 1940, and the Upper Middle in 1943, growing up in a small town in U.P. By the time she passed her upper middle school exams, at the age of fifteen, she was already married, taking care of an ailing mother-in-law, who did not survive for long.
Her firstborn, my brother, was born when she was a little over sixteen years old.
My sister was born when she was twenty five, I when she was twenty seven.
My parents spent their early married life in fairly turbulent times. They were staunch nationalists, and would go and hear Gandhiji speak when they could. My father managed to study as well as work in a government office, and had graduated in 1953, thirteen years after he had passed his high school exams.
In 1957 my father was selected for a posting in England. He sought his father's permission to leave the country, and was told that he was free to go anywhere in the world as long as he could take his family with him.
My earliest memories are of our house in Teignmouth Road, of my mother helping us make clothes for our toys, particularly for our golliwog. And satin drawstring purses from remnants. I remember being utterly fascinated to see how turning a raw-edged piece of sewing inside out gave it a smooth finish.
In 1959, my mother attended English language classes. We remember her textbook, Essential English. I also remember not feeling happy the evenings she wasn't at home. Her fondness for learning didn't abate- she did baking courses (despite never eating cakes or eggs) and lampshade making courses. In the early sixties she did her Montessori training, and my sister and I were absolutely fascinated by her neat 'homework', files and boxes of flashcards. We used to love going to her school when we could. She would ensure that we learned Hindi from her, against our inevitable return to India, despite our protests. There is a whole lifetime of memories associated with her, far too many to write down here..........
There is so much I have learned from her, despite the inevitable differences which often cropped up between us as I grew up. But, as a young child, I could not have wished for a better teacher.