It was the first day of our sixth standard in school and the recess had just ended. For some reason we hadn’t been allowed to go out and play ( Nah- Not Cricket, I never played any organised School Cricket) after finishing our mid day snack and the whole class was very restless. I took a look at the school diary and figured our next class was English. Mrs Meena Haridas was our teacher.
I had never interacted with Meena ma’am before but from what I heard— from my father who was also a teacher at the same school and knew her quite well— she was a very good teacher. Father had also told me that she had studied in Kendriya Vidyalaya, and I was very excited to be in her class. I guess I wanted to see how a former KV student would turn out— would this be my future?
Note: Meena ma’am used to take classes for standard 9 and 10, so in some ways my class was very lucky that she was to teach us.
Anyway, I divulge… As she entered the class that day, we all got up and sang our customary, very respectful “Good morning ma’am!” She responded with a kindly, “Good Afternoon!” after which we were asked to introduce ourselves. Halfway through the introductions, she went out to have a word with a teacher from the neighbouring class. During this interval, one of my friends pulled a prank on my bench mate who got up hassled. Seeing the event unfold, I couldn’t help but laugh loudly. To my dismay, that was the moment Meena ma’am decided to return. She saw me laughing and asked me to get up. I was a always a good student… Very disciplined… (my father was/is a teacher, remember)… But suddenly I was being pulled up in the middle of class! (Cue the nerves).
Before the class, ma’am had mentioned a few rules that she wanted us to follow. Conversing in English was first on the list. So, there I was getting up at snails pace because I didn’t know how I would be able to narrate the event in English. I began stuttering trying to find words to explain what really happened. She was calm and patient. She helped me finish my sentences and then asked me to not repeat it. One more minute and I would have started crying….
English was never the easiest subject for me, but the way she went about teaching made it my favourite subject. I would look forward to her class everyday. She was never the conventional kind of teacher. She kept the classes so interesting that I wished we could have a whole day of just English.
Every chapter in the English textbook had a few difficult words listed at the beginning. Before starting the chapter she would ask us to find the meaning of those words from the dictionary and then she would give us turns to explain the meaning. I wanted to be the one giving answers for every single word. So when she asked us to raise our hands, instead of saying ma’am, I happened to say “Mummy.” It was funny when everyone in the class started laughing and I felt embarrassed. But you know what, I got to give the answer and she approved smiling!
I was always a teacher’s pet and it was no different with her. I was the one who was made to run and get the register if she had forgotten it in her cabin. I was asked to get the unit test books when it was the time to distribute them. I just adored her and she was my idol— well dressed, very well spoken and so considerate always.
When I was in standard 7, she gave a project wherein we had to compile an encyclopedia and I had the letter ’N’. She was never behind to praise all the efforts we had put in and she got the Assistance Commissioner from the inspection team to unveil it in the school assembly. We were all so happy and she was proud.
Throughout my school days, I was the class prefect. She asked me to maintain a small diary. I was to penalise anyone who spoke in any language other than English. The resulting fine was 10 paise per word. The money collected would be used to party at the end of the academic year. I never got down to collecting the money, but that really helped a lot of us improve our language. We had a book club in the class wherein everyone was asked to get an English book and we would exchange it after a fortnight. It was here that I fell in love with Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys.
Meena ma’am taught me for three straight years between 6-8 standard. Then in standard 9, she no longer taught my class. I envied the other section kids. I secretly even tried to change sections. Then, I changed my school in standard 10 thanks to my father’s transfer.
Regardless, I still believe, Meena ma’am was one of the best teachers to have taught me English.
A few months ago I was in Vasco da Gama attending a regional level sports meet where I happened to meet her. I have been really bad at keeping in touch but I was so happy to see her. She has fought many battles in her personal life but she is a real Hero. She is mother to beautiful little Nidhi— who will always be that cute little kid to me— and she shall always remain my role model. I am so proud to have had you as my teacher in my formative years and I shall never be able to thank you enough Ma’am.