Remembering our teachers is always easy. The association might have been many-decade old but some of the teachers remain with us forever.
In my primary school, there were three women teachers. Abha Madam was known for tying her hair in a large bun; Dipti Madam for drawing the map of India accurately on the blackboard without looking at an atlas; and the sports teacher Taru Madam for her 100-meter sprint.
One Namita Madam was on deputation for a few months when Abha Madam was on a long leave. She was a great story teller. During the tiffin break, underneath the big and old banyan tree at the school premises, she would tell stories of Panchatantra and Muhammad bin Tughluq. I sneaked into a doctor’s garden, near my school, to pluck flowers for her farewell when her deputation ended. The doctor’s pet, a German Shepherd, chased me out of the garden.
It was a great escape. But I couldn’t escape the Head Sir’s hard slap. I had Trypanophobia — an extreme fear of needles. He found me hiding in an empty classroom when a cholera vaccination drive was on in the school.
The high school, which is now 186-year old, was fun. Science teacher Bhibhuti Mukhopadhyay used to tell us stories of the stars and planets and math teacher Asit Nag took extra care of teaching me geometry and algebra at his home. I was too eager to learn as there was an incentive. His cousin owned a Lemonade factory and he never counted how many glasses of Lemonade — yellow, red and green — I drank in each session.
The drawing teacher Bimal Goswami used to create a spell on us. Oblivious of our presence, he would speak to the mountain peaks, rivulets flowing through them and the jungle surrounding the hilly terrain, created on the black board, using multi-colour chalks.
There were many more interesting teachers in my college and university.
None can ever forget Prof Jyoti Bhattacharya’s dramatized reading of William Shakespeare’s King Lear. As another professor of Calcutta University, Dipendu Chakraborty (also my teacher), says, his style of teaching had a dramatic and theatrical quality about it. Bhattacharya was a real performer. The rest of the teachers taught Shakespeare in a conventional manner and mentioned what the Western critics had said, doing some routine name dropping.
In complete contrast, Prof AK Dasgupta was so soft spoken that unless one grabbed a seat on the first bench, he could not be heard Not everybody attended his class but those who had, didn’t need to do anything else – just taking notes of what he was saying was enough to do remarkably well in examinations.
In my college, Beetashok Bhattacharya, a Bengali teacher, too was very soft spoken. He was more of a friend than a teacher. Long walks with him in the evening, after college, opened the world of literature to me. A poet and essayist, his collection of books could compete with any public library. And, he was liberal in lending them.
These are all happy memories.
My interaction with teachers didn’t end when I exited the university. In fact, I have many more teachers in my professional life than in my school, college and university. They handhold me and teach the nuances of banking and finance and economy every day. They are commercial bankers, central bankers, investment bankers, bond dealers, raters, economists… My colleagues. The list is endless. They scold me when I make mistakes (which I do often); they encourage me when I get things right. Without them, it’s impossible for me to wade through the world of finance.
Learning doesn’t stop when we leave the classroom. It starts afresh.