Guest column | To the teachers, to the master craftsmen who shape us
It was a cold January day in 1974 when my parents and I entered the gates of the Punjab public school, Nabha, where I was to be enrolled. At first, hostel life, away from the comforts of home, seemed quite daunting for a small eight-year-old.
Unaccustomed to low beds, I often found myself lying on the floor every night for the first few days. One day, I felt someone gently lifting me off the dormitory floor and gently placing me on the bed. I opened my eyes to find that it was none other than our headmistress, GB Malkani, who had found me lying on the cold floor during her nightly rounds.
At mealtimes, our headmistress walked around the dining room to make sure all the elementary school toddlers were eating as they pleased. Only after all the youngsters had their food would she have her meal. To us, Miss Malkani was a Mother Teresa-like figure and we were all baptized into the regimented lifestyle under her loving care. We got up with an “early wake-up call” at first light and went to bed at “lights out” at 10:00 p.m. (10:00 p.m.). Before we know it, Punjab Public School (PPS), Nabha has become our second home.
PPS Nabha has become a second home for all of us. The more I see all the Swot shops, which have sprouted across the length and breadth of our country, the more I miss my teachers and householders at PPS Nabha affectionately. KK Katyal, the householder of my house, Ravi, made sure that we followed the daily regimen of washing our personal clothes, including handkerchiefs and socks. He used to check them physically until it became second nature to us. This habit has served us well throughout our lives. I vividly remember how he invited us all to his residence on the first day of our class 10 (ICSE) exam. He had arranged a little prayer with his wife treating us with a bowl of curd and a special ‘halwa’ like ‘prsade‘ giving us a warm feeling.
The teachers of old were so personally involved in every student’s life. They went out of their way, for each of us, to make sure we didn’t miss our homes. Our bond was such that all the householders took their meals with the students. The teachers held our hands and taught us how to use knives and forks correctly.
The presentations given by our Principal, Group Captain AJS Grewal, on his adventurous exploits of climbing Mount Everest were always a treat. Until today, we fondly remember the anecdotes of our bursar, whom we called Mr. Punia. He was an expert storyteller and laid bare unforgettable life lessons.
We were taken to temples and gurdwaras on Janamashtami and Guru Nanak Dev Jayanti, which imbued us with a spirit of secularism. Armed with the basic survival techniques, skills and etiquettes of hostel life, transitioning from PPS to National Defense Academy was a breeze. When it comes to personal interactions, the two-year-old Covid juggernaut posed a conundrum for our children. While our kids may have become tech-savvy by operating online, we need to encourage them to interact more with their friends to reward what they’ve been missing out on during this unforgiving pandemic. Let them get pleasure from chatting and pranking with a friend. We should laugh a little more with them instead of just focusing on their newsletters.
These are the teachers who have made us the individuals we are.
(The author is a freelance writer based in Patiala)