Standing in the twilight of school life, I can't help but be nostalgic, especially today, September 5th - Teacher's Day. I joined Presentation HSS, my second home, when I was in third... and still I am spending my life there. Naturally, all my recollections are of the teachers in PHSS, as I can hardly remember the teachers who taught me before. As one of my favourite quotes go, "Memories are like stone; distance and time erode them like acid."
The memories of my early days in PHSS are dim, but I do recall who my teachers were. My first class teacher was Miss Laila. (I just don't know where this "Miss" salutation evolved from; isn't the right word "Madam"? But years and years of mechanical repetition have forced the title of "Miss" upon my tongue.Whatever.) She taught me Malayalam, and she was a really nice teacher - not too strict, not too lenient.
But in the early schooling years, teachers are mere intimidating creatures to students. It is only later on they start assuming their multi-faceted role. I was no exception.
As the years wore on, I slowly began to find myself. Everything wasn't black and white anymore; I learned that things weren't meant to be labelled and organized into boxes. The world had ceased to be a simple picture - it was a complicated blur of colours. And it was in this phase of growing up that my teachers really began influencing me.
If you ask me which teacher had the greatest impact on me, I would answer without a hesitation, "Miss Leena." My class teacher in sixth standard. She taught English, which probably had to do something with her being one of my favourite teachers. But apart from being a good teacher, she had this special knack for finding out people's talents. She was the first one to encourage my writing talents, and it is for this I cherish her the most. She gave me tips to improve my works, encouraged me always. She was my best appreciator and my best critic.
When it was time for the youth festival that year, Miss Leena chose me to play an important role in the Malayalam drama. Me - a novice, a nerd, a so-not-interested-in-entering-the-limelight girl - for a drama. And the icing on the cake? The role was of a boy, and the whole thing was a comedy. She gave the role to a girl who couldn't joke to save her life. I was, naturally, stunned, but her faith and confidence was so huge that I finally gave in.
Our performance brought the house down and we won the first place. Though I didn't get the best actor award, I did earn a lot of praise and recognition (not that I was fully comfortable with it). I went on to win three best actor awards in my school career - in classes 7, 9 and 10 - all because one teacher took the pains to nurture my talents, however rudimentary they were.
There were loads of the same mould... My brilliant science teacher, Miss Brinda, who found time for giving extra info about scientific topics to interested students like me. Miss Sumitra, who despite her imperious manner, was a total softie and a really good English teacher. Miss Jayasree and Miss Usha, two of my maths teachers, who didn't give me up as a hopeless case (but I still dislike Maths). The fabulous Miss Ann, with her expressive faces and fun-filled classes. All the Malayalam teachers, especially Miss Vandana, who indirectly showed me their love by snubbing me for opting for Additional English as my First Language.... The list goes on.
On this day, I thank all my teachers, great or not, for just being a teacher. For leading me forward on the path of knowledge. For guiding me, inspiring me. For being the light in times of darkness. For giving me the courage to live my own life. For their care and concern whenever I fell ill (which was often). For encouraging my reading, writing and quizzing. For being inexhaustible sources of praise and encouragement. For correcting me when I was wrong. For forgiving my mistakes....
... For making me who I am today.
For making me Zainab Ummer Farook, a girl who wants to be a teacher when she grows up.