Being Women

To My Teachers, With Love! An Ode On Teacher’s Day!

September 5 every year is celebrated as Teacher's Day. Narayani remembers the teachers who shaped her life.

Come September 5th, social media will be flooded with a plethora of posts dedicated to the unsung and (often) underpaid warriors who shaped us into what we are today. They are superheroes without capes; they carry only chalk and dusters.

We call them teachers!

On the occasion of Teacher’s Day, here is my heartfelt ode to the marvellous mentors who have enriched my life.

Geography became a heavenly subject

Miss Sulochana Chari taught Geography at the National High School for Girls. A woman with a heart as tender as a bud, her strict demeanour could extract an answer from even the most notorious backbenchers.

Bias! The word didn’t exist in her dictionary. Be it a top-ranker or a habitual shirker, all have stood up on the bench for not bringing their textbooks to school. And before you blanch at the punishment meted out to them, just remember that it was common in those days.

Her vivid description of Onion Weathering still lurks around in some parts of my memory.

“Girls! What do you see when you peel the outer layer of an onion? Another layer. And what happens when you peel off that layer? Another layer waiting to be peeled.”

Flashing her pearly-white teeth, she explained many drab topics in an interesting manner. It was as if words sprang alive and took myriad forms before us in a colourful potpourri of rocks, maps, and graphs.

Her vision refuses to fade from my mind. On one bleak day in 2013, she was snatched away from us by a cold-blooded murderer. A decade has passed, but the tributes continue to pour in. She has truly left behind an enviable legacy.

From one Manapadam to another

My paternal grandfather, Late Mr. M. V. Raman, did his post-graduation in Economics from Malabar Christian College in Kerala and later arrived in Calcutta in search of a job. In a short span of time, he joined the Indian Statistical Institute (Baranagar) in the administration department. After an illustrious career, he retired in October 1984.

He was a man who spoke impeccable English. His handwritten letters boasted stellar quality. He was the one who encouraged me to write whenever time permitted. I remember penning short stories and showing them to him, later basking in his compliments. When I took up English Literature in college, I used to analyse novels and Shakespearean tragedies with him.

They don’t make gentlemen like him anymore. I am privileged to have found a broad-minded mentor in the Manapadam family.


It was my first day at the Goethe Institut in Berlin. I was late to class because I missed the metro that would take me to the institute. Embarrassment writ large on my face, I mumbled an apology to the dark-haired lady and took my seat. She approached me with a huge smile and asked me to write my name on a huge piece of A4 paper. With quivering hands, I scribbled it.

She introduced herself. Jutta Zeisberger.

“Hallo, Frau Zeisberger! I greeted her formally. I knew Germans don’t like familiarity with strangers.

“Call me Jutta,” she said.

I felt my tension evaporating.

That was the beginning of a wonderful and memorable class, which was attended by students of all nationalities. Through her interactive sessions, we explored Berlin, watched German films, learned a few cuss words, and listened to famous bands like Die Prinzen and Wir sind Helden. The farewell was bittersweet. We passed the C2 level with flying colours, but our life as carefree students was coming to an end. But most importantly, we would miss Jutta.

Pio, We’re always with you

Life takes unexpected turns. After graduating with honours in English and learning German, I took up a job with a reputed MNC as a Support Executive for Telecommunications. Yes, you read that right. Suddenly, Shakespeare and Umlauts vanished from my life, and I embraced terms like digital, analogue, VoIP and PBX.

The smooth transition would not have been possible without Mr. Pio Coutinho, our trainer in Mumbai. He had the entire technology at his fingertips, and yet here he was – drilling unpronounceable terms into the heads of language experts whose technical expertise was a big round zero. But he didn’t flinch one bit. Neither did he mock us for our snail-paced progress. On the other hand, he always encouraged us. His trainees ultimately made him proud, for we all earned the massive respect of the German customers for our technical skills.

Pio’s favourite catchphrase was Ok, guys! Are you with me?

Yes, Mr. Pio Coutinho. We are eternally indebted to you.

I can go on and on, but I’ll stop here. I have developed a fresh perspective through many books. Also, an article cannot do justice to the countless teachers I have encountered in my life. And speaking of life, isn’t it our greatest teacher?


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