How English teachers shaped my life
Enid Parker goes down memory lane to the classroom incidents that left a lasting impact
Last week I was pleasantly surprised to receive a phone call from a former teacher, Rosy George, who worked at Dubai's Indian High School (my alma mater) for almost four decades before retiring in March of this year. After congratulating me on a personal milestone, she said she often read my articles in City Times. It was a short but sweet conversation, which ended with me taking down her phone number and promising to visit, and made me very nostalgic.
While Rosy never taught me at school (she had different classes), she was part of an institution that moulded me in many ways. And it was my English teachers, in particular, who played a huge role in nurturing creativity and imagination and added their own special and unique touch to any class. Examples: An impromptu song rendition (the melodically-inclined Kumud Raj, Grade 9 English, once belted out a sweet version of Doris Day's Whatever Will Be, much to our delight), when English teachers talk about their own English teachers, in between lessons (Jaya Iyer, Grades 11&12 English had us enraptured with her description of a blond professor with 'cornflower-blue eyes').
And sometimes it was just the way a story was told that left a lasting impression. A bunch of 16 and 17 year olds, myself included, found it hard to understand why Jaya, stoic, calm and collected on most occasions, became extremely emotional when she read a short story from our textbook, The Pepper Tree by Australian writer Dal Stivens, out loud.
I can still remember the gist of the tale - a father reminisces about a pepper tree from his childhood, always extolling its virtues to his son. Centred on themes of hope and disillusionment, The Pepper Tree had a poignant ending, with the father distancing himself from his favourite topic of conversation, calling it 'a little runt of a tree'. Yes, it was a sad story, but not sad enough to warrant tears from our favourite teacher. We watched in silent shock as she wiped her face and said something about lost dreams. Years later, I thought of that moment, and I understood. I knew why her eyes had filled with tears.
When I finished school, I carried memories of my favourite teachers with me wherever I went, knowing that it was not just the textbook lessons they taught that had made a lasting impact, but the life lessons as well.