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Friday, September 25, 2009

Babe and Adu

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Teachers' Day

Yesterday was Teachers' Day. Can't remember how we celebrated it as kids (if it did exist then!) but of course there are some teachers who stand out in my memory. Recently when a magazine asked for a quote on my favourite teacher, I immediately thought of Mother Ositha. It's funny when you look back and think of the people who have helped you along the way,how vivid those memories are. I remember how all the excitement of going to boarding school evaporated two minutes after my mother left and a deluge of tears swamped me. As I stood with my face against a handy wall and howled my heart out, a warm hand gently pried me away. I don't know how I found myself in the midst of a game and it was miraculous how soon I was skipping around, my tears totally forgotten. As luck would have it, she turned out to be my class teacher and soon with her almost imperceptible encouragement I found myself climbing the class list of seven year old achievers. Interesting that my highest marks then were in composition, but I'm sure Mother Ositha had something to do with it.
Another teacher I remember for a different reason is Mrs. Hollow, who taught us in the 10th and 11th standard. An old school type, deaf as a post, she certainly did not spare the rod! A bad mood was enough reason to lambaste us! On the flip side she was a stickler for good writing and wouldn't allow us to read anything but the classics. So I offer fervent thanks to Ma'am Hollow too--not for the pastings but for helping me to develop a style.

Rani Lakshmibai

The fascination probably dates from having to learn the poem "Jhansi ki Rani" by Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, or maybe the Hindi lesson in which young Manu (Manikarnika was the Rani's original name, changed to Lakshmibai when she got married) helps a frightened Nana. It could even possibly be from a history lesson on the freedom movement--though it seems unlikely considering our oh-so-boring history books. However, ever since I picked up Mahashweta Devi's biography I had a secret hankering to some day write about this astonishing woman. Call it serendipity or the fact that somewhere someone is listening, but the book happened on its own, being commissioned. Reading about the freedom movement, especially the 1857 War of Independence is heady stuff--can arouse strong emotions. Personally, I feel this inner turmoil contributes much to the writing process. Sifting fact from legend can never be completed to your absolute satisfaction, especially where a figure like the Rani is concerned, so some doubts will always remain. The incident I liked best was when young Manu, denied an elephant ride by Nana and Balasaheb, retorts: 'I will ride ten elephants!' What a sense of destiny (if correctly recorded)!
And then the postscript--bumping into someone related by marriage to the Rani's paternal family. Too bad it was only after the book came out--but that's life for you!