I can’t remember which standard it was, but we had just been assigned a new Hindi teacher. Right on her very first day, she asked us to open our notebooks and one by one she would visit each of our desks and tear out pages which she though looked too horrible to read. As I watched my notebook strain against the force of her hands, I decided this was the worst teacher we could’ve asked for. Less than a year later, she had become my favorite. I would always have trouble deciding between the badi ee and the chhoti ee on words like kyunki and she would circle each word that I would get wrong, which is why even today during the rare moments when I’m forced to write in Hindi, I can still remember the circled kyunkis vividly. Later, she picked me for a GK quiz and as the nerve racking competition got over to reveal that we had actually managed to win it, I realized that I was in love with these trivial pursuits.
She similarly got me enrolled into a declamation competition, which I got out of by faking illness- the only time I did so. The guy who replaced me went on to become one of the best speakers in school while I could never get over stage fright. The handwriting failed to improve though. I took solace in learning that even Gandhiji failed to improve his.
Sometime during all this, mother dear sent a note to her appreciating all the effort. It was some six or seven years later that she would give the letter back to me with a ‘Happy birthday’ at the bottom. If only I’d been less of a recluse, I would’ve known where she is now. Nevertheless, wherever you are, thank you and happy teachers’ day, Manjit ma’am.