To great teachers everywhere

My last two posts were about great teachers and about life in Calcutta. Rama informed me about the passing away of someone who could be identified with both posts: Fr Beckers. Read Rama’s post, and you can figure out what an impact the man had.

We were really privileged to have been at St Xavier’s. I don’t know what it was about the place, to have attracted so many wonderful teachers, people with genuine gifts and calling, people who gave their lives to the institution. It was the kind of place that made you want to break into school before opening time, even though you had a happy and contented home life. I remember doing just that once, climbing over the metal gates at what used to be the hostel entrance on Short St (it may have been on Wood St, can’t actually remember which one was which). And just as I tried to jump off the top of the gate (it was a solid metal gate with spikes on top) my trouser leg got snared by one of the spikes, along with a teensy bit of leg, and I hung upside down in agony until help arrived. Those gates didn’t open till seven, and I wanted to get in twenty minutes early.

That’s what my schooling was like. It was like that because of the sheer passion and commitment and quality of the teachers I had, from 1963 to 1979. Initially I was at Miss P Hartley’s Private School, in a converted stables in Landsdowne Road, then I moved over to St Xavier’s in what was called Small School in 1966, crossed the road to Big School in 1970, then moved across the quadrangle to College in 1976.

I am sure many of you had similar experiences. One day I will figure out what motivated the Miss P Hartleys of this world, the Fr Goreuxs, the Fr Bouches, the Fr Beckers, the Fr Huarts. One day I will figure out what motivated the Viannas and the Sens and the Bhowmicks and the Samajpatis and the Engineers. They helped make me me.
So here’s to great teachers everywhere. We owe them a lot.

9 thoughts on “To great teachers everywhere”

  1. Thanks for this tribute to our Alma Mater JP. You were with me in spirit at Fr Beckers’ final service this morning.

    Best, rama

  2. Thank you for this post. It brought back so many memories; of a time when we would say with beautiful simplicity: “small school”, and not, as now, “the primary section”.

    PS: The hostel entrance is on Short Street.

  3. Thank you for that, James. Over the years I’ve been squirrelling away little bits of nostalgia which I must find the time to share. One of these days. For example, I now have maybe a dozen old Xaverian magazines, some dating back to 1919… and just when I thought it would have no relevance to me, I found photographs of an E Deefholts who must be the Eric that was my sports teacher from 1966-70.

  4. My pleasure. My daughter’s now training to be a teacher, and, as people following this blog know, I intend to set up a school when I retire from enterprise work

  5. JP whoever you are, being of the maudlin bent of mind especially since hitting my 40s which is how I would like to view the 50s that i actually am in, your site was like balm to my soul. Except that I stayed there till the moderately-high school that it ended in those days, and you apparently toddled your way to Xaviers, I really would prefer to think of my Hartley’s not as converted stables but as a cute, basic as it was, little home-away-from-home. I realize that I can’t share my memories with you since you left before you had the opportunity to be tutored by that giant among unforgettable teachers, Ms. Mukherjee. I too passed out in ’79 btw so it’s possible that you and I were in the same class even!!!

  6. @Pam Zak wow, talk about a blast from the past. I was at Miss P Hartley’s from 1963 to 1965. Two of my aunts were amongst the first 3 students to the school, when it began. I can’t remember Ms Mukherjee, in fact I seem to remember that we called our teachers by first name and never knew their second names. They may have been on the pale green cardboard Report Cards (I still have mine somewhere). The last teacher I remember was called Miss Pamela.

  7. Then you and I surely must have been classmates in infants section II (or was it III)!! Miss Pamela was indeed my class teacher and also my idol then( due those days they were mostly first generation or second generation Anglo-Indians and retained nearly entirely the features of their English/European parentage and she was a prime example) and as i remember at least the rest of the class used to address teachers as “Miss” or “Meees” in the more native accent. All except one apparently : D Anyway its great to bump into
    someone who could have begun his education at the same time and place one did. Its a very emotional thought!! However, I’ll bid adieu now and if i may, look in once in a while.

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