Elegant Mr. Elisha

One man comes to mind as someone who made the whole onerous business of education, growing up, and then finding one's way in the world a little easier, even possible. I knew him simply as ‘Mr. Elisha', and he taught me at school in Bombay. He persists with me, though the last time I met him after school was in Cuffe Parade in 1980, when we stopped briefly to speak with each other. He is long gone from this world: not because he was old, but because he died relatively early. Mr. Elisha taught us history and English — with admirable elegance. That word describes his attire, his tweedy and stylishly truncated ties, and his perfect diction. He was probably from — I hazard a guess — Kerala, though his English bore no trace of the infectious Malayali modulation. He is the first person I knew outside my family, and the only one in school, who possessed a true sense of irony; and, like many who look upon the world with knowing amusement, he was exceptionally kind. For some reason, he believed I was worth something, and advised me ‘not to hide my light under a bushel'.

Amit Chaudhuri, Writer

In School and in life

There were several teachers especially from school who contributed to grooming me and honing my technical capabilities. I especially remember Mother Melanie, who imbibed in me a great love for English literature and made me understand the importance of a good grounding in grammar. Each of my dance teachers, especially Guru Birju Maharaj, were exceptional as they imparted not only the technicalities of the art but also the subtle nuances and very ethos of classical dance, especially Kathak. But do great teachers have to be only from our school or college? What about the school of life? I always pay tribute to one person, who without being a teacher in the formal sense, was nonetheless the most important teacher of my life — my mother. She not only laid the foundations for my academic and dance pursuits and careers but also imparted to me the values of honesty, integrity and humility, in personal and professional life. She made me go to the depth of each subject, taught me time-management, and respect for the environment, saying it includes human beings, all living creatures and nature. Above all, she taught me how to live with feet firmly planted on the ground and a humble head on my shoulders.

Shovana Narayan, Dancer, choreographer

Lifetime bond

I did not go to formal school or college as everyone does. I was a private candidate in my higher secondary and B.A.

Everyone’s first teacher is their mother and so was mine. The immense love and encouragement I received and the initial training in classical music were her great gifts to me. My favourite teacher –– in a formal setting –– was legendary sitarist Pandit Ravi Shankar. I learnt not only Hindustani classical music from him but also many lessons for life like discipline, punctuality and being sincere to my art. He also taught me the importance of being always well-groomed and presentable once I became a public figure. Even to this day, I can count on him for guidance in professional and personal matters. A good teacher is like an umbrella –– very protective and with a presence which is so reassuring. The bond between a good teacher and devoted student is like a gandabandhan which lasts a lifetime.

Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Mohan veena inventor and exponent


Beyond chalk and talkSeptember 3, 2011

More In: Magazine | Features