Campus reconnect: Poovi Thanka Kumari J. on her days as a student and teacher
Let me say at the outset that since I am looking back at my campus life as a student and a teacher, comparisons are bound to be made between the students of the past and present and the teachers too.
Three colleges under the University of Kerala have played important roles in my life – Government College for Women, and University College and Government Arts College. Women’s College is special in that I was a student and a teacher there, while the other two institutions have seen me evolve as a teacher. I still teach French at Arts College, as a guest lecturer.
When I joined Women’s College for pre-degree, it was natural for me to join the gang of girls from my alma mater, Holy Angels’ Convent. And there was another group which had alumni of Cotton Hill Girls’ School. But there was not no politics. The best student, read the capable ones, were elected as office-bearers.
We had lots of fun on the campus. We were noisy, unruly, and had our share of excitement. I was known to most teachers because my mother, Hephzibah Jesudasan, used to be an English teacher there till the year I joined. That had its share of advantages and disadvantage! Among my English teachers, I still remember classes taken by Hridayakumari teacher and Santhakumari teacher.
We used to treasure our free period when we did not have a class. The campus had a lot of trees and each of us had our favourites. So, whenever we got a free period, we enjoyed sitting under the shade of the green canopy. But, years later, when I became a teacher, I found that whenever they got a free period, the students just wanted to go home.
After completing my graduation, I took post graduation in French from Madurai Kamaraj University. French was my second language in school and college and it was my parents’ suggestion to study it further since then there were enough opportunities for French teachers in the government service.
Before I received my post graduation certificate, I got a job as lecturer in Emerald Heights College for Women, Ootty. Within a year or so I cleared the Public Service Commission examination and got posted at Government Arts College.
It was not easy in the beginning. I was the only teacher in the department. Also, I was just 24 then and looked more like a student than a teacher! In the subsequent years I worked in University College, Arts College and Women’s College. I was rather lucky that my transfers were within the city, whereas many of my friends got transferred all over Kerala.
My stint in University College did not start on a good note. I even cried on the first day, because I was the only staff member and there was no staff room! But the fact that my father, C. Yesudasan, was a lecturer of Tamil there really helped and so I was even provided a seat in the department.
I am also happy that my interest in music, especially playing the piano, got encouragement during my college days. I used to play the beautiful piano at Women’s College, which, unfortunately, got neglected years later. It came to be used as a table and was given for film shootings. It was almost dead till a few teachers took it upon themselves to get it repaired in 2011, the year when I retired. Now it is in a usable condition. I would like to mention a few students of mine such as Alan Saju and Henry who taught me the notes on a flute. I was and still is very fond of the instrument.
As a teacher, I think the students found my teaching methods a little odd. They were used to a syllabus which had translation, grammar and the like, while I focussed on comprehension. That was something I imbibed from my association with Alliance Francaise de Trivandrum. You might be able to speak French, but it is a totally different thing when it comes to understanding French. I made the students comprehend usage and sentences on their own. I was too demanding, very fussy about attendance, but never gave home work. But I am happy that I got some really good students.
(As told to ATHIRA M.)
(A column to commemorate the platinum jubilee of the University of Kerala. Eminent teachers and people from different walks of life talk about their student days in various colleges under the University.)