Campus Reconnect: “The teacher who would not be a teacher continues as a teacher even now…,” says nonagenarian professor K. Narayanan Nair, recollecting his days as a teacher
I studied in Maharaja’s College of Science in the city for two years. I remember most of my teachers. Professors like Mahadeva Iyer and Gopalakrishna Iyer (both taught English), Ananthan Pillai and Kunjukrishna Pillai (Malayalam), Sreenivasan (Botany), Mathew (Zoology)... Professor Mathew deftly created all creatures with his handkerchief, pinpointing peculiarities of each. After my Intermediate (as the pre-degree was then called), I left the city and completed my graduation in Tamil Nadu. I joined the University College for post graduation in English.
I became a teacher in 1948 in the newborn Mahatma Gandhi College. Four years later, I left the college when I was transferred to Pandalam. As I did not want to sever my moorings at Thiruvananthapuram, I joined Mar Ivanios College and remained there till I retired in 1982.
As a newly appointed teacher, I remember being nervous and timid at the thought of facing a class of nearly a hundred students. Even today, I do not know how I became eloquent on that platform. The students listened to me in rapt attention. Later, one of the members of the college committee asked me whether I had handled classes of students earlier. When I replied in the negative he looked at me quaintly and left with a smile. I never thought I would be a teacher but as my work proceeded smoothly, I gradually eased myself into the profession.
I feel that students of the previous generation were generally obedient and hardworking but after 1948, politics crept in and discord and disorderly behaviour became rampant. Many students gave up studies to be at the forefront of agitations.
Only if politics is disallowed in educational institutions can we hope to have a peaceful atmosphere that could facilitate and improve academic activities.
Today’s students are confident about learning on their own. The Internet has helped students access a lot of matter for their studies. Modern teachers are also capable of directing students who have a bent for acquiring knowledge. I have noticed that the relationship between students and teachers are growing more and more friendly.
Colleges are everywhere now in our state. But many of the colleges are not administered properly. Many irregular and corrupt practices have crept in. Paper setting, valuation, and innumerable other things, which ought to be done with precision, are not done so. Corruption has to be tackled if the spread of education is to be healthy.
In addition to my teaching, I was involved in staging and directing plays and was also vice-president of Narma Kairali, a humour club. The club meets every month with a humorous evening. It has celebrated its silver jubilee.
The teacher who would not be a teacher continues as a teacher even now. He is 91 now and a diehard as teachers are.
There were occasional attempts to present plays in English in the past. In the late fifties, some enterprising teachers and students started the Trivandrum Theatre Group in the city. In 1959, four dramas of Chekov (English translations) were staged by the group in the VJT Hall in the august presence of the Governor of Kerala, the chief guest. The dramas were The Avenger, The Bear, The Proposal and The Swan Song. They were well received.
Another splendid drama that the Group staged was Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan. It was an excellent performance. One day, a smiling gentleman hugged me and complimented me for doing the role of the Bishop so well. It was none other than Professor Neelakantan, the Salim Ali of Kerala. Professor Stewart, D’Cruz and Gwendoline Miranda (as Joan) were equally striking in their roles.
Another play we presented was Dear Charles, a hilarious French play. The actors were all students. Most of them went on to do very well as bureaucrats and professors themselves. Mohan Kumar and Bharat Bhushan became administrative officers while Kumaran Asan’s grandson Vijayakumar became a professor of English. The Barrets of Wimpole Street was yet another play staged by the Group. I acted as the sadistic father Barret and Professor Sujatha enacted the role of Elizabeth. Joseph Menon was Browning.
(As told to SARASWATHY NAGARAJAN)