We learnt from our dad lessons in impeccable integrity

Serving with honesty and integrity is a challenging task in any walk of life and teaching is no exception. My father, who started his career as a mathematics school teacher and graduated to a college professor of English, today spends his retired life with an immense degree of pride and satisfaction.

Those days, university exam papers would be despatched to teachers’ residences for valuation during the summer vacation. Dad received bundles of answer scripts and was intensely focussed on valuation, entertaining no distraction from any quarter. His hands would be stained with red ink and his sensitive skin afflicted with prickly heat, thanks to the hot and humid weather and lack of air-conditioning then. Yet, from morning till late evening, he would sweat it out.

We deemed the paper valuation process a big villain as it hampered our plans of going to our grandparents’ blissful house in Trichy for summer holidays. To accommodate us, for a couple of years, dad even shifted his summer headquarters there and all redirected answer papers would be delivered at grandpa’s house. Himself a school headmaster and famous mathematics teacher once, grandpa was proud of his son-in-law operating from his home turf and examining papers with sincerity and dedication.

When valuation was in progress, we came across instances of strange visitors appearing in our house to meet dad with large packs of yummy biscuits and creamy cakes or baskets of luscious fruits. The sight and smell of these delicacies would drive us crazy. But from the pitch of dad’s voice, we picked up that the visitors were chasing answer papers through some contacts. Dad would politely but firmly tell them that it was improper to meet and influence an examiner and that he would not do them any favour. He refused to accept any compliments, leaving the children disappointed. But we learnt our lessons in impeccable integrity.

Dad once had to write an exam and the venue was a police station! A student was caught for malpractice in an exam and it was suspected that a teacher had written the exam paper on his behalf. The police summoned all teachers of the institution to the police station for a handwriting test, gave them each a cup of tea and asked them to write a few paras. I am not sure what the investigation led to but dad was delighted to share with us his experience of the police treating the teaching fraternity with a lot of respect.

During an invigilation assignment, dad foiled a student’s bid to indulge in copying. After the exam was over, dad was about to leave the college on his cycle when the affected student, hiding in a bush, pounced on him with a knife.

Fortunately, a group of students caught hold of the young man and stopped his murderous act in the nick of time. They explained to the errant student the upright qualities of dad. That evening, the boy came to our house, fell at dad’s feet and wept inconsolably, deeply regretting his blunder. Mother served him snacks and coffee, while dad wished him all the best and sent him away with wise counsel.

If our family is what it is today and if I am able to write this article in a tranquil atmosphere, it is not only because of those courageous students who foiled a violent act but also the devious student who, without nursing further revenge, chose the path to reform himself.

(The writer is a senior executive in Muscat. Email: vishyvaidya@gmail.com)

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