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My teacher’s back

Illustration: Sreejith Ravikumar  

To all our teachers who had eyes and antennae on their backs, comes this tribute with admiration, respect — and all our love.

‘Saji,’ Teacher would say, back turned, scrawling on the blackboard. ‘Stop digging your nose!’

Saji, who had been in the middle of an excavation to find oil in the Tundra, would stop midway, wide-eyed. All the ear diggers, head-scratchers cavity-pickers, nose-wipers who had waited exclusively for this break, froze instantly.

Without turning around, she’d say, ‘And Jane, please share the contents of that note with the whole class.’ Note-passing was an activity so surreptitious that the Gestapo could have copyrighted it. Notes zigzagged across class, smuggled under desks, stuck into socks, flown via paper planes. The notes usually contained completely false accusations of who was seen with whom or scandalous arrangements of body parts.

‘It’s — um — two circles, Miss. We were practising geometry.’ I firmly believe my creative storytelling skills began there.

Teacher’s back contained a bloodhound’s nose as well to pinpoint the originator of a stink bomb. And elephant ears. ‘I heard that!’ got 40 voices stoutly protesting, ‘It was not me, Miss.’ The multiple double chins on Teacher’s back would wobble in silent laughter.

Maths problems were the most anticipated (what?!), especially the complex ones that required giant leaps (of faith) for mankind. Those kept Teacher at the blackboard even longer, scribbling out the solution for her ungrateful class. That was the Breaking News Hour. ‘Did you hear a 4th grader fainted in the loo?’ To which quicker solutions than maths were offered: ‘Must have been after you ate lunch!’

‘Lina,’ Teacher barked. ‘Would you like to solve this next step?’ Lina, who was salivating over a True Romance comic, would have rather been sucked into the Tundra tunnel. ‘I have a pain, Miss,’ she’d appeal.


‘In my stomach, Miss.’

‘Good, then nothing wrong with your legs. Walk here and solve it.’ Still turned, Teacher said, ‘And throw that dirty comic in the wastepaper basket while you’re at it.’ Saina, who had stolen the comic book from her elder sister, hissed, ‘I will kill you. I will maim you. I will break your teeth!’

We bore war wounds from the Back-Time. It was the agreed time to break into strenuous physical activity that not even PT Sir could otherwise urge us to. Pelting pencils, erasers, (books are gods, don’t you dare!) and half-eaten jam-parathas at each other. Sometimes, a fry drenched in ketchup landed on Teacher’s desk. Dishu once leaned so far out to cheat from the next desk that she fell over and cut her chin. Sara flung an ink pen at the first bench, that both opened up to drench someone’s shirt and nearly took out someone else’s eye (two-in-one school record till today).

When the bell signalled freedom, Teacher walked out proudly, job well done. I swear I saw her pop that fry into her mouth and pick up the dirty comic on her way out. Her back smiled back at me.

Where Jane De Suza, author of Flyaway Boy, pokes her nose into our perfect lives.

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Printable version | Oct 21, 2021 7:54:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/teachers-day-2021-opinion-humour-jane-de-suza/article36267996.ece

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