I left school in the year 1973. Its name is ‘Mitrabhum High School’ and is located in a village called ‘Kurumgram’ (230 km from Kolkata) in West Bengal. I could vividly remember my school days, particularly the time from Std. IX to Std. XI. Although I was a juvenile, I was sensitive enough to understand what is good and what is bad; what I should do and what I shouldn’t? I was studying in science stream but as per course content, even we had to study two literature subjects viz. Bengali and English. In English literature, we had two text books – one containing proses and another containing verses. Though the topics were different for three different classes, the books were same for all three classes.
The English teacher for all three classes was one and the same. The teacher’s name was “Ram Babu” as we used to call and know him. While I knew his surname, even today, I do not know his exact full name. It may be ‘Ram Kumar’ or ‘Ram Prasad’ or ‘Ram Kinkar’, etc. His surname was ‘Sinha’. He was PG (English), BT.
Ram Babu, an English teacher of par excellence, was a great asset for the school as well as for the students. The students who were serious and wanted to learn, got the best opportunity to acquire knowledge in English under his able guidance. Alas, the number of such students was very little. As regards Sir, while his greatest quality was his depth on the subject, had some weaknesses. On physical front, he had chronic eczema on both his feet (in the junction of foot and leg) which used to bleed most of the time. This was a constant irritant to him. On mental front, he was short tempered and used to become angry at the slightest provocation. Incidentally, one of his sons was studying in the same standard but in Arts faculty. He narrated to me how they lost his mother at the early stage because of his father’s anger.
Anyway, I would like to narrate a few incidents during the period of three years when Ram Babu was our English teacher. In our class, comprising around 55 students, there were some very mischievous students who preferred to do everything other than study during school hours. When they came to know the short tempered nature of the teacher, more particularly, that he used to get irritated at a slight provocation, those students adopted various tricks to disturb him.
At the material time, every student up to Std. VIII had to study same subjects. However, as the number of students was more, there were two sections. In Std. IX, the students had to opt for either Science or Arts stream. Accordingly, we started our class with around 55 students with full steam. After a few days, when Ram Babu was explaining a topic, suddenly a student from the back bench on top of his voice made a sound like a cock. The teacher who was fully engrossed with teaching, got very annoyed and wanted to know, “Who did it?” Nobody uttered a single word. He was very much upset and said, “Why is such a student there in the class? What sort of teachings the parents have given to their child? I do not want to teach such a student. He may go out.” Despite his annoyance, he started to explain the topic and left the class when the time was up.
After that incident, a few weeks passed on peacefully as he, in addition to teaching, used to keep a close eye on the activities of the students sitting on the last two rows. But those students were also on the lookout for newer tricks to irritate him and one day they came out with a really different trick. Just before the English class was about to begin, they started some humming sound which resembled like noise at a market place. Ram Babu became furious and started shouting in Bengali, “Baper suputra. Ma chheleke aador kare khayie schoole pathalo padte aar chhele classe ese gungun korchhe. Bereye jao class theke.” (Worthy son of father. Mother, after feeding her son with care, sent him to school to study but son is busy making noises after reaching school. Get out of the classroom.)
Days were passing out fast and in no time one year also passed away. We were in Std. X and pressure on us was on the rise because of heavy syllabus. However, for a few students, things did not change much as they were always in search of opportunity to create nuisance. As mentioned earlier, our English teacher was the same person, Ram Babu. We requested our classmates not to create any bad name for the class but apparently, those few classmates did not bother to pay any heed to our request.
It was 1st of April i.e. ‘All Fool’s Day’. They had some plan to play a crude joke with our beloved English teacher. What they were about to do was not even known to other class- mates. It became known to us the moment the teacher entered the classroom and was about to sit on the chair. He got a jerk and when he tried to get the support of the table, he was about to fall on the platform on which chair and table were kept. Somehow, he could control himself and left the room hurriedly. We were at a loss and to our utter surprise, we could understand that marbles (round shaped objects children use to play with) were placed under the legs of chair and table by someone. We were shocked and afraid as well as we were apprehending some immediate reaction (Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. – Newton’s Third Law). At that stage, a few students decided to close both the doors and despite our opposition, did so. After around 5 minutes, our Chemistry teacher, Shri Kanta Prasad Sinha started calling me repeatedly, “Pulak, open the door.” I had no option but to open the door and the moment I did so, I got a huge blow on my shoulder for no fault of mine. I protested and he accepted it but it had already happened. He then cautioned all the students and left but the English teacher did not take class on that day.
After that incident, Ram Babu got a unique idea to get rid of those trouble makers. After reaching the classroom, he instructed, “Those who have not brought the text book, they cannot attend the class”. The result was spontaneous and a number of students left the classroom. The formula worked well for him as well as for the students who wanted to learn. Though this ruling, at times, used to create some problem for us as carrying all the books in hand was extremely difficult but we used to manage borrowing the same from either Std. IX or Std. XI.
It needs no elaboration that we were hugely benefited from his teachings. Ram Babu is no more but those few incidents (there were many others.), I cannot forget even today. My children whenever they come to stay with us, they insist on hearing these incidents, obviously in Bengali to get the real flavour.