Thursday, November 12, 2015

Thank You, GP Miss

I picked up two wire clips from a box, kept them on the bunch of papers that I wanted to clip, returned the box to its place. When I came back to the papers and the clip, there was only one clip. I shouted at myself theatrically, “You are thoroughly useless! You have not improved since then!”

The “then” was, perhaps, 1966. I was in 6th standard. . It was a dark evening. My classmates and I were rehearsing a play for the annual day. We were in our classroom and there was much noise and excitement. Children from other classes were in their classrooms too rehearsing.

My group needed four pins for something. Our class teacher bade me follow her and I did. We walked across a larger quadrangle with many coconut trees and unclipped grass (no lawn there). The quadrangle was not lit. It was illuminated only by the lights in the classrooms. I followed the white-clad teacher as she walked to the office room. She unlocked the door, turned the light on, went to a steel almirah (called a Godrej whether made by Godrej company or not) and unlocked it. She took out the roll of paper on which the pins were stuck in neat rows. I can still see the blue coloured print on that paper. She took out four pins and handed them to me. She locked the almirah, turned the light off, and we came out. She locked the door and I again followed her white-clad figure across the quadrangle.

When were back in the classroom, she asked me for the pins. I proffered my hand and DISASTER! There were only three pins in my hand. She flew into a rage, berated me no end. I stood there, head hanging in shame as she went on and on.  “You are thoroughly useless! You will never come to any good. If you can’t even carry some pins without losing them, what else can you do? Blah blah..” The barrage of high-pitched insults coming from that towering figure shut my senses out. (She was actually short and frail. But I was shorter and frailer!) My classmates stood in absolute stillness until the harangue was over. Once she was done we repeated the whole process of getting the pins and I held on to that single pin as I had never hung on to anything before or since. We came back and I was relieved to deliver that pin and we could get on with things.

None of my classmates offered me any sympathy. Of course, by the next morning everyone seemed to have forgotten the incident. But, not me.  I was still smarting. Was it such a big mistake? Was it necessary to scold me so long, that too in front of all my classmates? I do not remember how long but it hurt a long time.

The upshot of this was that I am extremely careful about things that I carry and hardly ever lose them. I might still misplace stuff and search for them in a panic. But I hardly ever lose stuff that I carry. Of course, there are exceptions. Soon after, my father bought me a good fountain pen - my first. It was called Doctor. I lost it the very next day! My father, who loves fountain pens (always with blue - black ink, mind you) showed his displeasure on his face but said nothing.

No, I am not scarred for life. Though I resented her for a long time, I do not think it ever changed my behavior towards her. Over time, I have felt a sense of deep gratitude instead. She did change me in some way for the better.  And every time I pick up a pin or a clip or any such small thing.  I remember GP miss.

Yes. That is what we called her. Her name was G Parvati. She initialled our assignments and test sheets with a GP and that is what she was to us. She was diminutive, had short boyish hair (a rarity in those days) and a slight squint. She always wore white that exposed only her face and hands. She was indeed short tempered and severe and austere. Children were scared of her since she used the wooden ruler, often mercilessly, on an offender who made her really angry.

Children can be cruel and said all sorts of things about her. So, in my eyes she was the underdog even though she was in a position of power over us and my sympathies always lie with the underdog. I have always remembered her with some fondness because she was unusual. Regrettably, she died young, I heard much later.

Thank you, GP Miss!

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