“Today, three of my parents had come to meet me”
Don’t jump out of your seats. If you hear a line like that, you possibly belong to a household like mine where the better half is a teacher.
Being wedded to one for over two decades, I am quite used to ‘teacher, parent, student’ talk, early mornings and (sigh) early nights. Just warming up with my first whiskey for the evening, Madhuri brings down the curtains on any further plans with her “not tonight, I have two bundles to correct” clincher. I usually don’t prod her further because that could lead to “go press the uniforms for tomorrow” – a chore I detested from my school days. So I silently nurse my drink, wondering how to break the logjam. It’s a long wait before this teacher has time for me.
The day starts early in teacher households. My REM sleep is usually broken with the tinkle of pots and pans & gurgling of water bottles as Madhuri prepares for the day ahead with three ‘tiffins’, tea n breakfast. By the time I pick up my head from the bedside table and gather my bearings, she is usually heading for the door – shuffling with bags, tiffin boxes, books and bundles of examination papers. My daily pleas of “take chutti today na” are met with the usual “bah! I’ve got PTA meeting today” or “na na, my students will be waiting”, or better still, “why don’t you come & pick me up from school today?” The last one usually shuts me up.
At home during my holidays, evenings are spent in anticipation of the teacher’s arrival. When PTA meetings, sports fixtures, annual day preparations and time table meetings delay her arrival (which is usual), the working day stretches to 12 hrs or more. But the twinkle in her eye even as she returns with more carry-home work is truly what separates passionate teachers from other species. Holidays and vacations are heralded with bundles of answer sheets that reminds me of ‘bundleman’ from naval lexicon. It’s not unusual to see her up late into the wee hours of the morning with ‘correction work’, her red pen gliding through the answer sheets, catching that odd grammar or syntax – a “well done” or smiley face adding lustre to the student’s hardwork.
For all the long hours & good work put in by thousands of teachers like Madhuri, they remain one of the most unsung & under-compensated workforce in India. The average salary of a teacher in a public school is less than call-taxi drivers, not to mention teachers in government schools who work for a pittance under abysmal conditions. But then good teachers are not the one to complain as they never followed the money trail. It is the passion of being amongst hundreds of children – our hope for the future – being part of their journey of discovery, receiving the odd word of appreciation from parents (exceedingly rare as they come) and the sheer joy of going through this with a new set of students all over again, that keeps them going.
To the many teachers out there who toil day in and day out with absolute dedication and passion, I doff my hat to you. May you light a million lamps with your energy and enthusiasm, may you continue to ignite the passion for learning in young hearts. And maybe someday, the ‘educationists’ who have made their millions on the back of honest teachers will put their money where their mouth is.
“Sanj, wake up! I’ve finished my corrections for the day. Can you please wash the tiffin boxes for me?”
Oops, looks like I’ve been day dreaming again!
“Gladly, dear! Anything for teachers!”
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