Teaching days IV by Rekha Karmakar

My mother started writing about her teaching days, when she was in Gurgaon. The last instalment was pending as she couldn't manage to get it typed as she came to Mumbai after that. Now she is in Kolkata and has started typing her posts herself. And here is the last section of the story of her teaching days.

In the meanwhile, ten years had passed and I had started adjusting myself to the college life. But God, perhaps, willed otherwise. A new dilemma came up in my life as I was offered the post of Head of the Department since both the 'Sirs' were on extension, having served their tenure as HODs.

I spent quite a few sleepless nights wondering if I would be able to do justice to the post since I had to travel from far and bring up two sons singlehandedly. Finally, I decided not to accept the post and went to the Principal with my letter of non-acceptance, who, in turn, took it from me and tore it off. I had no other way but to accept the post.

At this time, the two 'Sirs' stepped in and taught me the ABCD of the adminisrative work. After eleven years' of my Headship, it was decided in the Teachers' Council's meeting that Headship would be rotational, much to my relief. And I spent the last few years of my service in a very relaxed manner though I must admit that I learnt a lot of administrative work, while working as a HOD.

During the tenure of my Headship, I came in close contact with my students as they confided in me, telling about their personal problems. I tried to counsel them as much as I could. Sometimes, a few, would discontinue their studies due to family problems. I would send other students as emissaries and ask them to come to college. I coaxed and cajoled them into continuing their studies and made all sorts of relaxations, within my power. It felt good when they met me after a few years and thanked me for my advice since they were working in school and did not have to depend on anyone in spite of being a divorcee or a widow.

In my endeavour to do something beyond class room teaching, I would sometimes tell them how to do well in a viva, make them practise 'on the spot' speaking or ask them to present papers, after the syllabus was over, to prepare them for their future. It felt good to do something beyond chalk and talk.

After a few years, National Council Of Teacher Education ( N.C.T.E ) formulated stringent rules to regularise B.Ed. course as it gained a lot of importance for getting a job in school. Every college had to get NCTE's recognition to run the course. We, too, applied for our recognition. As a result of which, a flurry of activities followed and every one pitched in to do one's bit.

A group from NCTE came to our college to see the ground situation. I feel very proud to say that ours was one of the first colleges under Calcutta University to get NCTE's recognition and it all happened during the tenure of my Headship though I do not want to take all the credit for it as we worked as a team, which included the Principal, office staff, my colleagues, students and many others. Even the owner of the canteen came,  the very next day of his marriage, to cook lunch for the inspection team. A colleague brought plates and cutleries from her home to serve food. It is not that they got that type of royal treatment because they belonged to the inspection team. This is the tradition of our college, set  by the founder Principal of our college.

As the day of my retirement drew nearer, I started becoming more attached to my college. Sometimes, I would sit in the newly built canteen and look at the pond absentmindedly, which was now surmounted with brick and cement, though the ducks were missing. Looking at the huge banyan tree, which had given me company for the long twenty five years that I had worked there for, I felt one with the whole surroundings.

It so happened that seven of us ,from different streams, were to retire in the same year. We were advised to process our own pension papers to expedite the matter. Quite often, we would sit after our classes and do the paper work. A great bonhomie grew among us as a result of working together.

Finally,the D day of my retirement came. K said that he would come over from Mumbai the night before and be with me on the day of my retirement so that I did not feel lonely. It was his way of saying that he was there with me even after my retirement. Such a nice thought ! 

Sid was already in Kolkata as he had been working there.

A day before my retirement, I took out all my personal belongings from my locker and left for home, feeling a bit sad. After I reached Tollygunge metro station, which was at a stone's throw from my home, I received a frantic call from the HOD, who was also my ex-student, asking me if I could come back to college again as one bundle of forms was still to be processed and the admission list was to be published the very next day. I hesitated for a moment and then agreed to go back as I did not want to let down my college, specially my dear student, the HOD. I dumped  my bag and baggage in a sweet shop and bought a few dhoklas, knowing that we would all be hungry after our work.
I dragged my tired feet to the metro station and took a train to Esplanade, from where I took a bus to college. After one and a half hour, I  reached college and started working immediately. I served the dhoklas to the few who were still there. The Principal, not knowing that I had brought the dhoklas, exclaimed aloud that she did not know that our canteen sold such good dhoklas. When the HOD told her who had brought them, she appreciated my gesture very much. BTW every thing went smooth in the college the next day.

I reached home very late. Luckily K had not come back by then or he would have to wait outside. I flung my things on the sofa and headed straight to the kitchen. I cooked prawn curry and rice for dinner and had a late meal . I was dead tired when I went to bed.

The last day of my retirement passed as usual, taking my scheduled classes. My students came to bid me farewell and touched my feet. The parting was very emotional. After that, the principal called me to her room as a farewell party was arranged for me. Teachers from different streams had gathered there. I was surprised to see a huge gathering of the office staff which was very unusual  . It might be because I worked with them during my eleven years of Headship and came in close contact with them at that time. I was presented with a cheque, flowers and sweets. I treated every one with a box of sweets as was the norm for the outgoing teacher to do. Usual speeches followed, which made me quite emotional.

Farewell over, I took a cab to Park Street, where my two sons were waiting for me. After having tea at Oxford Book Store, we loitered for a while at Park Street. K took us to ITC Sonar Bangla for dinner though I realized that it was a bit heavy on his pocket at that time. However, we enjoyed our dinner heartily and went home quite late.

Next day K went back to Mumbai and Sid to his office. It took  sometime  to sink in me that I had retired. In the meanwhile, I started getting offers for the post of Guest Professor in different colleges. Finally, I took up a job in a private B.Ed college under Calcutta university, going twice a week,which I left after two years.

My job in different colleges might not have been very high paying ones but it was compensated by the love and respect that my students showered on me. Even after so many years of retirement, it gladdens my heart when I see a lady coming to me, stopping her car, and introduces herself to me as my student. Or when I meet a girl, presently staying at Japan, touches my feet and introduces me to her family.

Meeting my students at odd times also puts me sometimes in an embarrassing situation. I remember once treating myself to an egg- chicken  roll at a corner roll shop at Gariahat when I felt a creeping sensation on my feet. On looking down, I saw a girl touching my feet. She introduced herself as my student and insisted on paying for me. Finally, however, I ended up paying for both of us. These and many other memories brighten up my retired life and I feel my work-life, after all, was worth living.

Rekha Karmakar


Gia Fernandes said…
Inspiring and heartwarming as always, Mrs Karmakar. You managed to have such a rich and fulfilling career, that too at time when things were so challenging for you on the home front. Kudos to you. I'm sure your students and colleagues will never forget you.

It was also so sweet and thoughtful of Kalyan to come over from Bombay for your retirement. It's a direct reflection of your wonderful upbringing.

Stay happy always.
Pinku said…
such a lovely read Mashima... :)

Love your writing.
R. Karmakar said…
Thank u Gia for ur kind remark. Yes, at times it became quite challenging. It is truly nice of K to be so understanding.
Anjali Koli said…
MrsK, How lovely! the retirement scene is so vivid I feel I was there at the time. How nice of K and S to be with you on the day and treating you to a nice meal. Teachers are always special and you deserve every bit the attention you get from your students :)
R. Karmakar. said…
Thank u Anjali. I am really lucky to have the love of my students. It was also very nice of K and S to be with me on the day of my retirement.
R. Karmakar. said…
Thank u Priyanka for liking my post.