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Monday, April 03, 2006

To The Lady Who Refined Me, Defined Me

Dear Ms Imelda,

I hope this finds you doing well. I am not sure that you would remember me, but I would like to think that you do. I hope you do.

I’m DDD. Or DD, as you knew me. It was in 1993 that we first became acquainted. You were my class teacher for two years from then, in my 4th and 5th standard. I vaguely remember thinking that you appeared a little strict. It was just one more year after all, and another new teacher to know for a year and then greet whenever I saw her again in school or out of it. But how things can be so different from what you imagine them to be!
I guess I must have been just another student in that entire class for you, at first at least. And it isn’t for me to say what changed and how, but gradually, in your own way, you started to mark me out.

I remember you berated me umpteen times for being lazy and not participating in any of the events. I always used to give some excuse or the other. But one fine day, you succeeded in making me participate in a painting competition. It wasn’t the greatest entry, not that I was much of an artist, but you thought I hadn’t tried enough and said so. But that was a beginning.

I used to think you were rather strict and wouldn’t let me be. But slowly, I also realized that you praised me when I did well, looked out for me and genuinely wanted to see me doing well. I’m afraid I took my time realizing that. I clearly remember how you scolded me for neglecting to answer an entire section in my mid-term math paper.

After that painting competition, school ended in a few months and I thought no more of things except to worry about the result.

When the next year commenced and we had you for a teacher again, I was half inclined to think ‘Oh dear!” but I was also relived at the thought of having to spend the year with someone who knew me well. I think that was the best thing that could have happened to me then.

You started right where you left, encouraging me to give everything my best. I remember how you put my name in the English story telling competition despite my protests. I also remember the pride in your eyes when I won the second place. You encouraged me to participate in everything, singing, dance, debates, elocutions, quiz, general knowledge…the works. And every time I won, you were the proudest. In fact, that was the year I won the most prizes.

You made me the group leader. You let me come to your table and hold conversations with you and the class toppers when I should’ve been working. You thought of me as belonging among them. You even insisted my parents buy me a choice Hero pen to improve my handwriting. I remember how happy you were the day I scored 94 n my math paper. I was still short of getting full marks, but for you, it was as if I had achieved full marks.

I also remember you used to call me ‘foreigner’ and ‘dictionary’ because I was good with spellings. It never failed to make me smile.
We had made class charts one year. With every student’s name on them and each got a star or black mark according to their performance. I remember not completing my notes on time, but you didn’t give me a black mark at all. Perhaps you sensed that doing so would’ve made me lose faith in myself again. You refrained at any rate. In fact, I’m sure you took a lot of trouble to ensure I sailed smoothly. I can never say at what cost, but I hope you’ll find that all the trouble you took for my sake was worth it.

I don’t know how much of this you would remember. I know I have missed mentioning many more things. But what I want to say is this. What I have mentioned is only what I saw you doing for me. I only saw you encouraging me to do well. I was glad of it and grateful to you always.

But it only after years have passed that I realize the true depth of your actions. I lacked confidence in myself. You changed that. Life was just a series of days after another. You showed me there’s more. You showed me that life needs to be lived fully; that you should use what gift you have to make life worth something. You made me realize that just because one isn’t good at something does not mean they’ll always be like that. You made me realize how much I was missing out on just because I did not try hard enough. You pushed me and made me push myself to achieve. You gently pointed out my faults and did your best to help me change them. You let me discover myself and realize that I could make something of myself. You inspired confidence in me and made me feel good about being me. You moulded me into what I was to become. I was a lost, confused and frightened little kid. It was you who changed me. If I improved in academics and other things after that, if I acquired a personality, it was because you were there for me.

My gratitude to you is beyond words. I wish I could express my thanks, but it’s only felt. I hope that at least that feeling is communicated to you.

Teachers come and go with every passing year. They are always respected. Some you like and they like you. Some you don’t. As you grow up, teachers also become objects you ridicule (I hope I’m never found guilty on that count). Some of them leave you with faint memories of good times. Some teachers you’d rather forget. Some leave you with the kind of learning you’ll never forget. You fall in love with a subject because of the way a teacher taught it. Years later, you can still recollect how wonderfully interesting a subject became thanks to the teacher, you even remember parts of what was taught. This is what every person inherits in their schooling culture.

But there are teachers who do more than just teach subjects, give homework, punishment, maybe share a few laughs and conversations and go home and forget about you till the next day. Teachers who realize the wealth of their profession; who are genuinely concerned about making worthy citizens of their wards. Teachers who devote themselves to bringing out the best in a child when they see the goodness buried within. Teachers who know that a bit of love and attention can do wonders for a child and provide it because they know what a difference it makes. Teachers who go that extra mile and give that extra chance because they have faith. Teachers that build the foundation for the person’s achievements in life. Teachers who change lives.

You are the teacher who did that for me. You changed my life completely. I never thought I could be a person worthy of notice. But you made me see myself differently. You told me in I mattered; in a manner that wasn’t overt, but more powerful than had you been more direct. All that you did then affected my decisions later on. Since the years you were there with me, I consciously did better, thought about what I could do to be a winner and strove to achieve that. You touched my life and inspired me like no one else could.

You’re the best teacher I ever had. Thanks to you, I am a confident, mature and ambitious young lady who wants to get the best out of life. How do you thank someone who has done so much for you? I don’t think I can ever do that satisfactorily. Its one of those paradoxes. I deal with words and am capable of shaping wonderful things with them, but to thank you is something I would fail at. But I hope you will know how grateful I feel to you.

I’ve known other teachers who mean a lot to me… but you’ll always be the first. After all, they only worked on what was already there… the foundation for that was laid by you.

I ought to tell you. I am now 21. I graduated last year, with a major in journalism. And I am now working for Bombay Natural History Society in Bombay. I am involved in the production of their magazine Hornbill. I really love my work and there’s nothing else I would rather be doing. All this has been possible because you guided me to reach for the sky all those years back. Thank you.

I am sorry it took me this long to write to you and convey my gratitude. But I waited till I could feel I was somebody. I hope that I shall be able to see you soon and thank you in person.

With warm regards and heartfelt gratitude,

Yours sincerely,


  1. I dont remember what TV show it was, but here are a few lines from it:
    "They say, those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. But if it wasn't for the teachers, those who can, could never do anything."

  2. you said it Roacho :D

  3. There are some things u can't buy!! there are some things you are lucky to get!! there are somethings that you are destined to get!!

    But after you get it ..its very rare people make an analysis about what actually they got, were they worth it, and who was responsible for that.. this is a nice way to express that kinda gratitude... and these are the things in life u gotta do, thats because, u've got only one shot at it!!

  4. That's an interesting analysis Max :)

  5. The show Vineet was talking about is 'The Wonder Years'.Wonder how he forgot that??

    Nice post.Bet it'd make your teacher really happy to see you now...ever think about trying to contact her?

    And once again, congrats on the job.Blessed it must be,to be making a living doing something you love.

  6. Thanks Ashish, i do wonder how he forgot, i know he's quite well-versed with that show.

    I haven't yet contacted my teacher, but i do know where she is. I will be sending this to her and am seeing her soon as i go home.

    I couldn't agree with you more, it is a huge blessing to have a job you love...

  7. If it WERE THE WONDER YEARS i would remember it. It WASN't. It was a show on Zee TV. I think it was called ED's World or something like that.
    So fear not my friends, I have not lost my touch with wonder years. In fact, heres another post remembering TWY:!82308FBBBE3E7A83!232.entry

  8. herbgatherer6:41 AM

    hmm..comments>makes me wanna go back to school and live it all over again!!!seriously,its so true,who you are now is a function of the things you are bought up with through childhood...and we take it for granted...the schools you attend,teachers,all have a tremendous impact on who you eventually turn out to be...very true article.nostalgia creeping in.

  9. Vineet: Ed's World?? i thought it was that show on the lawyer with the bowling alley business.. i hope you found ur special childhood friend a la TWY.

    Herbgatherer: interesting pseudonym.. any particular reason you chose it? i too miss school a lot.. growing up isn't all that great :) thanks for dropping by, do visit again