TO MA’AM, WITH LOVE
“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar.”
Act III, Scene II, Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
To this day, I get goose bumps when I hear or read these lines. The credit for this goes to a strong, dignified and fierce woman who commanded attention from the moment she entered a class. Mrs. Lakshmi Menon.
The very first memory that I have of her is of terror as she screamed at our class for making noise during a free period. Fast forward to standard IX, she became our English teacher. And then everything changed. I changed. The fear disappeared, all that was left was immense amazement, respect and gratitude.
She taught us with such passion, fervour and enthusiasm that in every class we were transported to different worlds. She introduced us to Saki, Wodehouse, Frost, O. Henry, Keats, Tennyson, R. K Narayan and many more extraordinary writers and poets. She didn’t just teach us their stories and poems, she breathed life into them. She talked about the author’s lives and what must have led them to write their masterpieces.
And then there was Shakespeare. These were the classes I think everyone enjoyed the most. Julius Caesar was like a roller coaster ride with all its ups and downs. We hated Caesar for his arrogance and yet were left agonized over his brutal death. We initially looked up to Brutus, then despised him for scheming with Cassius and eventually pitied him for his nobility. Marc Antony, however, was a favorite amongst us all.
The defining moment that not only changed the plot in Shakespeare’s play but also in my life was Anthony’s funeral speech. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Mrs. Menon was as good an orator as Shakespeare wrote Anthony to be.
She not only taught us their stories but always inspired us to write our own. We were no longer kids who wrote boring essays, she saw us as adults who were capable and allowed to write romances, thrillers, horrors or the simple truths of our lives. Due to her encouragement many students began to write and share their work, including me. She always appreciated us, as well as helped us identify ways we could write better. For me, my first achievement in this field was when I received a 23 on 25 on my essay which was a story. Contrary to this, I got a zero in my letter writing for three term exams for making minor mistakes like adding an apostrophe, ‘s’ in, ‘yours’ or missing a comma somewhere. But thanks, to this I now know how to write a perfect formal letter. Before her classes I was not even remotely interested in reading, but like many other things, this too, changed. The very first book I read (in the actual sense of the word) was, ‘The Ambler Warning’ by Robert Ludlum and after that there was no turning back.
One of my all-time favourite movie genres is of films depicting teacher- student relationships. Films like, Freedom Writers, Remember the Titans, Lean on me, Dead Poets Society and even Sister Act. These are films I can watch over and over again. As I was writing this article, I realized why I love these kind of films. It’s simply because I can relate to it. In all these films, the protagonist who is a teacher or a coach changes the lives of his or her students in ways that were unfathomable before. You might say that this only happens in films but I can assure you, it happens in real life too and I have experienced it first-hand. I have also heard people complain that gone are the days when teaching actually meant something, days when teachers whole-heartedly took interest in their student’s lives or even bothered to take interest in their subject.
While this could be true, let’s not forget that students on their part hardly remember, appreciate or respect their teachers.
The ultimate fact, however is that teachers have always been and will always be an integral part of any student’s life.
So, to all the teachers, I wish you a very happy teacher’s day and I hope that you realize what an immensely honorable responsibility it is to be a teacher. May you continue to mould impressionable minds and light the way for the future generations.