He was a tall dark handsome man, with a moustache as thick as chacha chaudhary’s. Students used to call him with love or hate (I still don’t know) Ravan. I won’t be able to trace the origin of this name… but I used to wonder how he earned that name — in no way did he look furious or appear capable of kidnapping anyone…
To all the teachers and our parents he was Sir Devasia — senior school’s English teacher.
I didn’t have the luck to be taught by him, but not so my brother. Back at home I used to hear different stories about Devasia sir — how strict he was and the pranks the students tried to pull off on him. I left the school some 15 years ago, but formed a ritual to visit the campus once a year. I still believe whatever little art I have in me, it’s all because of the school.
No matter how old you get, you would always be a kid to your teachers… no matter how big your achievements are in life you would always be that high pitch girl in divided skirt with a high pony, who would religiously have sore throat during winters. And to keep up that innocence it was important for me to meet my teachers. When I look into their eyes I see my younger self and the pride they have makes me feel like Mera ho gaya… I have achieved what I was supposed to.
A few years back Mr Devasia, who was the vice principal of the school, invited me to be the chief guest of our annual play festival. You have no idea how big a deal that was for me. I happily accepted the invite.
Like I mentioned before Devasia sir had never taught me but I had a fixed image of him and I wondered what kind of a vice principal he would be with that strict personae.
Students would hate him, I thought. But I was welcomed by the widest smile — I used to wonder why teachers smile more once you aren’t their students. Anyway, through those thick Amazon forest I saw a really sweet smile, a smile that reflects in yours eyes. I walked into the auditorium and spent few hours there. I also saw a proud parent showcasing his kids’ talent… I could feel the love students had for him. In one of the plays students mocked him and his was the loudest laugh. I wondered what happened to the Ravan who taught my batch… After that day, I constantly kept in touch with him.
A few months later I was starting my first directorial debut and picked Delhi to tell the story. I reached out to Devasia sir because I needed kids to act in it. To my surprise Sir let me audition his students and allowed the kids to miss classes for almost two months. I can write a whole new post about my experience but we’ll save that for later. Anyhow I regularly visited the school –for auditions to rehearsals.
In one of my school visits, Sir very candidly said, “Ask Ashish (my brother) to come and meet his teachers. I know we have been strict but tell him to forgive us.” I came back home and told my brother. He didn’t react much.
That day I kept thinking how evolved sir would have become to say that to a student. A good teacher doesn’t only teach what’s in the textbooks and live the lessons holding them very close to their hearts.
One day when I was sitting in sir’s office, he told me he had a few stories to share with me, about what teachers go through and some moving stories about students. I promised him that l would finish the project and sit with him on it.
Well, that couldn’t happen…
A few days back we got a call that we lost Sir to Covid… I feel so guilty for not fulfilling my promise. He left us with his unsaid stories.
My school has lost its father figure and I lost a new friend. Who had seen all my work, till Meenaviyial. He also had opinions about my story telling. I was so looking forward to meet sir more, discuss cinema and art.
He was going to retire in few years and I’m sure he would have written a book or rediscovered himself with something else. He was constantly updating himself and in so many ways he reminded me of my father. Both unlearning, young at heart and proud of their kids. In sir’s case not just this two girls but thousands of lives he touched as a teacher.
My parents wanted to invite him for a dinner but God had some other plan.
His loss felt too close to home. But sir, your smiling face will never fade away from our minds. I know you are at a much better place from where you will continue to be our guardian angel.
PS – like what my dad said after reading this… “time doesn’t wait for anyone. Tujhe mujhe gaali dena hai toh abhi de”.
Maine de diya. Let’s not wait to the right time to express our love.