A teacher’s bounden duty is to burn himself out like a candle while attempting to provide light for all those who come to him………. – PCN Sir, on Facebook

G Soman Pillai - Master - Sainik School -  KazhakootamThat sent me way back to my first English class and its master of ceremonies, GSP Sir. With GSP Sir, it was way different. He remained our  dear English teacher admired and loved by all. With his kindness and care he commanded each one’s admiration and introduced them to the wonders of knowledge, dreams and fantasy. He was also our  dear House Master. As I recollect now, most of the times I used to draw a blank on being quizzed on my lessons in the class.

However I remember clearly this one occasion in the house study room while concluding the daily roll call on a Saturday evening he enquired ” Who is this? The one who had not deposited with me the weekly letter home?” And before anyone could react I threw up my  hands and said ” Sir, ummm, that would be me”. And finding no company there I felt strange and quickly put my hands down. But not without leaving me drenched in complete surprise ! My House Master quickly dismissed the roll call and withdrew to his room upstairs.

This one-man show of mine some how could cut no ice with house prefect Kurian Antony who called me over the next day morning and imposed on me to write 100 times in that ‘no copy paste’ era, words to the effect that would reflect my commitment to never ever repeat the crime I committed. So, on a fateful Sunday morning, I occupied my place in seclusion by the culvert next to the open expanse, underneath a shady cashew nut tree, and set out on my mission of hitting my maiden century.

I was both weeping and scribbling quick when the all caring House Master reached me unannounced. To his concerned query, I replied, still in tears ” Sir, I am writing a story.” He saw my teary eyes, nodded approvingly with a gentle smile at the intense whipped up passion of a budding writer and whispered ” When the mind starts speaking, my boy, you just cannot put your pen down. You go on son, go write a beautiful story and show it to me by noon.” Bummer! caught between the Devil and the House Master, I went on to finish the imposition first and scribbled on a paper my first ever written story ever, not considering the oral ones which we feed to the teachers on a daily basis as an explanation for the incomplete home work.

My story revolved around a certain quick witted protagonist, a crow, faced with this life threatening challenge of sourcing a beakful of water from the traces left in the deep, dark bottom of a pot – failing which, he fears that his furry head might crack open and wither away! So, you see, this cashew nut tree episode  somehow put me in league with the all times greats.


Buddha got ‘it’ under a Peepal tree.
Newton, an Apple tree
Me, I just figured Cashew would do just fine !

Now, GSP Sir goes through the story, folds it up nicely, and returns it to me. Even while encouraging me to write on a customary note, the pain of having had to reflect on his observations on the write up was evident from his grimace. He summed with the finality of a surgeon who has decided upon delivering the news to the prospective amputee personally, ” You people think in Malayalam and write in English. So stop thinking in Malayalam and please think in English, while you write English in future “. Like a true disciple, all these years, I have been practicing this instruction from my respected teacher and I am sanguine that I have almost come half way through i.e I can stop thinking while at it !

And I am glad when, at times when life throws up instances to validate my attained ability, with many a kind comments from my friends. The most encouraging of all which I heard the other day. My long lost friend traced me out after decades and showered on me comments that left me elated. He asked, ” Bugger, when will you stop writing ? ” He was kind enough having spared my ancestry from the adjectives, unlike all others. There, was validation, again.

As they say, the best teachers teach from the heart, not from the book. GSP Sir was one.

8 Responses

  1. GSP and PCN took lot of pain to improve my handwriting as well but I think I did not. My writing is still bad but it would have been worse if they were not insisting on writing a page every day. I realise the effort they have taken when I try certain things on my son.
    As prince said English Dept was super, I had many teachers after our school days, even now business topics or communication skills our teachers were a class different. When I go to my son’s school and talk to his teachers, I really long he had teachers like ours.. Its hard to find teachers of that class nowadays be it school or college.

  2. The opininons seems to suggest English Deaprtment to be the best in our times.
    But pesonally i vote for physical education dept.
    Any one care to vote?
    lets have a poll if you all agree!!!!!

  3. GSP sir was one of my favourite teachers. He had the knack of putting you completely at ease with yourself without any anxious moments. I remember once when he conducted a quiz competition in our class, he happened to ask “what is apartheid?”..I jumped up and said “untouchability” which was a wrong answer. He in order to not dissappoint me or embarrass me said…”well…you are right, but you get no points for it” ……”the correct answer is, it is a policy of racial segregation used in South Africa ” and nobody laughed at my answer….thanks peesu for putting that photo here with GSP sir and PCN sir..

  4. hi p su,

    The incident cited by you proves that he has not yet retired and may be never entered into a service too. He was simply living his life and like PCN sir had brought out, burning out like a candle for us.
    Remember? how he used to initiate us into writing in italics. there used to be calligraphy competitions too. I remember Biju having won many.
    good memories.

    1. Dais,
      The part about “Biju having won many” owes its origins to the encouragement from Mr JSI who literally made the blackboard a huge “4-lined copy book” and made you write between the lines in military precision..And then on to Mr GSP who himself was a proponent of the italics style. One literally had no breathing space, nor any chances of escape 😀

  5. In the very same 2008 OBA standing by the side of GSP sir, yours truly…I asked him “Which year did you retire?” He first corrected me..”When did you retire?” “Which is not used with time..” and then he told me the year that I do not remember now.
    I salute his commitment to education! He was the one who taught us the expression- “I would like to go to make water” which means I would like to go to the toilet ( for a piss)….
    I was very confident of my English dictation skills in his class. It was a 10 word dictation. I was sure to get 10 out of 10. Then to my surprise i got 9/10. I had made mistake spelling the word Garage which he dictated in real English as “garaash”

  6. soni,

    Hey Hay-on-wye man, Salutations from ‘cashewnut man’ man. On a personal note i think it will be kewl if you can expand these episodes a wee bit more and share with us lesser mortals. Judging by your capableness which you have in ample amount, we will be looking forward to it, if you so decide.

  7. This is touching and I do identify with it wholly. My first writing happened within the classroom, XII std to be precise. It was a monthly test in English and, there were only two questions, both of them requiring you to write an essay of an answer. The teacher was, you guessed it, PCN. I don’t know what I wrote but a week later, PCN read out both answers in class with the rejoinder that essays need to be written in that manner.

    Though I realized this part quite early – “You people think in Malayalam and write in English. So stop thinking in Malayalam and please think in English, while you write English in future” – I still work hard on cutting out the congenital static that tend to peep in now and then. GSP Sir never taught me and that will remain a regret.

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