Reading Tuesdays with Morrie has compelled me to go back into the old, school memories and think about one of the most influential people in my life. I still remember the burnt black marks on his hands. I noticed them first when I went to talk to him about my science project and I saw him closely for the first time. It was 9th grade. He had very dark, rugged skin, a thick black moustache, a deep, gruff voice, and a very serious expression on his face almost all the time. If it weren’t for his black, beady, affectionate eyes and his dimple, he would have been very unpleasant to look at. But he was not. He carried himself very well, was always well dressed, and every time he smiled, though seldom it used to be, his entire face used to light up, including his eyes. He was my Maths and Physics teacher.
He believed in not only teaching us the subject and performing his duty; he used to make sure we really understood it. Every Monday and Friday we used to have Value Education classes. I never liked them, because before he started teaching us, Value Education classes were nothing but reading stories from Moral Science books and learning life lessons. But life’s lessons are not meant to be learnt off a book. I remember the first class with him. He taught us about the importance of behaving properly, dressing properly, and having manners. He gave examples from his own life, and I was so absorbed into his lecture, I never came to know when the class got over. At the end of the class, he asked us to dress neatly. Of course, I was a slob, and I conveniently forgot all about it. The next class, he checked everybody’s shoes, socks, clothes, ribbon, nails etc. He looked at my socks. They were dirty, their elastic had become useless and they fell all the way down to my ankles. He looked at me and said, “Have you seen the state of your socks?” I looked down, embarrassed.
He then explained to us, that when we dress neatly, it is not only for us, it is for the others. "If you go to someone’s place dressed shabbily, you are insulting them. You are saying you don’t care enough to appear clean and tidy. You simply don’t care."
And that was it. I had never thought about it like that. Since then, there was a considerable improvement in the way I started dressing myself up. He also taught us the right body language; he taught us compassion, humility, and punctuality. I began to love his classes and always looked forward to them. He also made a box where he asked us to write our suggestions of topics that we would like to discuss with him. And we wrote, oh, how much I wrote. We talked about relationships, God, spirituality, death, money, education, family, career, life, teenage confusions and a whole lot of other things. I never missed a single class. Every class used to leave me pondering, and compelled me to write about it in my journal. He used to solve our fights and conflicts patiently, like a counselor. He just had a way with words, if you know what I mean.
Though, I often wondered about those marks on his hands.
Years passed, and his classes were over. We moved to the 11th standard and apparently, Value Education classes are not as important when girls turn 17. All the while, I never got enough guts to talk to him about something on a personal level. Although I really wanted to. I was a good student, did all my work on time, but never did I follow him any day after class to just talk to him. Or to tell him about my feelings about his classes. I should have. Really should have. I learnt many life’s lessons in that classroom; I became a better, more empathetic human being. I learnt how to be selfless and kind. How to believe in something. How to improve as a performer, and as a person. And I owed that much to him.
Finally, one day I got to know he was being transferred to another school. It was his farewell party in a week. I couldn’t believe it. Immediately, I got some handmade paper and made a card for him. A flowing river, with a lone figure walking on a bridge over it. Underneath it I wrote, “Whenever there will be trouble, your wisdom is going to help me through.”
It sounds stupid right now, and maybe a little too much. Inside I wrote everything I wanted to say to him, everything his classes meant to me, and how much I learnt from them and cherished them. Before he left, we all stood around him, holding flowers and banners. He came up to me, looked at me with those black, beady eyes and said “It feels good to know my classes helped at least one student. It means a lot, thank you.” And then he just left. Forever. And I still continued to wear clean socks.
After reading Morrie, I became sad. I wondered where sir would be, how he would be. And then it hit me! Hey, we’re not living in the ‘70s anymore. I Facebooked him! Yes, he was there! He currently lives in Ontario, Canada! He still looks the same :) At once, I sent him a friend request.
I hope he remembers me :)
I still often wonder about those scars though.