Monday, December 25, 2006

A Teacher's Faith

First I just took it as one of those mushy mushy stories that keep getting circulated on the internet. Hungry as I was for something to cry on, I went on to read it, and loved it so much that I wanted to post it here-for all of us to read and learn the lessons life has to teach through those small gestures.

. . .

As she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children an untruth. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. However, that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he did not play well with the other children, that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. In addition, Teddy could be unpleasant. It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X’s and then putting a big “F” at the top of his papers. At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child's past records and she put Teddy's off until last.

However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise. Teddy's first grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners.... he is a joy to be around...”
His second grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is an excellent student, well liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle.”
His third grade teacher wrote, “His mother's death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best, but his father doesn't show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren't taken.”
Teddy's fourth grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn't show much interest in school. He doesn't have many friends and he sometimes sleeps in class.”
By now, Mrs. Thompson realised the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy's. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got from a grocery bag. Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one-quarter full of perfume... But she stifled the children's laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, “Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to.” After the children left, she cried for at least an hour.
On that very day, she quit teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children. Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her “teacher's pets.”

A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life. Six years went by before she got another notefrom Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in life.

Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times, he'd stayed in school, had stuck with it, and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he had ever had in his whole life.

Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor's degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favourite teacher he ever had. But now his name was a little longer.
...The letter was signed,
Theodore F. Stoddard, MD.
The story does not end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he had met this girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit at the wedding in the place that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom. Of course, Mrs. Thompson did.
And guess what? She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. Moreover, she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together.They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson’s ear, “Thank you Mrs. Thompson for believing in me. Thank you so much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference.”Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said, “Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me that I could make a difference. I didn't know how to teach until I met you! "
. . .
Well, I guess the story about his founding the Stoddard Cancer Ward is not so authentic, but the idea behind the story sure is !!
As teachers, we all got a duty towards every single child that comes to us with a faith, a gleam in his/her eyes. We got no right to diminish it, we got no right to demean it. Our students are our teachers. Lets learn from them!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Mir is a little boy of 8 from Afghanistan whose story is being flashed today on National Geographic Channel. In the foreground of a year in his life, the destruction and tragedy of his homeland is recounted.

My children, one aged 9 and the other aged 4 and a half are watching the story. Their eyes are wide with surprise, fear, wonder. Their lips form the questions and then their brain asks another question and they wait till the questions accumulate. We have a rule while watching Discovery and NatGeo – watch the show and ask questions during the commercials. So they watch the boy smile through his poverty and squalid living conditions. They watch him struggle through his fights for survivals. They are amazed at how someone can live with drinking dirty water. How someone can live through so much of cold. But I wonder why never once Rasan and Jai ask me the question about where his TV is. They wonder if he goes to school. They are touched by the hard roti that he has to eat. Jai, with his long experience of life, wants to know why Mir has to pay for his bread.

Rasan asks questions about Bamiyan. Why the statues of Buddha were blasted? Why should someone do anything of that sort? I try to simplify it as much as I can. But it is so hard to tell them why some fundamentalists should try to extinguish the symbols of other religions. She wonders at the caves they are living in, at the dust, at the beautiful flower that has grown in the barrens-in the form of Mir’s little niece. She wonders why Mir’s father keeps hitting him and yet the little one goes on smiling through his beautiful green eyes.

I do not wish to pressurize their minds with the heavy issues of politics. So I leave them alone with their minds working overtime on the issues they are watching. I know Rasan needs a hug and I reach out to her to tell that HER life is okay. I know it will be for many days that I will go on answering their questions on what they saw today. It always happens. One thing at a time….

But they definitely are more sober close to the end of it. I take the opportunity to hit that we all should count our blessings, never say no to food, conserve water by turning the taps off when not required, value our family, thank God for the clothes we wear and the life we enjoy.

As they now sleep on, I feel thankful to God for blessing me with such beautiful, healthy children and a smooth life. At the same time, my heart goes out to Mir and his family. Their heaven is destroyed but the spirit lives on. The reconstruction goes on in Afghanistan. Life never stops….

Thursday, August 10, 2006


O world,
Come and see us.
We-who are part placenta,
Part unformed legs and arms,
We- who were once hearts
Beating with our mothers’ blood.

We speak from a newspaper cutting,
From deep down the well,
Where the patriarchs threw us-
Snapping the bond between our mothers and us.

Women-our mothers
Women-the nurses murdering us
Women-the doctors supervising the murders.

Look at these men,
These Grown up men.
They still want to be secure before they reach us
-the dead daughters.
Look at the ropes tied around their waists
Like umbilical cords,
Who thought of our security?

Trembling will be the hands that take our bodies
Part by part
From out of the well.
Trembled must have hands
That threw us into this well-
To die an alone, unthinking, unfeeling death in the dark.

Who will hold a candle to us-
On this rakhri ????


The doctors or the so-called doctors responsible for this gory happening should be given an exemplary punishment, no less than death-death by hanging-if possible hanging in public.

Yesterday 16 lakh boys looked for solace in the rakhris tied on their wrists by their cousins or other relatives because they do not have any sisters of their own. My daughter’s class has only 19 girls in the total strength of 55. (she is 8 and a half). And I remember, girls used to far outnumber the boys when we were in school-in the 80’s. What an advanced environment we are going to give our children !!

I am reminded of an old song with rather crude words (surely not cruder than the treatment meted out to these unborn daughters)-

Naaley mundey ranna bhaaldey,
Naaley kudian jamman toh dardey.

(Boys want wives; but they are afraid to father girls)

Why don’t we understand that an imbalance created in the male female ratio today will lead to social and marital anarchy tomorrow? Let nature prevail! Let her not be interrupted.

Listen to those cries from the well, please !!

Saturday, April 29, 2006


It is a pity that India is once again in the middle of a debate on reservation. As an emerging leader in the world market in this era of globalisation, India has presented a wealth of talent-irrespective of caste or class. And suddenly our old old Arjun Singh comes up with this ridiculous idea of 27 percent quota in quality institutions of higher education. I wonder what would a "quota qualified" engineer or doctor do when the challenges of work come up because we all know that in order to satisfy the quota classes, merit is openly ignored. India, that is on the way to become a world leader, will suddenly be plunged into the darkness of middle 20th century when we were literally crawling and deciding what to do while the rest of the world was preparing to settle down on the moon.
And then our leaders ask-"why brain drain?" We want to reply with a "why not?"
Reservation, in all, takes about 50 percent of seats anywhere you go. What is there for our children maybe 10 years later if you introduce quotas in IIM's and IIT's? Why shouldn't we move abroad for equal opportunities if you cannot give them to us here in our own land? Now that the government is downsizing every department, it wants the private sector to bear the brunt of the already well-to- do so-called backward classes. We all know how handicapped our country has become due to reservation. Can we afford to make it yet weaker?
I only wish to know how do you produce the likes of Dr. Manmohan Singh, Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Partap Singh Kairon, APJ Abdul Kalam out of the shoddy practices of reservation policy??? Talent is not limited to any class. It does not know of backward or scheduled classes. Why don't our so called dynamic leaders come up with a logical idea of telling the backward classes to have more education and fight on equal grounds with the rest of the candidates in every sphere instead of marring the opportunities for all. As of today, the general classes are fighting for 50 percent of granted opportunity.The likes of Arjun Singh will die and leave behind the yoke of slavery to quota percentage. The country has suffered enough already. We were heading towards the "heaven of freedom" that Tagore wrote of. Where are we going now? Perhaps towards more anger, more frustration, more sense of having been wronged.
Meanwhile check this out. And I wonder how the writer justfies the quota in this article.

Friday, April 14, 2006


That morning when I was going to my college and was about to take a turn to the road, I happend to see a beggar girl of about 7 years carrying a baby of about 1 year and both were crying. I slowed down and thought of asking them the reason. Perhaps they were lost, perhaps they wanted food, perhaps...... But then I moved on. I did not stop. Most of us would do that perhaps. Are we devoid of sympathy? Was I also devoid of sympathy? I was perhaps. So what if I could see my daughter and son standing there and crying? I chose not to stop. I don't know why.

And I am ashamed of myself !

Ritu told me about a newly born baby boy having been abandoned somewhere in a Humbran neighbourhood. A laborer finally adopted the baby. But what will happen when this grown kid would know that he had been left to die. His psyche will b tarred for ever. God forbid such a thing should happen ever.

I read about the Supreme Court order that no child would have to be born inside a prison in case the mother is serving the sentence. High time something was done to protect the children from abrasive atmosphere of prison. I wish some experiments could be done to bring out both serving mothers and their children out of the jails and given a properly monitored but decent life.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


I didn’t know Joti, I hadn’t talked to her ever. I don’t even remember her face anymore after I saw her four days back lying on the bed with those pipes and tubes protruding out of her body. Her dead twins were inside her womb. And she had no idea where she was. Lying on that hospital bed, she was so vulnerable, so expectedly swollen. Only she had no will, no power, and no inspiration to push those bodies out of herself. The undue delay in operating her to flush them out finally took her life.

Only of 27 years, she left behind a five and a half year old daughter, almost like my own Rasan. The child would never know what all happened. Her life would be one great tragedy till most likely Gagan, her dear dear Mamu, rescues her out of it. I wish Gagan takes her with him. The kid is an orphan as of today. Her dad will remarry, I m sure-I saw it in his eyes. God knows what fate will bring in for her of whom I know nothing but who comes to my mind as a little Rasanmeet. What if something should happen to me! No, Mahesh would never behave in such an apathetic way – the way that man was behaving in those circumstances.

Kuldip Manak sings at the back of my mind –

maa hundi aye maa o duniya waaleyo,

rabba dev karey arjoyee,
bacheyan di maa marey na koi

I wish Joti had been spared-if only another 20 odd years, sans her twins-one of whom was a boy. Perhaps it was for the sake of a male child that she had to sacrifice her dear life and that of her dear alive daughter. Who knows? Who will ever know??