It was one of those ordinary evenings in the year 1953 when my father had just returned from the office. As he settled down in the Sitting Room with a cup of tea with me as a four-year-old romping around, a gentleman in white dhoti, kurta and Gandhi topi walked in unexpectedly and touched his feet. Embarrassed at this gesture from a stranger, my father stepped back and said, “What are you doing?”
The old frail man stood there with his hand folded and said, “Sir, I want to thank you for what you did for me today. Your decision in the court this morning has restored my dignity and prestige, I had been fighting for the last twenty years…and that too without my knowing you. I don't have words to express how grateful I am to you.”
“It is alright,” my father said. “I am glad you received justice and what was your right.”
The gentleman continued standing with folded hands, “I am grateful to you from the bottom of my heart and I want to do something for you in return to express my thanks.”
“No, no… nothing. I have done my duty and I do not expect anything in return. God has given me everything. Please go and enjoy,” my father was losing his patience at the end of a long and tiring day.
“Sir, I am a teacher by profession. Can I teach your children for some time?” he was persistent.
“My children are very small. They don’t even go to school. This child is only in Nursery. You can’t teach anybody,” my father started laughing at the thought of my getting a tuition.
“Sir, in that case, can I give her some lessons in handwriting? .....Only for a month…please, Sir. Don’t say ‘no’. My heart will be broken,” saying so, he caught hold of my father’s feet with tears in his eyes.
My father, who was all of 28 at that time felt much too embarrassed and finally relented, ”OK then, only for a month, not more than that.”
And thus started my one-hour class of hand-writing training for the next one month. A wooden Munshiji type desk on the sitting room floor, a ‘G’ nib, a holder, a square flat ink- pot which had two ink tablets dissolved in some water and a four-line note book, all these were purchased for me by my mother as per the directions of that teacher.
Then on, every single day, he was there exactly at 4 pm for an hour in those hot scorching summer afternoons of Orai (Distt. Jalaun) in Bundelkhand area of UP. Writing continuous Os without lifting the holder, the variations in the height of the loops of the Ls, Hs & Ts, the flow and length of strokes of various letters, the various pressures ….. everything he taught me with so much patience, precision and perfection that the foundations of a good hand-writing were laid.
One month passed and on the last day, my mother insisted that he leave after taking Guru Dakshina (fees) of a Khadi Kurta at my hands. He hesitated, but the mother insisted that in the true Guru-Shishya system, no education is complete unless the Guru (Teacher) is given the due Dakshina (fees) by the Shishya (pupil). He humbly accepted the Dakshina and left and I was only too happy to run out of the house to play with my friends.
Today, I do not remember this gentleman’s name and don’t even remember his face clearly. But he has a clear-cut impression in my childhood memories. What he has given me by way of a handwriting is still a part of my personality. Each time I get a compliment even today, almost after six decades, I bow to him and thank him.
On this Teacher's Day, I pay my humble tribute to this first Teacher of mine whom I remember with unfathomable respect and gratitude.