Friday, October 26, 2007

Sabitha Madam and my Scrapbook--a school story

I remember the fifth standard days of carefree fun and pure excitement which opened up to the promising light of each new day. Everything about life looked optimistically lively then, and I lived in happiness and contentment every single day of my life. There was no responsibility to hamper me, and I must say, I enjoyed the year immensely, and would like to call it the ‘golden year’ of my schooling.

That year, we had Sabitha Mam for Geography. She was an imposing creature, her looks traditionally suiting how teachers were supposed to look like. She had a sort of mulish expression, wore thick glasses, which, I think, she was unusually proud of. She had a reason too—those glasses magnified her eyes to a large extent, making that threatening frosty glare a hundred times colder. I always remember her in her blue shawl she wore on wintery days, walking serenely in the silent corridors every morning. She was a terrific teacher besides, drawing the map of India so superbly on the board within a minute.

She was stubbornly insistent about certain things, which looked like an annoying habit of hers then, which irritated us to no end. We were forced to sit strait, not to yawn, sitting in that perfect, erect posture, with a smile on our faces, and no unnecessary emotions disfiguring our charming expression. She carried with her a long wooden scale, which served useful in pointing out various geographic locations, and yes, the duster, which she continuously rapped on the table to subside the rising decibel levels due to daily chatter in the classroom. She was undoubtedly an energetic woman, rapping that duster continuously even after “pin-drop silence” (the most commonly used word in school language) was achieved. RAP-RAP-RAP-RAP-RAP….”I want everyone’s attention” was the phrase with which every class began, after which, she would become a little genial in her ways, teaching smoothly, without a single stutter in her commanding voice.

She did have certain different norms—she was unique in her teaching methods. After every lesson, there was to be a quiz—a hot contest between the boys and girls, and for that, to beat the boys at least (it would be the utmost disgrace to loose), we would somehow learn the lesson, mugging it up twenty times if required. We would eagerly await the end of each lesson, and that fair game, at the end, we would play…one could almost feel the excitement in the air. It felt like an India-Pakistan match being played inside the hot classroom….no one will guess how much I miss those quizzes now. We crossed our fingers, squeezed each others hands, murmured prayers, howled like crazy buffoons, and sometimes, even cried! We celebrated learning….five more points…six…seven….we cheered every time Sabitha mam added an extra ‘I’ on the board. Of course, I have reason to believe she was always inclined to the girls side, every time we won a neck-to-neck competition with one point, a small smile would quiver at the edge of her lips, and it would be gone in an instant, and you would swear you had imagined it. But I was observant, and I almost sensed that she silently supported us.

In the fifth year, she introduced a new method of learning, which has come to stay in my school for nine long years. When we were given books, I always had the habit of opening each one and smelling them (I loved the smell of new books), and while engaging in this worthless activity, I noticed one extra long note book which was plain. We always wrote in ruled books, so I was naturally curious. Then, Sabitha mam went on to explain that she had replaced chart-making with ‘Scrapbooking’ that year—that sounded like a big word, so we listened. She told us how we would use our scrapbook to do collect information and paste it ‘attractively’ in an organized fashion---that was the sort of formal language she used, but we all knew it meant using our scrapbook in the way we liked, sticking sloppy pictures in a highly disorganized and haphazard fashion, and I must tell you, we absolutely enjoyed anything which was not neat, and we made use of the opportunity to doodle in our books. There were some non-creative people who groaned and called it ‘absolutely wicious’ , but I ignored them, because I loved scrapbooking. I was terribly good at it, and I was pleased when I got that extra star or a ‘ v.good’ marked next to my picture.

Scrapbooking became a nice hobby and an enjoyable homework. It is because of my scrapbook that I now remember where the Chota-Nagpur plateau is, and where exactly the Himalayas are---I remember representing them with cotton on the map of India, and drawing an arrow below scrawling below ‘The Greater Himalayas’ in big bold black letters. I can remember it so effortlessly, better than I remember any other subject from school—it’s because I enjoyed learning it. My scrapbook became so dear to me, that I eagerly waited for homework, and my friends were repulsed and thought that I was abnormal. But then, I went on to receive some great marks in geography, and my scrapbook became famous. I still can remember using red sand for Karnataka’s ‘laterite soil’ and black seeds for ‘black soil’ of Madhya Pradesh and I still remember her saying cotton grows well in black soil. I did loads of creative stuff in my scrapbook, and I finished by adding a personal flavour to it—be it drawing a complicated volcanic mountain, or the earth’s meridians. That year, I felt special in geography class—like I was pushed into the lime-light. I was famous. I loved it. Everyone talked about “Lakshmi’s scrapbook” and I smiled.

From that year, every year, kids from my school have started working on personal scrapbooks. When I saw my brother working on his geography scrapbook, I instantly knew Sabitha mam was behind it all, but I ventured to ask, “Who teaches you geography?”
“Sabitha Mam,” he said.
I knew it! She is the sort of genius who can think up such wonderful things. It reminded me of the time I was his age, and also, that it’s already been seven years since then. Well, when mom’s teaching Arjun, and asks, “ What are the tributaries of Ganges?” I like to intrude and say “The Ghagra, the Gomathi, the Chenab,….” And instantly, my mind forms the picture of those diagrams I drew in my scrapbook with blue sketch pen seven years ago. My brother looks at me quizzically, as if I am too complex to understand.

I will remember my fifth year for all the fun it provided, and I will remember Sabith mam too…who continues teaching at Kumaran’s school even in old age. Countless students love her ways—like the ‘checkerboard games’ that we often played in her class…all her students mainly remember that rapping noise which was common in geography class and that commanding voice saying, “INDIA,” pointing proudly with her stout stick to the diagram on the board.


Samba said...

Never mind nothing. She managed to influence u and that makes her a successful teacher.

By the way did she teach you to indulge in shameless self promotion?

Praveen G K said...

Beautiful Post, Lakshmi. It was fascinating to know how you appreciated Geography through Scrapbooks. Today all that people can think of is Orkut scrapbook :-)

Great going and a great blog post!!!

Maddy said...

someday, after you are all grown up, you will realise that the subjects you hated will come back to your lief - like i love history, geography and all that stuff these days..which is funny!!

Mohan said...

Mr. Samba,

I do not understand your comment "BTW......?", but for the big question mark!!! It is a nice blog. It is a school story of a 6th grader and indulgence is commonplace for that age. I think you really missed the quintessence of the blog.

Anil P said...

Paste some pictures from the Chhota Nagpur trip.

narendra shenoy said...

Agree with Maddy. I used to hate geography because I could never for the life of me remember if the air pressure at the equator is low or high or both and which breeze blew from where. And things like that. I am fascinated by these subjects now.

Samba, you sound like a fun person. I'm sure people have to wear dark glasses in your neighbourhood lest they be blinded by the brightness of your disposition.

Krishna Vattam said...

Krishna Vattam,
Mr Samba, Your three sentence comment had made Lakshmi so depressed, she with tears running down her cheeks, said she would no longer post for the blog.Thanks to Mr G V K she had found a medium to express herself, so wonderfully, with a touch of a great writer that would be.She is just 16 you remember, very senstive, and such harshness and biting criticism would not only dampen the spirit, but may result a blooming flower to fade away.
I am a journalist myslef with 57 year of standing and a number of pg stundets, some of them gold medalists come to me for training.I have found that most of them are far below the standard.But I have religiously avoided discouraging them.On the other hand I encourage them and ask them to feel comfortable and feel that you are first standard student and even if you write like the first standard student d'tmind, continue writing. Many of them are today serving as reporters in Papers like The Times of India, Deccan Herald, Prajavani and electronic media.if I have shouted at them, perhaps,they would not have had the confidence to go up.They came to me on Teachers Day and offered me a bouquet, saying affectionely "You are my Guru"Literally tears of joy triclked down my cheeks.Even in my writings as Reporter for Deccan Deccan Herald and Prajavani,even on occasions,when the situation demanded me to come down heavily, I used to make my point effectively without being too harsh.
I wish you see the "yedi thumbe haduvine(telecast by TV kannada)on sundays at 9pm,and see how great SP Balasubramnyam infuses confidence in the young even when they go wrong in swara and corrects them.
Regards Krishna vattam

Praveen G K said...

Hello Lakshmi

There have been several anonymous comments on my blog derogating me badly. But then, you must understand there are a lot of people waiting to read what you write, and a few of them who will never agree to what you write. Please take it in your stride and ignore the avoidable comments. You are a brilliant writer, there are no two ways about it. I love the way you write, simply because, your writing is so simple and easy to visualize what you have experienced. You will not believe it, but some of my friends and family members are regulars to your blog. I do not miss your updates at all, and in fact have read many of your old posts.

I am waiting for a new blog post from your side!!! Take care!

narendra shenoy said...

Agree with Praveen. The cyberworld is full of bitter, twisted people. One gentleman sent me a very abusive e-mail because he didn't like me being so flippant and silly. He told me, amongst other things, that I was a retard and I would never be a good writer. I wrote back saying that while his comments were touching, the possibility that I might be a retard had occured to many of my acquaintances and urged him to tell me something new. That was the last I heard of him. Mr. Samba is probably descended from heaven, but for most of us members of the animal kingdom, self promotion is vital for the survival of the species. Look at the peacock, if you don't believe me. I am all for self promotion. If godly people like Mr. Samba find it shameless, tough luck for them.

Looking forward to some more enjoyable self promotion. Hope Krishna Vattam is wrong about you not writing anymore

Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

Thanks for all the support, everyone. Though initially I felt sort of bad, now, I do feel alright, I think I should continue blogging...I am such a total blogaddict, that NOTHING will ever stop me from blogging, no matter what I say. I hate being such a sissy, so I have decided not to be so sensitive anymore. :) I shall not give up, I never ever will, and for a change that will be a promise I shall keep! :)

Sneha said...

my dearest cousin,
blogosphere is a place where you can express yourself freely, without any restriction. I believe that you have used this space with excellent confidence and you are indeed on an enjoyable discovery of yourself through this medium. This is not equal to "shameless self promotion". Perhaps Mr.Samba does not have much of a self-esteem for he regards the acknowledgment of one's good traits as arrogance. He should, i believe, try to understand himself better before proclaiming somebody else's writing as balderdash. Meanwhile, you just ignore such comments which do not prove to be constructive, and continue writing. I enjoy your posts and shall be very disappointed if you stop blogging. Do not let fools deter you from pursuing this awesome hobby.

Much love

Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

Thanks a lot Sneha! I'm really waiting to see you blog! :) I'm sure you'll be a superb writer by now, and if you start writing, I'm sure you'll find a lot of fans, the first one beign me.

Mysore Madhu said...

Dear Lakshmi

Let Samba do a "Samba". I categorize blogs into two sections. One where the subject is others - products, people, places, events, etc. The other is where the subject is "Self" - experiences, interests, opinions, achievements etc. In the second type as it is about the self - "Shameless Self Promotion" is absolutely necessary. Your blog fits properly into the Second category. Do not get bogged down by such bloggers. Keep your words flowing. It brings back a lot of our own school and college day memories.

Maddy said...

probably this bharat rao - samba well, he likes the right brazilaian stuff anyway - does not unbderstand that a blog is defined thus - Many blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries.

Anonymous said...

Hi... just happen to cross your site... I see that you also love Disney... me too...

Im planning to go to Tokyo or Hong Kong Disney this Christmas. Hoho and I found some stuffs from Hong Kong Disneyland here as well:

I will definitely take tones of photos there!!!