Monday musings 247- The tuition teacher
Tuition teachers come in all types. In cities it is organised retail education enterprise. In smaller towns and cities the school teachers double up as tuition teachers to supplement the meagre incomes.
Anyone who has lived in a township of sorts will tell you that it is a unique ecosystem, particularly around tuition's. A township owes its existence to a nearby factory or an establishment viz mills, factories, or railways etc. It is an oasis in almost all ways conceivable in comparison to its surroundings.
Jhinkpani, a small township in the tribal hinterland of Jharkhand is one of the many townships that you may know of – just a little more secluded, underdeveloped and distant that you could imagine, just a bit more removed from contemporary reality or just a wee bit more serene, depending upon the perspective you deploy.
Three decades ago there was this strange professional tuition teacher – I call him strange because that is the only thing he used to do – take tuition's. This guy in that sense was different from all others – he only did tuition's for that terror of almost all school children – maths! Anyone who had a maths problem in the township knew that his was the door to knock.
For thirty long years or so he kept the fires of his house kindled through offering his services as a maths tuition teacher. He was the only one of his ilk for the entire township and nearby hamlets. He would be seen moving around in his bicycle moving from one road to another, one house to another offering his wares on an hourly basis to terrified souls (what else but maths!). He was so ubiquitous and i would like to hazard the comparison that apart from the village post man i think he toured more houses on a daily basis than anyone else. Despite not having a formal employment as a teacher he was very well regarded, respected and depended upon. This went on for 30 long years. Generations upon generation of students from the township got tutored under his benevolent guidance. Tiny tots who became adolescent had their own tiny tots who were then attended to by him. He was the family maths tuition teacher in a way.
Last fortnight many of us met after 25 years of passing school and on a sudden impulse decided to meet our benevolent tuition teacher and we did. Old, skinny and clearly frail he seemed to be elated to see us. If he had struggle to remember our names which might not be improbable, he did not betray it. It was difficult to fathom if his reticence in expression was a result of a fragility arising out of disease and age or a choking with emotions to be remembered this way after so many years. A tuition teacher is rarely remembered this way. In the pecking order of teachers they are often below the school teachers – in acknowledgement and remembrances. So when we met him i thought it was validation of sorts. In hindsight i can only imagine what our going to meet him unannounced would have meant for him. Did he draw any meaning out of it – for the three decade of succour and help that he provided to many? Did he feel acknowledged in what we could easily call a pilgrimage of sorts at his doorsteps? Did he feel proud that his creations had returned to express gratitude and thankfulness – and that would be greatest his earning because in monetary terms he struggled all his life to make ends meet and i am told that was the reality even today.
Exactly a week after we met him i got the news he had passed away. Could we have delivered him the best last gift in our own unintended way – of making him see how fruitful and meaningful his contribution had been.
Rest in peace sir.