Perhaps that which is in me which was in his essence is making its presence felt, and I am up from the bed at midnight. Memories of my grandfather are flashing in me, and dissolving into images: ones I have seen and the ones I have oft heard about. And they are asking to be penned.
He was a high school teacher. He used to cycle to school. He taught Maths and Physics. He loved teaching. He used to smile a lot in the class. Once, when he entered a classroom, the black board was full of these words, written again and again, by each and every student in the class: Smiling Sharma. Smiling Sharma. Smiling Sharma.
So that was his name. The Smiling Sharma.
Smiling Sharma had a definition for a good teacher: 'A good teacher is one who makes himself less and less necessary for a student.'
He had immense patience with the slow learner. He knew to be quiet when the student was thinking. He gave his presence generously, not distracted by a computer/ newspaper/ radio. 'Solve the problem', he would say. And he would wait quietly. He knew to wait with the gentle attitude of a good meditator.
He did two things in his school that gave it a quantum jump and brought it in the limelight (read number of the merit students went up).
- He took five hundred bucks from the headmaster and brought some books on science and compiled a library.
- He forbade the girls from holding a hankerchief in one hand while doing the experiments in the science lab.
But yes, he had a weakness. He had a favorite student. She was tall, beautiful and brilliant. I cannot reveal her name, but I shall tell that she was a south Indian. Let us call her Sonmani. Sonmani was so smart, that when he taught a difficult equation that nobody in the class could answer, he would simply say, 'Yes, Sonmani?' and turn to the board and write whatever she dictated. Not once did she err. She was always correct.
And then, once they all went out. For a picnic. Grandpa told me this bit himself. Sonmani was sitting on the green grass, eating lunch and gossiping with her friends.
On all her freinds, the sun was shining. But Sonmani was enjoying a shade. How? Her favourite teacher was standing between her and the star, facing away from her, trying to wipe off the hint of a stupid smile on his face.
'I hope none noticed, but if someone did, they did not comment. I stood like that for about twenty minutes, till she finished eating.'
So that was the gene of devotion. Grandpa never entered a temple but he worshiped Sarswati Ma. He saught the goddess in his students.
I love you, Grandpa. Always and forever.