I wrote this piece for the college magazine. The editors thew it out. Gross, they said. And that too writing such things about teachers!!
Dr. Sister Marty was in her elements. From the word go, she had the mike in her hand, entertaining the excursion group with her mock performance as a tourist guide. It was the teachers' day out and we decided to really let our hair down. No wards and so no need for any masks. No image to live up to - all worries of household management left behind for the day with the husbands. An unreal situation - too good to be true - so there we were, singing our way to our destination Kolahalamedu.
Dr. Sr. Marty saw to it that there was a never dull moment, or a silent moment. Her running commentary, the deliberately stilted language sent us into peals of laughter. We were looking for the slightest excuse to burst into laughter - suddenly all seemed to realise that laughter is the best medicine for all teacher specific ailments - - - --
Now, what are they? these teacher specific ailments? Well, they manifest in different forms . So it's easier to talk about the cause. I guess, it has to do with the teacher being condemned to the same wrong side of the desk throughout her career. And that side of the desk throws up certain expectations. We are perfect - the role models for the wards. And so we are for ever tucking our clay feet away from the sight of the students - does anyone realise what an awkward predicament it is to be obsessed with keeping one's feet out of sight?
And then again, the teacher is the friend, philosopher and guide, all rolled into one. To have such a mighty role thrust upon her on the day the mantle of a teacher falls on her in her early twenties is a terrible thing to happen - the wonder of it is we didn’t crack up under this burden of expectations. Her survival instincts, however, always come to her rescue - she changes her stripes to merge with the environment. The young girl who believed in freaking out suddenly learns to ostentatiously look askance at the very mention of the very term. She learns to mask her speech with euphemisms. She learns to hide her real self behind the mask, which seemed to appear from nowhere. She discovers a dimension to herself, which she didn't know existed. She sometimes marvels at herself - at the way she grew into an image. At other times she feels revolted by the hypocrisy of it all. The fluctuating moods, however, never surface - all glee & grimace are well hidden behind the mask. The MASK - it's like the pair of glasses, which is not a part of you but is very much part of you. That's not you but you are not you without it. You can't function without it.
So, back to Kolahalamedu. Guess it's the freedom from the mask that made us giggly headed. Some had come in the outfit forbidden for teachers - the salwar suit, and all the way to the hills we screamed and yelled the way students do when we shepherd them on their excursions. We played anthakshari. You should have seen the way teachers were grabbing at the mike to belt out the songs!!!! We discovered that one of the youngsters was an excellent singer and were exaggeratedly excited about it. The mike went around while the teachers shared jokes, experiences, and we laughed at each of them, whether they were funny or not.
We were approaching Kolahalamedu. Sr.Marty resumed her commentary and then - - - - dropped that statement.
'There are bushes at Kolahalamedu"
She is a Botany prof. Must be of botanical interest, I thought.
Her commentary continued without any more references to the bushes. She waxed eloquent on the beauty of the landscape and spoke of the glory of living close to nature. Then, as the bus reached the destination, she said “Bush, Bush".
I was confused.
I racked my brains. Could it be something like the burning biblical bush? After all Kolahalamedu was just a stone throw from Kurusumala Ashram. Or could it be some far fetched reference to the American president, who, despite himself, dominated our imagination for all the wrong reasons? No way!
The bus stopped. Sr. Marty announced one last time “Bush, Bush".
The teachers alighted. Wisdom dawned on me as I saw them go up the hills and each disappear behind a bush.
Soon, I too followed suit.