‘The Teacher who Inspired me...’
With the ‘Midsummer Nights Dream’ in his hand he walked into the class. His composed demeanour settling, his prim attire apt, his conduct worthy of emulation and when words emanated, his thoughts expressed, the lucidity of subject conveyed, for someone in the throes of teenage, in high school, there could not have been a better role model than Father Joseph Amudan.
In explaining to us Shakespeare Fr Joseph exhibited his erudition.
Knowledge, that he did not thrust upon us, like any ‘guide book’ would do, but rather told us various interpretations of a single phrase, typical of a Shakespearean literature. He ensured it was not a one-way communication; he entertained interjections, accepted alternate theories and in cases of disagreements or doubts, did not deliver his verdict but sought time to further investigate. He would induce enough curiosity in any topic meanwhile ensuring there is room for us to go back and look up more readings. And that single factor inculcated in me a habit of reading diverse subjects.
In listening to everyone Fr Joseph exhibited equality and in cracking the whip, fairness.
In times and settings where the voice that would be entertained in a class would usually be of the top rung, Fr Joseph would give everyone an opportunity. He would listen to everyone’s interpretation, would nudge the ones not willing to respond and in well-crafted assignments see to everyone’s participation. He was also a stickler. Preventing the whole class to write a unit nest for showing unruliness during an exam was enough to teach us lessons of abiding by rules. In me thus arose a belief in equal opportunity and a penchant for observance of rules.
In being a friend, philosopher and guide Fr Joseph exhibited mentorship.
Perhaps acknowledging that a teenager has a mind of his own is not easy as it sounds. Whenever studying English would bring about issues of religion, even contentious issues like forced conversions, sexuality, governments, Fr Joseph would neither shy away nor impose his belief. He would provide a ground for the most interesting and enlightening of debates. He would show great camaraderie during school picnics and functions, get his hands dirty with us, be just as one of us. And that broke many an icebergs.
In acknowledging non-academic debates in which I had a forte, in identifying my strength in and giving organizational and oratorical responsibilities which imbued confidence in me, in simply listening and accepting alternate theories which brought about liberal thoughts, in creating conditions resulting in rapacious reading and widespread writing, and also importantly in quietly nudging to study harder which culminated in good grades, all of which are responsible partly for who I am today, my English teacher, the erstwhile Principal of my school, Father Joseph Amudan, made an indelible mark, left an imprint and inspired me to great ends.
(This essay was submitted to Manipal Centre for Professional and Personal Development as part of a competition for Teachers Day, 2014 and was selected among the top 5 outstanding essays)