Dayanand Public School ( All these rooms were school classes)
I was wondering that how was I initiated into reading as a compulsive “disorder” and who all were the culprits responsible for it? And among others a name that surfaced in my memory was of Sood Ma’am…my class IInd teacher. A gentle soul she was but culprit by the standard that she was responsible in opening up me to the world of books. She was also responsible for making me believe in honesty and trust as natural ingredients for a civil society. I have often fallen prey to scheming people surrounding me as I always trust the basic good sense of other people…which sadly, many lack in.
The year was 1962. I was six years of age and was studying in class second in Dayanand Public School Shimla. It was at that time called Lady Irwin Girls’ School But what’s in a name…rose even if called by any other name would smell as sweet!
She was my teacher, the teacher who influenced me a lot during my childhood. Sood ma’am had an unspoken rule in her class. Whenever a child would do well in any subject in her class, she would give the bunch of keys, displayed on her table, to that student. We all looked at those keys. What was so special about those keys? One of the keys in that bunch opened up the world of magic kept under lock in the almirah of Sood ma’am. She would hand over the keys to one of us each day but we had to qualify to be the chosen one. The almirah was in the hall. I would always be trying to be the one who could get those keys. Walking to the hall, with keys in hand, where that almirah was a feeling which I can experience even now when I am all sixty-one years of age!!
With excitement I would open her almirah and straight way go to the heap of storybooks securely kept there. The world of Nandan, Parag, Chanda Mama, Loat Poat, Inderjaal Comics would stare hard at me. It was a treasure house of books. The chosen student would be free to get one storybook from the heap and take that home for reading.
The almirah had some other stuff as well—toffees, biscuit packets and other such stuff but no-one, mark my word, no one would ever touch it. It was ma’am’s prerogative to distribute that stuff to the students if she so wished. But getting one, stealthily, was out of question!
Sood ma’am had not gone to any business school, was not an MBA but the way she managed her class was superb. In kids of the age of around 6 years, she instilled so many good habits. One had to excel in studies to get a storybook from her closet. And the child would be given the key to the closet and make a selection of the story book that she wanted to read. The child would not touch any other thing kept in the almirah despite the allurement of openly displayed toffees etc.
We learnt that leisure time comes after hard work!
We learnt that trust is the basis of all relationship!
We learnt that reading opens up a new world to you!
On this Teachers’ day…I thank you Ms. Sood for instilling, in a vulnerable child of 6 years, some traits and habits that have withstood the test of time, bravely and successfully!!