By the time I finished 12 years of formal schooling, I had studied in 8 schools spread over 6 towns/cities of India. I did not attend nursery or kindergarten having been home-schooled by my mother, father, and older brothers till I joined Uttari Bharat Sabha’s (UBS) English High School in Bhandup, Mumbai. UBS was my first school and also the school that I studied for the maximum number of years in.
I was 5-and-a-half when joined UBS in the middle of first term after a painless admission process where neither I nor my parents were interviewed. I was asked for my name, date of birth, and home address, and once satisfied that I could communicate verbally, I was deemed admitted to the school and escorted to my class by the school principal. My parents were asked to take care of mundane formalities like paying the fees, getting my uniform, books, etc., etc.
An English class was in progress when we arrived. I must have been introduced to the class, the teacher, and shown to my seat, but I don’t remember any of this. All I remember now is the teacher’s warm welcoming smile. The teacher was Rachel Kurien. Even after all these years, when I think of Rachel Kurien or Rachel teacher as we kids called her, it is her smile that instantly comes to my mind.
Rachel teacher taught us everything—English, Maths, Science, Community Living, Drawing, Craft… The only time we didn’t see her was during games and the occasional music class that we had. She was a very creative teacher and we would never realise how the school day passed. In addition to teaching us the school-prescribed subjects, she would make us enact plays that she had written, tell us stories or make us narrate them, recite funny poems, jokes, etc. There was never a dull moment in class.
I studied in UBS for 3 years (Standard I to III) and was extremely lucky to have Rachel Kurien as my teacher for all those 3 years. There were only two occasions when Rachel teacher did not teach us. The first time was when she went on maternity leave. Our class was so devastated by her absence that someone or the other would cry for her every day. The substitute teacher was quite fed up with us and, I think, was happier than us when Rachel teacher rejoined after 3 months. The second time was when the school management allotted us another class teacher. Needless to say, the tears flowed again to such an extent that parents actually came to school to plead with the School Principal to bring back Rachel teacher. And we got her back after about 3 weeks. 😀
At the end of my third school year, our family moved from Bhandup to Matunga (another Mumbai suburb). Since UBS was not within commutable distance from Matunga, especially for an eight-year old, I was admitted to a school in Matunga. I missed Rachel teacher very much and tried to keep in touch with her. We left Mumbai after my fourth school year and I then lost all contact with her.
Looking back as an adult at those 3 years in UBS, I realise that those years were the best years of my school life—carefree, happy, being loved and appreciated by my teacher. And most importantly, Maths (which was to cause me much grief later in my school years) was nice and simple. It wasn’t only me who felt like this; I’m pretty sure that most of my classmates too felt the same as Rachel teacher made each one of us feel special. Rachel teacher was never partial to any one student and if she had any favourites, she hid them well. She would encourage, coax and applaud each one’s effort in class.
I wonder, though, how Rachel teacher manged. The school had just about basic infrastructure and hardly any extra-curricular activities for the children. My class of 40 odd students was a mixed bunch in every sense—in age (5 to 9 years) and aptitude, as well as family background. Some of the children were first generation learners, while many more were first generation learners in the English medium. Only a few students, like me, came from families who knew English. The economic background of the children’s families also varied greatly. Now, in case you think that I understood the socio-economic background of my classmates as a 5-year-old, then you are 100% wrong. I just correlated my recollections and impressions of those days with what my mother told me.
Rachel teacher has been on my mind for a long time now and the desire to meet her is growing stronger by the day. I often imagine what it will be like meet her and talk to her. I wonder if she will remember me. But none of this can become a reality till I find her and, honestly, I have no clue where to begin this search for Rachel teacher. I guess, the logical start would be to begin my enquiries with UBS and then see where that leads. Dear reader, can you help me with this search for Rachel teacher? I would also appreciate any suggestions that you can offer.
I don’t make new year resolutions, but this year I am going to make an exception. My new year resolution is to find Rachel teacher and thank her for her invaluable guidance, love and instilling in me a lifelong desire to learn.
Happy New Year 🙂