The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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To sir, with love, loathing & a laugh

We’ve all lived with them. We’ve all loved and loathed them. We’ve had them in school and in college, in success and in failure. On Teachers’ Day, Rajrupa Ghosh dwells on some classroom characters that have touched our lives.

The Hitler

A dictator, of course. A stickler for class tests, this topknot-toting bespectacled member of the staff room wields iron fists of discipline and popular classroom weapons like dusters to control the class. She believes students conspire to make her life miserable and students are convinced if she wasn’t gnashing her teeth so often, she would be breathing fire. The male equivalent is equally — if not even more — scary.

Species speak: In class, I am the law. Do exactly what I say or… Is that clear' (Statutory warning: Don’t dare reply ‘crystal’).

Student slam: Give us Gabbar Singh any day.

Report card: 0/10

The hit

Meet the crown king of college canteens. This is your cool, casual, pony-tailed dude. A true friend, philosopher and guide — at fests or phuchka feasts, re-tests or retro clothing, jam sessions or juvenile love. Comes close to the crush, but just falls short.

Species speak: Life is a party, man… Get into the groove, buddy…

Student swoon: A great reason for coming to college everyday.

Report card: 8.5/10

The crush

The stuff that dreams – of love or lust — are made of. Jaws drop, stomachs churn and eyes go misty every time she looks at you. Start the day with “what will she wear (blue or pink, chiffon or cotton)'” and end it with “when, oh when (will I ever be old enough to ask her out)'”.

Species speak: Boys, where were we'

Student swoon: Who needs filmi heroines when Ms Fantasy is within striking — okay, not quite — distance'

Report card: 9/10

The cruel

If misery could take the shape of a man, this has to be him. A general bug on whom no amount of pest control works, he is on a roll barking out orders, doling out detentions, pouncing on the slightest slip-up, avoiding pass marks like the plague. Sadism thy name is…

Species speak: You are a pathetic excuse for a student and a human being. How do your parents tolerate you at home, when I can’t stand you in class for 30 minutes'

Student slap: Wait till I am as big as him…

Report card: 0/10

The nerd

Mr Calculus is usually bursting at the seams with numbers and equations. As long as he gets his calculation right on the blackboard, he cares little about what is going on behind his back. Most often a research scientist at heart, forced to teach your class, this dishevelled man designs rockets in his head while students chuck paper planes past it.

Species speak: Everything you do is related to relativity.

Student speak: He’s not a hit, but at least he’s harmless. And, boy, does he have funda!

Report card: 6/10

The novice

This is your quintessential wide-eyed neophyte. On the right side of 30, he looks at everything from his teacher’s desk with perplexed wonder. Clearly a case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time; students often take him for a ride, for they feel he needs it “to grow up”.

Species speak: Well, I am your new teacher…

Student speak: Would be great to come back to visit him when he’s found his feet, five years from now.

Report card: 3/10

The dreamer

The faraway look is the perfect give-away. Never too old, never too young, his attire is strictly low key, a flash of genius only in his long umbrella for all seasons. Nymphets in the first row swoon at his charisma, while he strokes his chin and teaches Coleridge to the distant wall.

Species speak: If you think I am saying poesy for poetry, believe me, there is actually a word called poesy.

Student swoon: What’s his tragic love story, yaar'

Report card: 7/10

The mirage

Bizarre as it may sound, this man actually exists. Never there in class and always there on the lecture roster, this elusive teacher has been known to inspire gossip and grumble in equal measure.

Species speak (when sighted): Yes, umm…. er… I had gone to… umm...

Student split: Why can’t we mark him absent and get a move on versus Glad to have him (just ’coz we never have him).

Report card: 1/10 vs 5/10

The solemn

She means business. Armed with knitting needles, she deals severely with the giggling adolescent girls she tries to mould into gracious ladies. But beneath the tough facade, she is really an old girl herself, waiting for...

Species speak: Storks bring babies.

Student slam: Could do with a reality check (more time with the biology teacher, perhaps!).

Report card: 3/10

The sloppy

You can spot this one a mile away. Perennially harried and late for class, he is often found with miles of notes trailing him, looking frantically for his car keys or spectacles. A scatterbrain, he has a tendency of mixing wrong chemicals and triggering minor disasters that makes him popular.

Species speak: Oh my God, how did that happen' I am so sorry…

Student pat: Keep up the good work, thanks for showing us how human teachers can be.

Report card: 5/10

The idealist

Take a pyjama-kurta ensemble, add to it packs of Charminar, loads of ideology, top the mix with a Camus-Kafka, Lenin-Marx combo, and voilà, you have your man. Prone to bouts of gazing into vacant space, cha bhar in hand, this teacher has an uncanny knack for picking up a following of stubbled, unkempt students.

Species speak: Sell what you have to, never sell your soul.

Student groan: A leader, but someone should tell him to chill, sometime…

Report card: 6/10

The inspiration

He is what makes it all worth it — the slog and the sweat, the horror and the heartbreak. You want to be like him but know in your heart of hearts that you never can be quite like him. But in the few months or years that he touches your lives, he leaves you with something special that you carry with you, always.

Species speak: Knowledge is everything.

Student salute: To sir, with awe.

Report card: 11/10

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