They’re our inspiration

On the occasion of Teachers’ Day on Thursday, a tribute to all men & women who helped shape our future & led us towards light

An IIT professor leaves a high-salaried job to become a teacher in a village school somewhere in a tribal belt in Madhya Pradesh. A young student starts a school in a village in West Bengal to help poor children and becomes an idol for hundreds of them. A couple in Assam starts a school that is free for all and encourages students to think beyond the curriculum. A woman takes up the daunting task of educating street children and young ragpickers in Shillong.
There is no dearth of such inspiring stories about teachers changing lives and building a better future. Those who are working silently and do not have many stories to tell are also making a difference in their own ways. They groom a child to become a better human being. In fact, they are the real kingmakers. Every year on Teachers’ Day, we remember all those great personalities who have shown us the way to the world of vast knowledge and taught us to live with conviction and self-esteem.
Sunday Shillong asked four prominent citizens about their favourite teachers and whom they want to dedicate the day to. Some remembered their teachers’ unique style, support and ideals. Some chose to express gratitude to all in this “noble profession”. Here’s what they have to say about the men and women who shaped their future and made them successful in their respective fields.

Banshailang Mukhim | Musician

It is difficult to say who my favourite teacher was because all of them have influenced me in some way or the other. Of course, there are some individuals whom you always remember. One such teacher is Sir Sylvester who taught us Mathematics from Class VIII-X at H Elias Higher Secondary School, Nongthymmai. He was a friendly person and very professional. We were afraid of him no doubt but at the same time we would rely on him as a friend. He knew how to deal with students.
His method of teaching was different. He never taught the subject using difficult theories from the book. Rather, he would cite real life experiences to explain a mathematical problem. All his students enjoyed the subject when he was in class.
Another person whose name I would like to mention is Meban Lyngdoh, who is the Head of the Department of Music at Martin Luther Christian University. I always admired him as an artiste and saw him perform on television. So when I saw him in the college on the first day, I was ecstatic and went home and told everyone about him.
The professor advised us whenever we needed help. I still remember something he told me when I started having doubts about my research on tangmuri. When I told him that I should choose another topic, he said, “‘You are the only one studying music, playing the instrument and learning about it… if you don’t do who will?’”
An important thing that I have learnt from him is to be attentive to every small detail to attain perfection. I have learnt that every musical instrument, no matter how small, has an effect on the whole music.
I am grateful to him for giving me the platform. I have also performed with him. In our fraternity, we learn from each other and extend help when needed.

Philip Marwein |

I remember Father John Kalapura because of his unique way of teaching. He was my favourite teacher at Savio Juniorate in Mawlai. He would teach us musically by singing the chapters. He even told us how to memorise lessons through music. He made us repeat a lesson till we completely grasped it. Fr Kalapura taught us in classes VII and VIII. An amazing thing about him was that he knew how to capture a child’s imagination. All the students were attentive and active in his class.
Fr Kalapura always laid stress on practical exercises and gave home-work accordingly. He also took the help of drama to make our lessons easier. His classes were really interesting and enjoyable. If a student made a mistake, he would call him separately and explain the mistake. If it was a general mistake he would explain it to the class. It is difficult to forget him.

David Syiemlieh |
Historian & former
UPSC chairman

The first name that comes to my mind is Ms Bence. I cannot recollect her full name but she used to teach at Dr Graham’s Home in Kalimpong (West Bengal). She taught English to special learners. I attended her class for a year.
Another teacher at Dr Graham’s that I remember is PC Simick. He gave us a sense of history and taught the subject with exceptional dedication before the Class XII examinations.
At St Edmund’s College, I was very fortunate that I got history teachers like Prof. Bhattacharjee, Prof. Hassan and Prof. Kar. I remember Prof. Bhattacharjee as a dhoti-clad person. He was always immaculately dressed in dhoti and chaddar. They were all fine teachers and I was honoured (to be their students).
At the university level, two teachers were particularly very helpful to me. One was Jayanta Bhattacharjee, later to become my supervisor and guide. Prof. Imdad Hussain, who taught European history and international relation, is the other person. Both have remained fine mentors to me during my teaching and research days. I have dedicated one of my books to them as a sign of my admiration for them.
I must also include the name of Prof. Milton Sangma. He did not teach me though. He was my colleague. He was a senior faculty member in the Department of History (at NEHU). I learned much from him and I was able to get much support from him for my research. Later, he retired as the pro-vice chancellor of NEHU Tura.

Jemino Mawthoh |

All my teachers, right from the primary level, have made some kind of impact on me. There is no particular teacher that I want to name because it is difficult to choose just one person. We have learnt so much from our teachers. I think teachers have a great role to play in our lives. Whatever I am today, I owe it to them. At every level of education, teachers have shown us the right way… Teaching is a noble profession and teachers contribute to the society in their own ways.

His sing-song lessons were a hit in class

Fr John Kalapura left his home at Mutholapuram in Kerala’s Kottayam district at the age of 15 and went to Darjeeling. He wanted to join a mission and came to the North East in 1951. From 1951 to 1990, he shuttled between Shillong and Guwahati and finally settled here in 1991.
The soft-spoken man looks emaciated due to age. But his spirit is still high and it reflects in his eyes. His hands hardly shake when he serves tea.
However, the 84-year-old Salesian needs the help of a wheelchair to commute from his room to the common hall connected by a long corridor at Savio Juniorate. He carries a stick to walk shorter distances. But he refuses to take help for anything else and he still remembers some of his students and how they enjoyed his class.
Fr Kalapura, who had stayed in Rome for four years, found a simple way of teaching his students. He would sing the day’s chapters to his students because “music makes it easier to remember the lessons”.
“Be it grammar or history or literature, I would make a song and everyone enjoyed that,” said the teacher as he demonstrated his method by singing a few lessons.
“Do you know how many parts of speech are there? The way I taught my students they would never forget. I would sing, ‘1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 and these are the number of parts of speech’. Sometimes I would add my words and phrases for rhyming,” he explained and sang a chapter on Muhammed Tughlaq to demonstrate his improvisations.
Philip Marwein, a former student, said the teacher was everyone’s favourite because he knew how to hold students’ attention in class.
“His classes were never monotonous and the method he used was quite scientific and entertaining at the same time. I still remember what he taught us,” he added.
Fr Kalapura left teaching around two years ago and is now the in-charge of letter writing and correspondence at Savio Juniorate. But he enjoys talking about his students and his classes.
When asked whether he has taught any
of the teachers his method of ‘singing lessons’, he answered in negative. Despite his age, the former teacher travels for work
and even visits his home state to meet his family.
About Shillong, Fr Kalapura says the city has changed immensely in the last two decades. “When I came here in the fifties, there were only three or four private cars in the whole city and now the roads are full of vehicles. The city has grown very fast and in every way,” recollected Kalapura.

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