Late in the evening on September 4, my eight-year-old elder daughter prepared a gift hamper containing a very personal greeting card, a rose and a pen to be presented to her class teacher on Teacher's Day the next day.
A thin but robust bamboo stick that canned every one of us as punishment for noise, naughtiness, incorrect class works, lateness and lots of other reasons served exactly like a cop’s baton without which our teachers thought we (students) would disobey them and unleash ourselves like untamed wild beasts.
Every single teacher who taught us in the class appeared to be a sort of child hater. How much we feared of them was much more than what we learned from them.
What I realise today about my elementary school days at Chingning UJB School is a sheer resemblance to Pink Floyd’s portrayal of teachers, particularly the headmistress, who imposed strict punishment to those school kids who felt they were suppressed, rather than getting inspired, in the British rock band’s iconic music video of the song Another Brick in the Wall-II.
The Pink Floyd’s music video revolves around the band’s singer-songwriter Roger Waters’ recollection of his own schooling in the 1950s in England. It contemptibly features a handful of school kids who put on masks and horrifyingly pushed into a meat grinder, revealing an idea of the children losing their freedom of expression, ambition and talent to the hands of teachers who make all of them grounded into a singular minced (meat) piece, without giving the young lot a single chance of ‘vacant mind’.
When Pink Floyd recoded Another Brick in Wall-II in 1979, corporal punishment was almost demolished at all schools in England, but not at Chingning UJB School in Bishnepur. The most awful amongst all my teachers was Oja Gourakishore who violently incarnated into a Pink Floyd monster while teaching us math.
Most of my classmates could count numbers up to 10 without difficulty. From 11 onward, what we did was just to bear the painful blows from Oja Gourakishore’s thin but robust bamboo stick showering on our heads, butts, palms, calf and other odd body parts until we completed counting (mostly miscounted) till 100.
Since corporal punishment was practiced as if an indispensable part of classroom activities laid down by the education board or school authorities, no child rights activists, NGOs or our parents came out to save us from Oja Gourakishore’s daily dose of whacks in the math class.
As far as I knew about all ‘dark sarcasm’ (a term used by Pink Floyd to define corporal punishment in Another Brick in Wall-II) in Oja Gourkishore’s class, canning kids was nowhere systematically made a matter of choice to educate either a normal or wayward student.
Oja Gourakishore was very experimental, not with new methods of classroom teaching but in thwacking kids in math class. He thought spending a minute or more on canning or punishing an individual student was wastage of time.
So, he sometimes griped his thin but robust bamboo stick so tight to swiftly roll on our heads like a rock n roll drummer doing on a set of tom-toms, followed by a sharp and final blow on the head of the tallest kid in the row like it did on a cymbal.
I was fed up with my math class at Chingning UJB School! But my grandfather often advised me not to have any ill feeling towards what Oja Gourakishore did to us in the class. Taking the side of Oja Gourakishore, grandfather concealed the dark side of corporal punishment.
He tried to console me with some stupid examples of people in Bishenpur who used to receive regular beatings from their teachers or parents during their childhood and as a result they eventually became doctors and engineers today.
I don’t think constant classroom beatings or canning during study hours would have molten us into whatever shapes which our teachers or parents wanted us to become.
Soon after finishing sixth standard, I left Chingning UJB School for secondary studies at Bishnepur Higher Secondary School located a bit far from my home. I felt like escaping from a den of tigers and landed in a meadow full of elephants as teachers at my new school conceived a dull horde who paid little or no attention on what students were doing in or out of the classrooms.
Oja Gourakishore’s punishment in the math class was an attempt in which he over-controlled us in his own idea of how children should be. It violated our childhood freedom - a kind of freedom which should be controlled in a balance way without letting kids roam free in the way that my Bishenpur Higher Secondary School teachers did to us.
Uncaring is equally offensive as over-controlling. Good teachers I met later on in life acted like commanders for a while and friends in a while. It finally worked.